Lara went on a girl’s trip with her best girlfriend Sasha and confided in her about her relationship problems. She shared how her partner, Ryan, has been distant, didn’t take an interest in her life, and how often, he wasn’t there when she needed him. She felt a lack of emotional connection in the relationship. While they had great sexual chemistry, she has been feeling abandoned in the relationship otherwise.
We have heard so many stories go the same way. People drift apart because they’ve stopped putting effort or they’re just too different. The emotional ghosting tale may have even been our own story. Emotional connection in a relationship is a significant building block that majorly influences the couple’s survival. In its absence, a relationship can be split down the middle.
Although, there are early signs, which if spotted rightly can help determine whether a relationship has the potential to last. What are those signs? We’re here to tell you in consultation with psychologist Nandita Rambhia, who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couple’s counseling. Before exploring the signs of a lack of emotional intimacy in a relationship, let’s first dive into what an emotional connection constitutes.
What Is Emotional Connection In A Relationship?
Defining emotional connection, Nandita says, “It is the feeling of being deeply intimate emotionally, a feeling of being on the same page, and an understanding of your significant other’s feelings and thoughts. Emotional connection is the foundation of a relationship where partners are there to help, reassure, and build confidence, and trust within the relationship.”
Feeling seen, heard, acknowledged, and validated by your partner are signs of emotional connection in a relationship. Emotional connection fosters feelings of safety, security, and empathy. There are several tips that can be followed by partners to develop emotional intimacy.
Emotional connection is often called the secret to long, lasting love. No long-term relationship can survive without it. To help you understand it in tangible terms, here are 5 signs of a strong emotional connection in a relationship:
1. Conversation flows easily
You both are at peace even in silence and have the best conversations on a variety of topics. When there is a strong emotional connection, partners can say anything to each other without any fears or judgments. In addition to being able to speak their minds, both partners also listen to each other and are mindful of each other’s needs. Partners can quiz each with how well do you know me questions to garner a stronger relationship.
2. Partners can be vulnerable and be there for each other
It isn’t hard to talk about the tough stuff even if you’re feeling a whirlwind of emotions. However, when you’re deeply bonded to your SO, you can cry, rant, or just sit in silence with them and feel as if they understand the storm brewing inside you. Partners with a strong emotional connection are avid supporters of each other through thick and thin. Always ready to take a stand for each other. There are many things that happen when partners are truly vulnerable with each other, especially connecting on a deeper level.
3. You are best friends
You both are best friends first. Just the way we’re able to be our authentic selves indulge in harmless fun, and most of all, create memories for a lifetime with our friends, you share a fulfilling life with your partner. All the awkward, tense moments become somewhat easier to deal with when you have a partner who loves and cares for you like a best friend.
Related Reading: Expert View – What Is Intimacy To A Man
4. You hold each other accountable
Being best friends may be fun but we also have to be adults in our lives too. Partners in relationships have to stay aware and even exercise an intervention if required. Both partners hold each other accountable when required and help declutter the messes in their lives. There are different forms of responsibilities and fostering them requires work from both partners to better understand each other.
5. Paying attention to the small details
Partners with a deeper bond pay close attention and can predict each other’s reactions, gestures, and even sentences in any given situation. They know just what to say to calm each other down and what could trigger them and is off-limits. It is essential to note the signs that bring about emotional neglect in a relationship.
Both partners are always on the lookout if the other feels okay and do the little things that they love together. A fun night in or even just a quick grocery run means so much more with your partner around.
But what causes a lack of emotional intimacy in a relationship?
5 Reasons Your Relationship Lacks Emotional Connection
Nandita says, “Speaking the same language emotionally and building on that trust to deepen your bond is what an emotional connection essentially boils down to.” When this element is lacking, the bond between a couple is impaired. There can be a multitude of reasons for this diminished sense of belongingness between partners. It can be an issue that has existed right from the start of the relationship or a phase the couple has just entered.
Whatever the trigger, it is essential to learn the reasons for a lack of emotional intimacy, so that partners can be wary, learn each other’s emotional tendencies and jointly solve issues while maintaining healthy emotional intimacy.
