I recently led a 2-day private coaching intensive for a well-intentioned couple who had ignorantly, innocently, conspired together for years to create a tragic mess of love.
We spent the entire “Weekend Intensive” nestled in a quiet canyon home just outside Los Angeles, working to overcome their excruciating “crisis of connection.”
Intimate relationships only truly work when real connection is given highest priority.
Everything else between and around you – sex, finances, work, family (even your kids), friends, lifestyle – must come second, at least most of the time, for intimate love to thrive.
Tragically, most of us get this backwards.
We prioritize intellectual disagreements over money or sex or work or lifestyle while our experience of connection gets as much consideration as a cucumber in a candy store.
Which is a solid example, because wondering why the hell anyone would sell cucumbers at a candy store is a lot like wondering, “Why the hell isn’t this relationship working when I’m doing everything I can to make it work?!”
Connection is The Feminine Value.
All of us, men and women, have been taught for a lifetime to dismiss the "EXPERIENCE OF CONNECTION” in favor of more masculine concerns:
Are we functioning ok?
Do we have enough money?
Is there a point to this conversation?
What’s broken that I need to fix?
Is anyone bleeding?
Thus we seek to create functional relationships – in other words, predominantly “masculine” ones – that inevitably suffer from chronic disconnection, and thus fail to thrive.
It’s like building a big beautiful castle, yet there’s little life inside. Sometimes there’s even outright war within our own castle walls.
Whatever our dissatisfaction, we tend to believe it’s caused by a lack of desired outcomes: Not enough sex or affection, too much fighting or focusing on the negatives, not enough freedom to be me, or not enough intimacy … and we rarely question what that means.
We fail to realize that these missing outcomes are often the result of a “crisis of connection.”
Did you know women initiate 70% of divorces? (American Sociological Association, 2016)
Naturally!! The feminine value is connection, and connection is the most consistently overlooked need that both men AND women need. It’s just that most women feel disconnect, viscerally, more than most men.
Even in my relationship, my fiancé usually feels any disconnect between us long before I do. I’ll think everything is great – mostly because she doesn’t seem upset and no one is bleeding – and suddenly she’ll say in sad tones, “I haven’t felt very connected to you lately.”
“What the f*k are you talking about?”
… is what I’ll think but do my damn best to not say out loud or show on my face because I know better than to immediately reject or invalidate her experience which would only further her experience of disconnect! [phew]
Most women’s sensitivity to “connection” is biologically greater than most men’s. With vastly more Oxytocin and Estrogen, the bonding and feeling hormones, women are literally living in different experiential realities men. Higher levels of Testosterone in men cause us to be more action-outcome oriented (“Is there a point to this conversation?”) and feel less (“How do I feel? Ok, I guess.”).
Unfortunately, most women don't have the skills to effectively communicate their experience in a way that men can really hear it, and most men don't have the skills to listen beneath the details for what their partners are really asking for.
So we continue to prioritize masculine concepts of relationship success, and our “crisis of connection” deepens.
I’ve worked with many functioning couples, who even had gorgeous homes and great wealth, who nonetheless lived together in relative misery, sometimes quietly, sometimes painfully out loud.
Such was the case with Stan and Sonya, the couple I hosted for this private weekend intensive. (*not their real names)
When a man initiates couples coaching with me, it’s almost always because his partner finally made it unmistakably clear she’s done, if she hasn’t already walked out. When Stan reached out to me, they were already beyond the edge of collapse, already living apart.
Nonetheless, they both showed up. For 2 solid days, we worked on connection practices, like how to first create real connection in communication before seeking agreement or even intellectual understanding on long-standing contentious issues.
We explored healthy boundaries, because boundaries create safety and safety between two people – not just physical, but mental and emotional safety, too – is absolutely essential for creating a healthy connection. If you don’t feel safe with your partner, you can’t let your guard down and be authentically vulnerable, which means authentic connection isn’t possible.
As the weekend wore on, Stan and Sonya experienced how simple connection practices can literally compel their bodies to come closer together on the couch, and how acting blindly out old patterns of behaviors that create disconnection would immediately send them flying to opposite ends of the room.
It’s simple, really. But not easy. For it often requires breaking decades-old unskillful patterns and shifting entrenched limiting beliefs to more open-hearted ways of thinking, seeing, and being.
But this is why I love working with couples (particularly weekend intensives, where we can really practice embodiment).
Intimate relationships are the transformational fires within which all our old wounds and fear-based beliefs will surface so they may finally be witnessed and healed.
Fortunately, we don’t necessarily need years of therapy to create exquisite moments connection with each other.
After all, we just want to be happy in the moment, with a harmonious, peaceful relationship that lights up our every day life rather than darkens it.
That's what becomes possible when you learn how to create connection first. In fact, you can get through anything that arises on this wild human journey when you know how to quickly create connection with your partner. Seriously … ANYTHING.
I’ve personally worked with some of the most painfully strained, broken down couples who became long-term success stories because they learned how to overcome their own “crisis of connection.”
As for Stan and Sonya, their journey continues since we wrapped up our weekend. I can't know for sure whether they'll stay together long-term. After all, years of painful momentum have brought them to this crisis point.
But this I know with certainty:
Creating profound connection requires only the willingness – and the courage – to never stop exploring your partner’s authentic heart.
* If you think you might be experiencing a "crisis of connection," email email@example.com (I offer 3-months coaching via internet/phone, and have space for 1 more 2-day intensive in 2017)
[PHOTO CREDIT: just_shot_of_jameson]