Part 1 of a 3-part series
When talking about relationships, we often speak of the “work” we need to do in order to maintain a healthy, fulfilling relationship. “Work” in a relationship entails many actions, steps, and attitudes, but today I wanted to focus on relationship work #1: daily acts of connection.
Daily acts of connection
“Connecting” is at the heart of what it means to be in a relationship. Connecting with another being – human or otherwise – expands us, broadens us, takes us out of our own individualized, separate experience and plugs us into something greater – the bond with another being. We can say when we’re connected we feel more “at one” or “united” with another person, which brings a sense of joining and greater intimacy….
(Note: feeling connected is different than the more unhealthy, toxic experience of being enmeshed or fused with another.)
Relationships need to be nurtured regularly. The obvious analogy is plants – water them regularly, or they’ll die – but there are many things in our lives we pay attention to regularly, or we risk a certain deterioration: brushing our teeth, washing the dishes, tuning our guitars, clipping our nails, mowing the lawn, feeding the cat… All these activities require regular attention/assessment/maintenance/action/care, or else over time they’ll wither away.
With all this regular attention given to the other pieces of our daily living, it seems obvious that the most meaningful, intimate parts of our lives – relationships! – need regular tending to. But sometimes these acts of connecting (like the dishes) can be put aside – due to a busy day, feeling tired, etc. Feeling disconnected can even lead to further disconnecting between partners, creating a vicious cycle of sorts.
At the beginning of a relationship, daily acts of connection usually come pretty naturally, fueled by the heightened state of attraction, chemistry, and excitement characteristic of a young relationship. Holding hands, sweet texts, pet names, making someone muffins, etc is pretty easy to do when you’re falling in love, and these very acts usually have the desired effect of making someone know the other cares, is thinking about them, and wants to make them feel good.
Untitled by Pablo Picasso, 1939
As a relationship matures, it’s not uncommon for some of these affectionate actions to fall to the wayside. Both partners feel increasingly secure in the attachment, and may naturally return some of their focus to work, goals, friends, etc. Some of that initial passionate intensity of a new relationship settles into a deeper, more stabilized and mature affection. With more security in the relationship, it can be easy to take each other for granted, and to decrease some of the little things you might have done for your partner early on.
However, daily acts of connection remain important for nurturing your bond and expressing your love and affection for one another. You may change the ways you tend to your relationships over time, but that attention is always required to keep your connection alive. Bids, engagement, sweet words, physical affection, appreciation, gifts, acts of service, consideration – these are all part of the “work” of the relationship. More broadly, the “work” is committing yourself to these expressions openly and regularly. Sometimes, when we’re tired after a long day, it *can* feel like it takes a little extra effort or “work” to do these things.
But what this commitment really means is that you are prioritizing your relationship and being intentional with your acts of affection and connection, which conveys to your partner your feelings, and tends to your relationship over time. And, most simply, it makes you and your partner feel good 🙂
What are little things you do to connect regularly with your partner?