Intimacy between couples can fade and there could be many reasons why couples stop intimacy. Here are 5 expert-backed reasons why relationships suffer a lack of emotional intimacy:
1. Lack of self-awareness
Nandita says, “When a person has no or little awareness of their own feelings and emotions, it becomes difficult for them to express emotional needs and what they want to be reciprocated.”
Awareness of both partners’ emotional needs and wants is foundational in building emotional connections in a relationship. When one or both partners lack self-awareness, there is bound to be an absence of emotion regulation. This can eventually drive them apart.
2. Lack of understanding
Nandita says, “Emotional connection can suffer when partners aren’t able to put themselves in the other’s shoes.” When a person isn’t empathetic and understanding of their partner’s emotions, the relationship is bound to fail.
You can feel yourself going crazy when you attempt to make your partner understand a tough situation you’re going through, and they undermine your emotions. They say you shouldn’t be feeling this way and you instantly question your feelings, when, in fact, your partner should make an effort to understand your side of the story. Whether this is due to a difference in perception or just plain gaslighting, such a relationship is hard to sustain.
3. Low self-esteem and self-confidence
For someone with low self-esteem, it can be quite hard to maintain emotional intimacy in a relationship. When one lacks confidence in their own abilities, they can’t help but project the same onto their partner and the future of the relationship.
Nandita says, “Having doubts about your own abilities strongly influences not being able to develop any kind of emotional connection with another person.”
4. Not putting enough effort
If you don’t put effort into building and maintaining your relationship, you might as well say goodbye to it. A lack of emotional intimacy in the relationship arises when partners take each other for granted and don’t prioritize each other’s needs in the relationship. Emotional neglect may be rampant in a relationship that lacks emotional connection between partners.
Even if one partner is doing all the work, the relationship will not sustain. Both partners have to put their energy, time, thoughts, and efforts into the relationship, for it to grow.
5. Uncomfortable with emotions
A lot of people struggle with their emotional threshold. Some find it easy to be vulnerable, while others cannot even pinpoint how they are feeling at a given point in time. Partners with starkly different emotional thresholds may feel disconnected from each other.
It can be very hard to communicate openly and have difficult conversations in such situations, which ultimately leads to a lack of emotional connection in a relationship.
11 Warning Signs Of Lack Of Emotional Connection In Relationships
You may not be aware of the indicators of a lack of emotional connection in a relationship. Emotional connection is created early on in the relationship but has to be developed over time. As a relationship progresses, it can be fairly easy to miss signs and so forth the relationship chemistry suffers. But if missed and ignored, then they can cast a gray cloud over your relationship. You may be surprised to discover how many of these persist in unhealthy relationships. Here are 11 signs of a lack of emotional connection in a relationship, according to an expert:
Related Reading: 8 Types Of Intimacy In A Relationship
1. A feeling of not being understood
Nandita tells us, “You always feel like your partner doesn’t really understand what you’re trying to say. And your perception isn’t validated or acknowledged by them.”
There is an apparent feeling of “my partner doesn’t really get me”. When you try to explain, they aren’t perceptive and end up bulldozing your part of the conversation.
2. Lack of transparency in communication
Communication is a building block of emotional connection. When there is a lack of communication, a space for fear, insecurities, trust issues, and detachment is created instead.
If you feel your partner leaves your questions hanging and doesn’t provide clear explanations, then there exists a lack of emotional connection in your relationship. You may be left wondering if what they said even adds up.
3. Lack of physical affection and intimacy
Namrata said, “Sex is bound to go down in the relationship with a lack of emotional connection.” Reduced emotional intimacy negatively impacts sexual and physical affection. It can be quite uncomfortable for partners to accept core problems in the relationship at this point. You may be in love with an emotionally unavailable partner and want to learn how to deal with the complexities that come along with it.
4. Feelings of isolation
Even when you’re together, you end up feeling lonesome in the relationship. You don’t feel like you’re a part of a healthy, growing relationship. Problems seem tougher, sometimes you even end up doubting your own feelings. You may wonder, “How can I still feel alone even after being in a relationship?” It is usually the result of a lack of emotional connection in the relationship. There are several things to do if you’re unhappy in your relationship to take charge of your life.
