The Habits of Deeply Connected Couples


The Gottman Institute ( says that deep, intimate connections between couples are created ‘through hundreds of very ordinary, mundane moments in which they attempt to make emotional connections.’ These ordinary moments, sometimes called ‘bids’ are usually informal moments when one partner attempts to gain the attention of the other and have some sort of emotional connection. They can come in many forms including:

  • Affectionate Touching (reaching for a hand, a kiss, a hug, a back rub)

  • Facial Expressions (smile, rolling the eyes, wink)

  • Playful Touch (tickling, dancing)

  • Generous Gestures (opening a door, acts of service)

  • Vocal Gestures (laughing, sighing, groaning)

Turning toward your partner when they are asking for your attention in these ways is a key for attaining relationship success. This is the difference between demonstrating care for your partner by giving them your attention versus disregarding them. Some of the other traits of highly connected couples include:

1. Continuously Learning About the Other Person
If you come from the perspective that you can never really know your partner completely, you will find yourself curious to learn more. There will always be memories that your partner has that you will not know. But you can get to know your partner more by asking deep questions with genuine curiosity. For example, not just questions about events, but what the experience was like for your partner on an emotional level.

2. Sharing Intimate Knowledge of Yourself
Allowing your partner into your inner experience (thoughts, emotions, sensations) is allowing vulnerability into your life which can be difficult, but vulnerability is the pathway to connection. Deeply connected partners have a shared language of affection for each other or special ways of touching each other that have a shared meaning. Inside jokes, pet names, and playful teasing are ways that couples connect to each other on an intimate level.


3. Positive Interactions
Two important parts of a couple’s daily interaction is listening and play. Listening is when you are fully available to hear their words and the emotion behind it. Play is the choice that you make to have a moment of fun with your partner. Listening is a way to heal many old wounds that partners carry with them into intimate relationships from their childhood and from past partners. Active listening is a difficult skill. Many believe they are listening, but they aren’t truly doing it. Rather than giving your partner half of your attention, face them and listen intently to what they are saying. Deeply connected couples tend to share humor between them as often as possible. Actually, the use of humor (not sarcasm) or affection during conflict can be important to the health of the relationship.

4. Shared Values and Goals

This does not mean that you and your partner have to have the same opinions or beliefs about all aspects of the world, but instead that you and your partner have a shared story about what is important to you. You talk with each other in terms of ideas, values, goals and how they allow you both to trust in your future together. Deeply connected couples know that each person is capable of change over their lifetimes, but what rarely changes about a person are their deeply-held core beliefs. Deeply connected couples share many core beliefs, which strengthens the depth their relationship because they connect to each other on a meaningful level.

All of these traits have the combined power to increase trust and safety between partners which then allows for increased vulnerability. This starts a cycle that gives energy back and forth (vulnerability builds trust, trust builds more vulnerability=>CONNECTION)

If you’re still struggling with how to connect with your partner, communicate openly, or to build trust in your relationship, feel free to contact me please contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment today.

The Power of Vulnerability


One thing that has come up consistently this week with clients has been the concept of “Vulnerability.” To be honest, it comes up regularly. Vulnerability is a raw, authentic representation of ourselves and a willingness to expose our true selves and invite others in. Vulnerability is sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. When thinking about vulnerability, it’s important to understand the relationships between vulnerability, shame, and connectedness.

Connection is why we are here, ultimately why we exist, and what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. Most often, the things that lead us to withdrawal from connection with others is shame. The belief that, if I am vulnerable and open with others, they will discover those things about me that make me ‘unworthy’ of connection. “If I’m really known, I will be rejected.” So when considering our experience with shame, vulnerability is often a risk of standing up to that fear and exposing ourselves to the possibility of unknown responses from others..Shame (and the fear of shame) leads to the urge to disconnect from others. We all have shame (except true sociopaths), so therefore, we all have the natural tendency to avoid vulnerability. It’s a self-protective mechanism for us.

The conundrum we find ourselves in is that even though we try to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable, there is a desire to have the type of relationships that assist and help us move toward vulnerability. No doubt, vulnerability feels risky and threatening; however, there comes a point when our efforts to protect ourselves can become destructive and cause us to miss the opportunity for a profound relational experience. In relationships, there is a need for boundaries and trust when vulnerability is wanted. These boundaries are important to help us manage the fear associated with taking this step. Judgment is needed to determine who the right people are, and then you can move towards more vulnerable interactions.

Helpful ways to work towards vulnerability in your relationships would include:

  1. Taking a moment to consider the efforts you make to protect yourself in relationships. Is the aim to create healthy connections or to remain unknown from those around you? If your answer is to remain unknown, then shame is likely getting in the way of meaningful connection.

  2. Identify the fear. Those that have worked with me in therapy will be well drilled in considering the underlying fear in their actions. Ask yourself, “what response do I fear from others after being vulnerable with them?”

  3. Accept that your fear is natural. Allow it to exist rather than focus on making it go away. Focus on the fear only gives it energy to grow.

  4. Focus attention on the value you have in connection, and then chose vulnerability rather than allowing fear to determine your actions. When we behave opposite of how we feel, and in this case seek others out, we discover a new sense of freedom and a way out of our shame.

  5. Establish trust and start slow. Try openness with smaller things and then after building trust with others, move on to larger things. For example, when you are asked “How are you?” try avoiding the automatic response of “good” and honestly contemplate the question before responding.

Entering into the anxiety and fear-provoking area of vulnerability, shame, and connection can be overwhelming. Consider talking to someone that can provide you a safe space to process your relationship to shame.

For help In the Lancaster, PA area moving toward more vulnerability and a more connected life, please contact me at (717) 288-5064 / and schedule an appointment.