Connection happens when both of you are able to receive what the other is actually saying or experiencing in the present moment.
When are we projecting versus connecting with our partners?
When you and your partner argue, do you find yourselves fighting over who is right and who is wrong? This is a dance a lot of us find ourselves in; it’s called “the blame game.” With couples, this dynamic is created when you’ve stopped connecting. Continuing the same approach of who is right and who is wrong only keeps the negative cycle going, which feels like a not so fun merry-go-round.
How do you know you are in this dance? When you feel the need to prove you are right about something. In this dynamic, you find yourselves making only intellectual contact, versus mostly through the heart.
Communicating through thought misses the point
In today’s hectic world, we spend much of our time using our brains to solve problems and to get things done. A lot of us are in business, which only reinforces this approach to problem solving and communication. So we spend a lot of our time thinking and interpreting and using our interpretations in our communication. We end up reporting on and describing a lot of what we “think” is happening.
This common approach is useful at work, but it can create a lot of havoc in our personal relationships. If we focus mostly on our thoughts we can miss what our partner is actually saying, which often leads to arguments and fights in the long run. By using our communication to relay our thoughts about an issue, as opposed to our feelings about it, we end up arguing for what is right and wrong because that’s what our thinking is based on: what we believe is right or wrong. When we only use our thinking to relate to each other, we only see our own perceptions, interpretations, and stories about what is happening, and we’re less aware of (or open to) what our partner might actually be saying or experiencing.
Connection happens when both of you are able to receive what the other is actually saying or experiencing in the present moment. Experience is multidimensional. It includes feelings, sensations, images and thoughts. We also call this emotional body language. There is a whole lot more to what one is experiencing than merely their thoughts.
Less interpretation, more connection
When we stop to ask ourselves what our interpretations are and what they are based on, we generally find that the vast majority of them are based on our past experiences. This could mean what happened a day, a month, or a year ago, or it could mean all the way back to our childhoods. In fact, if we track our interpretations over time, a lot of them often form a pattern. We can then see how we base some of our current interpretations on assumptions and decisions we made all the way back when we were children and we didn’t know any better—beliefs like “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t matter,” or “I’m alone.” These negative core beliefs are common, but are tied to incorrect perceptions or interpretations that we project onto the present moment.
The problem with using an interpretative approach is we’re not in the past anymore. So how do we come back to the present moment?
The best way to notice your projections is to ask yourself what is actually happening right now. This very simple question will bring you into the present moment, where you can begin to see that you are interpreting the situation. Then you can begin to distinguish your thoughts and stories from what else may be happening in the present moment.
Here are three simple steps you can follow to discover more of your present-moment experience:
1. What is happening right now? Frame it as a question first, and notice what you are thinking about a particular situation.
2. What else is happening that is not only my interpretation? What sounds do I hear? What sights do I see? What am I feeling?
3. What is happening outside of me, and what is happening inside of me? Externals include sights and sounds; internals include thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings.
Here are some examples of sensations you can use to describe how you are feeling: tension, heat, soreness, tiredness, hunger pain, impulse to run or fight.
Here are examples of feelings: sadness, frustration, fear, anxiety, joy, ease, numbness, floatiness.
Here are examples of images: wall, flower, water, parent, car, tree, fire.
The rest are thoughts. Using this approach is also a way to distinguish factual thoughts from fictional ones.
Once you begin to understand the difference between your interpretations and your connection to actual experience, you’re on your way to true connection with your partner. Through your multidimensional experience, you can see, feel, and hear them more clearly. Welcome back to connecting through your heart and not just your head!
Donna Molettiere, MFT
Donna is passionate about helping couples form intimate, loving, and satisfying relationships. She deeply understands the challenge of long-term relationships and uses everything she learns to keep her 15+ year marriage alive and thriving. For 7 years, Donna coached business leaders in forming empowering and collaborative relationships. She has 10 years of training and education in Somatic Psychology and employs a pragmatic, systems approach to her work with couples.