Avoiding a problem or issue may seem like an easy fix but it doesn’t solve problems, it might actually make them worse. Avoidance is a recipe for disaster as it starts creating resentment between partners and their sense of belongingness is seemingly diminishing. The person being avoided doesn’t feel like they are a priority to their partner, which ends up spelling doom in the relationship. If your partner has an avoidant attachment style, it’s best to learn about it and note how it affects your relationship.
6. Emotional unavailability and a lack of emotional safety
A lack of emotional connection in a relationship directly translates into emotional unavailability faced by one or both partners. You hate being vulnerable and aren’t great at feeling, let alone, conversing about these strong emotions with your partner. You’d rather avoid the entire discussion. Even facing your partner’s emotional rants is taxing and you aren’t sure what to do when they’re vulnerable, which leaves you both feeling distant from each other. There are several tips to practice emotional attunement and change your relationships for the better.
7. Choosing physical intimacy over emotional
Emotionally unavailable partners prefer physical intimacy over emotional as they’d rather ignore the seriousness and complications that tough emotions demand. They don’t want to sit down and discuss feelings; they’d rather ignore them and live in their comfort zone. Physical intimacy is much more attainable to them as well as familiar.
Sometimes partners end up avoiding physical intimacy too because there is a lack of emotional attachment with their partners, signifying a downfall of the relationship.
8. Unresolved conflicts and issues
A trail of unresolved conflicts and issues can produce resentment, anger, and sadness inside both partners. Every new argument brings along flairs of stressful emotions and down goes the spiral from there. Partners end up being in a constant state of no talking, only arguing with no solutions. There are ways to fix a tumultuous relationship filled with a rollercoaster of conflicts.
9. Negative thoughts about the relationship
Not being sure of someone is quite common. But expecting the worst will only make you dread the future of your relationship. You might question if your partner even loves you and if this is a relationship that can grow. The negative spiral leads to declining emotional connection, and a separation may be inevitable. If you are doubting your relationship, rather than going through them alone, it may be good to talk to your partner and ask away to your heart’s content so that you can clear your head.
10. Lacking a deep bond
Where there is an absence of emotional connection in a relationship, it can impede your ability to forge a strong bond with your partner. Your relationship may just be surface-level and not deep enough to strike a chord in your heart. This could be due to differences in perception between partners and not enough communication or vulnerability. There are several tips that partners can do together to create and enrich a deeper bond among themselves.
11. Lack of support
Support is an integral component of a healthy relationship. A lack of emotional connection in a relationship arises when partners aren’t supportive enough. It could start off as something like not taking enough interest in your partner’s pursuits, or judging your partner for something they like or dislike. It is a major red flag if your partner makes you feel bad about yourself or your choices. Alternatively, it may be hard to offer support to someone if we don’t know how to soothe ourselves. It is important to learn about the fundamentals of support in a relationship and take it to the next level.
These signs can cause a frenzy, yet don’t fret. We won’t leave you grappling in the dark with this scary realization. In fact, we’re here to offer you hope with these expert-recommended tips to overcome a lack of emotional connection in a relationship.
How To Fix A Lack Of Emotional Intimacy – Tips
Before learning ways to develop a strong bond, let’s look into the science behind emotional intimacy and how the brain responds to emotional activity in both genders. An article posted in 2008 on NIH, finds that men have relatively lesser prefrontal activity than women, which means men are able to generate and implement cognitive emotion regulation strategies with less effort or difficulty than women. One might conclude that men are able to regulate their negative emotions with greater efficiency than women.
It may be harder for women to regulate emotionally than men, even though women are more attuned to their emotional capabilities. Men may lack emotional understanding, yet when it comes to taking care of their emotions, they’re more equipped to deal with them by themselves.
In a relationship, women want more emotional security from their partners than men. Regardless, a relationship isn’t complete without emotional connection whether it is a man or a woman in question. If couples want to strengthen their relationship, they should work together to deepen their bond through the techniques mentioned below. There are various ways to cultivate emotional safety when there is a lack of emotional connection in a relationship.
