Feeling misunderstood in your relationship? How to Create Closeness.

Six Steps to building security in your relationship

Most of us want nothing more than to feel understood, to be close to our family and to feel a sense of belonging. We want closeness but we don’t know how to do create it in our relationships. Let’s talk about six steps to create closeness in your relationship.

Closeness isn’t just a warm fuzzzy feeling that is nice to have, it’s actually critical to our survival as a species.  Human beings NEED relationships. We are all born with a motivational system that is activated when we are frightened, threatened or in pain. Our internal system encourages us to seek proximity to others with the goal of soothing the distress and creating a sense of security. For instance, we cried out to our mom or dad when we were little and afraid of that monster under our bed. As we get older our need for closeness doesn’t go away; but how we met that need changes. For example, as adults, instead of reaching for our parents, we reach for our partner.  It’s important to pay attention to the type of response we received from our parents. This response helps to form our blueprint of how relationships work. When we receive a response that is warm and welcoming it leads to a feeling of safety and we move toward closeness and intimacy. A response that is closed, harsh, or unavailable leads to a feeling of danger or insecurity and thus we move toward protection and away from closeness and intimacy.

1. Understand your history

The first step in creating closeness is to explore the type of response you received in your past relationships. Let’s work through this together.

When you felt distress as a child what type of response did you typically receive?

  • Open, available, warm? Did your Mom/Dad behave in consistent, loving ways and communicate to you that you matter?
  • Unavailable, preoccupied, absent? Did your Mom/Dad behave in inconsistent or neglectful ways and communicate to you (intentionally or unintentionally) that you didn’t matter.
  • Harsh, cruel, mean? Did your Mom/Dad engage in verbally and/or physically abusive ways with you, or did they have drug and/or alcohol problems? Did you learn that the person who is supposed to protect you is also the person who harms you?

The types of responses we received from our past relationships led us to develop certain survival strategies. 

2. Explore your strategies

The second step in creating closeness is to explore what types of strategies you learned to use to deal with those responses.

What type of survival strategies did you learn?

  • Did your past relationships teach you that loved ones were inconsistent, unreliable and that you had to be persistent and fight to be seen and responded to?
  • Did you learn that depending on others is dangerous and it’s best to distance yourself and to not need others and avoid closeness?
  • Did you learn that it is ok to have feelings, it is ok to have needs and it is ok to express those needs in ways that are clear and straightforward?

3. Ask. Are these strategies helpful?

Early in our lives, these strategies were helpful. They helped us survive. Understanding that the strategies we use are connected to these early responses is a critical piece to learning how to create closeness. And also, we bring these strategies to our current relationship sometimes without realizing it. These strategies will either bring you closer to one another or inadvertently push your partner away and create distance. The third step in creating closeness is to ask yourself if these strategies (that were very helpful in the past) are still relevant today. Are these strategies allowing me to have a close connected relationship with my partner? If so…keep doing them…if not maybe it’s time to consider some new strategies.

4. Understand your motive

The fourth step in creating closeness is to get clear about your motive as you approach conversations with your partner. What do I mean by motive? It is your intent or your purpose when you enter a conversation. For example, there are unhealthy motives and healthy motives. Unhealthy motives include being right; making the other person wrong; getting our way; avoiding conflict; or punishing the other person, just to name a few. Healthy motives include building relationships; solving problems; engaging in dialogue; and strengthening intimacy. If we get clear about our motive before we start, the conversation is more likely to follow the intended path. Ideally, we want to shift to a healthy motive before we engage with our partner. If you are unable to do this, you might want to push the pause button and reflect a little bit more.

5. Be explicit about your motive

The fifth step in creating closeness is to be explicit about your motive. Let’s face it, it’s natural to wonder what the intention is when someone approaches us with a conversation. Let your partner know what your intention is as you approach the conversation. Don’t make your partner guess! Tell them straight up what your motive is. If I approach a conversation with my partner from a healthy motive of solving a problem together and I am explicit about this intention; I will be more likely to engage in dialogue that makes space for both of our viewpoints.

6. Stay focused on you

When we are working to create closeness, we can feel highly emotional, get triggered and definitely hit some roadblocks. The sixth step in creating closeness is to stay focused on what is happening inside of you. What are you feeling and what are you doing? Just notice, are you finding yourself using some of those old strategies of distancing yourself? Or of fighting to be seen and responded too? If you are, ask yourself if those strategies are working to help you create the closeness you want. This noticing begins to interrupt our habitual pattern and creates space to verbalize what you do want. Try putting words to your intention and deliver a clear and straightforward message. Even when we follow all of these steps, things can still get off track. It’s not uncommon to get triggered. Check out my post on managing triggers here.

We used to believe that if you developed an insecure attachment style in childhood, you were just stuck with it. We now know that this is not true. We can develop a secure attachment at any point in our lives. Regardless of what type of family you grew up in, you can learn how to create closeness and security in your relationship. Follow these steps on how to create closeness in your relationship and let me know how it goes.

Want to learn more about your specific attachment style read my previous blog post here . Sign up for my email list and I’ll send you regular strategies to help you learn about your specific attachment strategy and what you can do to move to a more secure attachment style. If you want more personalized help for your relationship contact me at 817-307-8725 or DrLee@DrLeeLeGrice.com

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