We all dream of being close to the ones we love. But what exactly is an emotional bond? And what can we do to establish healthy emotional bonds or connections? Furthermore, how can you decrease the chances of disconnection and detachment with the important people in your life?
David D. Burns, author of Feeling Good, describes an emotionally bonded relationship like this:
“When two people respect each other, the ability to be vulnerable and to reveal hurt feelings can create a powerful emotional connection that is the source of real intimacy and friendship.”
Essentially, to be emotionally bonded means that you feel securely attached or connected to another person you know cares for you.
We have an innate need for that sort of bond with our parents or primary caregiver when we are young. Yet, our need to bond to other adults is clear too. We need friendship. We need emotional and physical intimacy. The need to belong to a community, even if that group is just a few safe people, is vital to our mental health and optimal self-image.
How You Can Establish Strong Emotional Bonds
For healthy, mutually satisfying relationships, consider the following tips for bonding well:
1. Study and Learn
Pay attention to your friend, loved one, or romantic partner. Listen and reflect your interest in the other person’s passions, goals, and concerns. Be curious and engage often to further demonstrate how much you value knowing and hearing from them.
2. Develop Trust
No healthy emotional bond exists without trust. This aspect of your bond takes time and must not be broken. It cannot be forced and should evolve naturally. Be gentle with each other and value maintaining trust and trustworthiness.
3. Deal with Relationship Obstacles
Every relationship has limits and barriers. Emotional bonds are built when you face and deconstruct the walls between you and the other person. Do your best, to be honest with each other. Work through your pasts, your beliefs, your values, and your assumptions. The process of tackling the things coming between you shows that you respect each other and your connection.
This allows for consistent vulnerability. Without it, you keep yourself from being hurt, but you also keep key parts of your emotional self separate and unknown. The desire to communicate care and concern for the sake of establishing harmony is a significant way of cementing a connection.
4. Resolve Conflicts Well
Unresolved conflict can wear away at established and evolving bonds. Be sure that you value your relationship above your disagreements. Keep past grievances in the past by staying in the moment and on topic. Let logic and cooler heads prevail. When your friend or loved one sees that the relationship can weather emotional storms, the bond grows more secure.
5. Employ Compassion and Empathy
Work hard at putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. Consider their point of view and the “whys” behind the things they say and do. Be curious and mindful about their responses to life situations and avoid jumping to conclusions or making judgments.
Be a gentle and understanding observer. Imagine what it must be like to live their life and do your best to keep these things in mind as your relationship progresses. Relationships deepen when both people feel considered and understood.
Are You Emotionally Available?
Perhaps you realize that you need help developing emotional bonds, or that your bonds with important others are not as strong as you would like. Not to worry! Many people grapple with relationship disconnection. If you find yourself struggling to connect in a deeper and more meaningful way, talk to trusted friends and family, or contact a counseling professional who can help you discover insights and develop the emotional tools you need to move toward your relationship goals.
Roy Faget, MA, LPC Intern, LMFT Associate, works with individuals, couples, teens, and families at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you have been experiencing disconnection in your relationships and are looking to form deeper emotional bonds, Roy can help. Schedule an appointment by calling him at (512) 270-4883, ext. 109, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.