1. Building an emotional connection through emotional regulation
Emotional regulation is the practice of effectively managing and reacting to an emotional event. Partners can exercise this in different ways like self-awareness, positive self-talk, acceptance of emotions, and mindfulness, among others. Partners can transform their love life by instilling emotional intelligence and leaving space for each other.
Learn about your partner’s triggers and what makes them tick, or have an honest conversation about your fears, insecurities, and what makes you happy. A study posted on Oxford Academia finds, “emotional regulation is important for optimal relationship functioning because it can help avoid conflict and create smoother, more enjoyable interactions”.
2. Willingness to work through tough times
Identifying core issues and working on them as well as working on the relationship together is a lifelong pursuit. This is what will ultimately decide if there is a future for the relationship.
A medically-reviewed piece by the scientific advisory board, posted on Psych Central concludes, “Marriage is destroyed by emotional distance, not conflict. Turning away or against emotional bids kills closeness and creates an emotional distance that easily turns soulmates and lovers into strangers.”
It may seem easier to throw a temper tantrum or completely avoid a situation than to rightfully sit with your partner, attempt to discover what is really hurting you both, work on solutions and have the belief that your relationship can adjust with the times. But that’s exactly what you need to build and sustain a strong bond.
3. Being vulnerable and a good listener
Nandita says, “Share your own emotions and gain trust and you’ll be able to create a deeper level of intimacy.” It is vital to learn how to be vulnerable with your partner and vice versa if you want your relationship to grow. Vulnerability isn’t a weakness to be hidden but a superpower that helps us process the difficult emotions in our lives and helps us stay afloat. The experts have a lot to say about how to control your emotions and lead a healthy balance in your relationship.
Do the exercise, try being vulnerable with your partner, and be there for them when they want to share so that your bond can be strengthened and you both will feel lighter in the process.
4. Seek professional help
When you feel stuck in a relationship, seeking professional help in the form of couples therapy can be immensely helpful. It helps you find a common ground for your ideas and feelings. For instance, if your partner has been emotionally unfaithful in your relationship, these are expert-crafted ways to deal with an emotional affair in your relationship.
Therapy can do wonders for your marriage as well as your life, offering guidance in unlearning, learning, jointly working on issues, and experiencing life together.
If you are struggling to heal and looking for help, skilled, licensed counselors on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
- Emotional connection is described as a feeling of alignment between partners
- Reasons causing an absence of emotional intimacy, include a lack of understanding and self-awareness, low self-esteem, being uncomfortable with feelings, and not putting in efforts
- Women want more emotional connection in a relationship than men do
- Marriage is destroyed by emotional distance, not conflict. Emotional suppression causes more problems
- Some warning signs of a lack of emotional connection in a relationship include a lack of support, a deep bond, understanding, patience, and communication among others
- To fix a lack of emotional intimacy in a relationship and form a strong bond, consider therapy, spending time together in a vulnerable space, building an emotional connection, and emotional regulation
A lack of emotional connection in a relationship can be a troubling matter. True emotional intimacy is acquired with time, effort, and listening. With each rant expressed to your heart’s content and realizing your partner knows just what you need when it’s been a rough day and seeing that they put in the effort too, you can feel more connected and in sync in a relationship
Yes, emotional connection in a relationship is a significant attribute of love. Sharing a deep emotional bond with a partner that transcends material knowledge, words, or body language is what holds a couple together. Building and maintaining an emotional connection in a relationship involves listening, validating, acknowledging, encouraging, being patient, and being kind to oneself and your loved ones. The result of positive emotion regulation helps with healthier mental well-being and a stronger support system.
No, it isn’t possible to sustain a relationship without an emotional connection for too long. Both or one partner is bound to feel detached, unsafe, lonely, and sidetracked in the relationship. It will then most likely negatively influence other key factors of a relationship like physical intimacy and communication, and finally, contest the willingness of both partners to be in a relationship together. Ultimately, it will lead to the downfall of the relationship.