Remember the anxiety you felt when you went on your first date?
“Is he going to like me?”
“Do we have anything in common?”
“Have I got spinach in my teeth?”
Building a solid connection with a new partner can be challenging.
Even couples who have been together for years often have difficulty connecting.
“There’s always so much to do ― work, friends, family. I don’t have the time right now. Can we catch up later?”
Creating and maintaining a connection is so important in any relationship.
So, how do you build a solid connection with your new or long-term partner?
Read on to find out.
Stones in Your Shoe
Dating is hard.
When you first meet someone, you want to put your best foot forward.
What if a new potential partner shows up late to your first date or says something that rubs you the wrong way?
“You’d be really good-looking if you lost a bit of weight.”
Scenarios like this can make you resentful.
But imagine going on five more dates like this ― you’ll end up carrying a lot of emotional resentment from all those first dates gone wrong.
Couples in long-term relationships also end up resenting their partners’ annoying quirks.
“Why does she chew so loudly?”
“He always forgets when it’s his turn to take out the garbage.”
“I can hear you breathing again…”
These habits can niggle away at you like little stones in your shoe.
At first, you can still walk, but as they pile up, the irritation becomes more intense.
“I’ve tried talking to my partner about this, but they never change.”
“I’ve gone on so many first dates ― and they were all terrible.”
Pent-up resentment can cause you and your partner to drift apart. It can also make you very quick to throw in the towel with new potential love interests.
So, how can you deal with these feelings?
Identifying Your Core Needs: The 5 Whys
From our work with long-term couples, we’ve seen many reach a point where they wonder whether their relationship can be saved.
“Have we gone past the point of no return?”
We’ve found that identifying your core needs helps clarify what you need from the relationship.
Remember when life was straightforward? What were your needs then?
Are they the same today, or have they changed?
A simple exercise you can use to identify your core needs is
“The 5 Whys.”
Write this down, but no cheating ― don’t edit as you go along.
“What do you need?”
“I need to connect with my partner?”
“I need to connect with my partner because…”
“I need …”
As you answer each “why?” you dive deeper and deeper until you identify your core needs.
Stuck In The Roommate Rut
In an ideal world, your partner would know what you need automatically ― unfortunately, they’re not a mind-reader.
From our work at the Gay Couples Institute, we often find people can’t identify their own core needs, making it infinitely more difficult for their partners to meet those expectations.
Are you and your partner living parallel lives and just going through the motions?
Maybe you have a hard time discussing the future or compromising with potential partners?
These feelings are usually a sign that you’re not clear on what you need.
Did you identify some of your needs? Let’s dig a little further.
The One That Got Away
Another simple exercise you can use to identify your core needs is identifying a past partner who was ideal for you.
Someone who knew what you needed and responded automatically ― almost instinctively.
Everyone has a way they would like their partner to care for them.
Identify an ex-partner who paid attention and knew you better than you know yourself. In your mind, this person is the benchmark. The perfect partner will emulate them.
You might be looking for those qualities in your current or potential partners.
Can your current partner learn to care for you in that special way?
Articulating Your Needs
Trying to figure out your partner’s needs can be frustrating.
Articulating your needs to your partner lets them know what you need, so they are always prepared.
“I like to have a healthy, nutritious breakfast every morning.”
Expressing your core needs begins with self-exploration.
Look inward and find out what matters most to you.
Remember, it’s called a relationship ― emphasis on the “relation.”
To relate to your partner, both of you have to be clear about your needs.
It might be challenging to express yourself, especially if you prefer to avoid conflict.
But every one of us has needs, no matter how confident or independent we come across.
Check out the Gay Couples Institute website to learn how to connect with your partner. You can also talk to a professional who will help you identify and express your core needs.
ABOUT SAM GARANZINI, LMFT, LPCC, and ALAPAKI YEE, LMFT
Sam Garanzini and Alapaki Yee are Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists and the co-founders of the Gay Couples Institute – the world’s only gay and lesbian couples counseling clinic. The Gay Couples Institute has locations in Northern California and Manhattan, as well as online counseling services available.
For more information about how the Gay Couples Institute can help you, please visit: www.gaycouplesinstitute.org