Building Better Connections

Maintaining a healthy Relationship. Psychology Fanatic article header image

We want connection. It is so fundamental to our well-being we expect it. But basic connection is anything but simple, dragging our hearts through the mud, challenging our resolves, and leaving us running for the hills, vowing to a life of celibacy; only to renounce hermithood and jump right back into the burning fire that has continually disappointed, confused and depressed our aching souls. Our biological drives for connection lag behind the evolving skill to bond in the modern world. To succeed at building better connections, we must dismiss the comforting lies that we are naturally good lovers, and purposely seek to develop character, skills, and compassion. Only a purposeful approach will lead us over the hurdles preventing intimacy.

The most effective avenue to connection is effective templates, modeled by significant others in our lives, particularly during childhood. When a caregiver expertly attunes to a child’s emotions (see emotional attunement) and models productive responses, the child learns, from not just seeing (or reading about) healthy bonding but experiencing the connection. The child often mirrors these blessed behaviors and integrates healthy connecting skills into their adult relationships.

​Unfortunately, many have never experienced intimate bonding and must muddle through rudimentary steps, fighting contrary emotions, and opening to scary vulnerabilities.

​”People are not born with natural abilities to develop and build great relationships with others. These are skills like any other that can be learned and mastered if one recognizes the need and takes the time and effort to develop them.” 

~Harvey Deutschendorf | Fast Company

Unfortunately, many have never experienced intimate bonding and must muddle through rudimentary steps, fighting contrary emotions, and opening to scary vulnerabilities.

​We Build Relationships; Not Find Them

Connections are created, not found. The work of love starts after the Hollywood depictions on the silver screen end. The fragile strings of attachment are just the beginning, needing gentle cultivating, patience understanding, and willing openness. This is a difficult process for everybody, especially those unfamiliar with intimacy.

​Dangerous environments create a protective approach to connection. We develop defenses to guard against abusive outside intrusions. Unfortunately, these defenses continue to protect even when the threats have dissipated.

“​If we want true intimacy and an honest relationship, we must accept we won’t always agree. That’s okay! Growth doesn’t come without resistance. Growth is born of struggle and conflict. If you want to grow in your relationship, it won’t always feel comfortable.” 

~Wright Foundation

We must be attentive to these invading protections and combat them; or they will destroy attempts of closeness. Intimacy does not exist with a protective approach, avoiding risks, and unhealthy reducing of uncertainty. We must be willing to be known and interested in knowing. We accomplish this through openness, exposing the tender parts of our lives. This connecting process extends over the life of the relationship. We become familiar with each other over months and years—not a few introductory coffee dates. This requires a life time of vulnerability. But only through the vulnerability can we establish trust and build better connections.

Connections are created, not found. The work of love starts after the Hollywood depictions on the silver screen end. 

Open Explorations : Being Known

During open explorations, individual preferences, opinions, and histories are shared. From a distance, intimate conversations sound appealing. We see fulfillment. The feeding that our soul hungers. But these conversations lose their attractiveness as we engage in openness. Our frantic starvation for acceptance interferes with the openness. Our wandering mind catastrophizes over every word, facial expression, and the occasional differences that any two people connecting will encounter.

“​You can increase your intelligence in any area by learning and practicing in that area.  And perhaps the most important intelligence you can consciously and purposefully develop is your inter-personal intelligence.”

~Brian Tracy

​The glorious and dreadful process of connecting has begun.

The true value of being known and knowing extends beyond purposeful explorations of each other into everyday communications. Our intents and our partner’s intents are exposed to the tests of connection.

Building Trust

We either act in ways that builds upon the trust of shared knowing or we destructively use our intimate knowledge to manipulate. Here in the developing stages of closeness our self-interest either expands to encompass the partner or selfishly uses the partner. Our behaviors then dictate whether continued explorations are safe or dangerous. Are we safe to express feelings, weakness, and fears to this person or not? Will they abuse the sanctity of knowing our inner worlds? We must also carefully examine our privileged knowledge.

When the discomforting emotions of connection arise, when we feel fear, anger, and shame, do we respectfully engage, or use all means necessary to soothe the inner disruptions? These are the magical moments for building a relationship or destroying connection. These are the moments that build trust or shamefully misuse our privilege of intimate knowledge.

Six Ways to Build Better Connections Relationships

For many, the connections are difficult, demanding unfamiliar action in the face of the fears of abandonment and hurt. There are steps we can take to assist in moving closer and connecting with those we love. If we wait until we are satisfied in our relationship demands before inching forward, we will starve the growing bonds and they will wither and die.

We start building better connections by:

Notice Good Qualities in Others

We must purposely seek out the positives and share these observations with our partner. This is essential, imprinting in our minds the goodness that exists.

Benefit of the Doubt

​Our interpretations of events powerfully paints a picture. When we constantly expect a partner to hurt us, eventually our fears often  are self-fulfilled. Doubts, accusations, and extreme jalousies injure closeness. We need to consciously “reframe” unrealistic jealousies into more palatable stories. We don’t ignore blatant evidence of wrongdoing; but we must tame powerful fears that catastrophize small events as certain evidence of cheating, abandonment, or meanness.


All healthy relationships require some sacrifice. This is part of compromise. We must work together. But sacrificing is not the virtue, working through difficult issues together is the virtue. When a relationship loses healthy reciprocity, the continued sacrifices create resentment, self-righteousness, and division.

The self-righteousness leads to constant attempts to fix the partner. These relationships are out-of-balance, often co-dependent, and very protective. The connections have been severed because being known has exposed issues the partner is now busying themselves to fix.


​The beauty of intimacy is not necessarily the words but the intent. Validating isn’t a restatement of words expressed but an empathetic understanding, graced with loving compassion. Validation is only offered in complete nakedness from our protections. We can never validate a partner’s individuality if we are constantly mulling around how their feelings, beliefs, words impact us. We retreat to self-protections instead of delving deeper into mutual exploration.


We must be emotionally and physically available to our partners. This doesn’t mean we have nothing else in our lives. On the grand scale of our life, partners need to be a priority. We must be consistently available (not constantly).

Other Relationships

​We must have and allow our partner to have other sources of emotional support. Driving friends, family and other connections away from a partner is abusive. Isolated forces co-dependency, stifling growth.

We cannot expect or fulfill someone else’s entire spectrum of needs. We need multiple points of connection with life. By narrowing human connection to a single person, we woefully dwell in relationship poverty, demanding too much and receiving too little; we become dependent and vulnerable. This pressure heightens, rather than soothes, insecurities.

​As we consciously work towards stronger connections, focusing on building positive moments, soothing protective fears in productive ways, we not only enjoy the intimacy previously missing from our lives, but we establish a strong template for our children to observe and absorb. We create a new loving chain of life that may extend over many generations to come.

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