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What to Do When You Want to Feel Closer to Your Partner

“By letting our deep longing for love and connectedness be exposed…[we are] opening up the channel through which love can enter.” ~John Welwood

When we feel disconnected from our romantic partner what we often want most is to genuinely feel their love again, to feel connected. And yet, it can be so difficult to simply share that longing.

So instead of explaining or asking for what we want in a loving way, we complain about what is wrong, about how our partner isn’t showing up for us. Or we simply withdraw.

This is especially true for sensitive souls like me, who are a bit hard up on assertiveness.

I was the girl once painfully called a “sheep” by the boy I had a crush on because I would follow my friends into social situations where they talked and laughed with the cute boys, but I could only sit smiling and mute at their side. There was just so much at risk in speaking, and my thoughts came slower when I was feeling nervous, which was often.

Somewhere along the line, I ended up resorting unconsciously to using the tactic of complaining in an attempt to get the affection I wanted. No wonder my first marriage fizzled!

About two years into my current relationship, which had been going wonderfully, I started to notice that I was generating negative interactions more and more frequently.

My voice would get a little whiny when I wanted to do something with him. Or I would accuse him of not paying enough attention to me, or of spending too much time working. Sometimes tears would be the only outward sign that I was feeling disconnected.

This tactic of trying to get what we want through accusation or complaint is very normal for many of us. Because if we straight out say what we long for we are exposing our heart. We are showing our vulnerability. And that can be very uncomfortable.

This is doubly true for those of us like me who tend to be very sensitive and driven by feeling. We often feel shame about what is seen as abnormal emotionality. We prefer to appear as the culture expects us to be: strong and steady, certainly not needy!

But because of our conscientious and caring nature, we tend to value and cherish deep connection above much else. This makes revealing our tender vulnerable heart in intimate relationship especially unnerving, as it seems so much is at stake.

We prefer to stay safely guarded behind our complaint. It is easier to focus on what our partner isn’t giving us. If we never share what we want outright, they could never reject us. Right?

Wrong. What we often get in response is distance. Which feels to many of us remarkably like rejection.

Ironically, it is the very act of showing our heart in this naked way that has the power to create that deep intimacy we long for. Scary as it may be.

I will put simply what years of reading relationship books never made clear for me, but trial and error (lots of it!) have:

If your subtle hints or outright complaints aren’t working, you need to ask for what you want. With your voice. When you frame your request positively, with no hint of complaint or disrespect, it will blow your mind how effective it is!

Here are some easy ways to make sharing your desire to connect a positive experience for both you and your partner:

1. Discover what you desire.

When you are tempted to accuse, complain, or withdraw in a sense of anticipated rejection, take it as a sign to discover what you actually desire.

This might require some deep listening—to yourself! Luckily that is a skill that sensitive people are innately good at—we are naturally attuned to what our hearts are asking of us. So use that to your advantage. Ask yourself, “What do l really want? How do I long to connect?”

There are so many ways to feel a sense of loving connection with our partner. We may desire different types of intimacy at different moments, so the answer may be different every time. And it will be unique to you. Not everyone feels most connected when snuggling, like I do.

Some of us feel most close when we simply share time together engaging in activity like cooking a meal, dining out, playing a card game, hiking a mountain, etc. For some of us, receiving a gift or some words of appreciating is powerfully connecting. Having long meaningful conversations is another way I feel very close to my partner.

So take the time to discover your most pure longing for that moment. Perhaps you actually just want time to connect with yourself. But if it is a longing for intimacy with your partner, prepare to present it.

2. Do not deny or condemn your longing to connect.

Remind yourself that this longing is simply human. Trust that your desire to feel loved and loving is benevolent. In fact, it is essential for our mental, emotional, and physical health to have affectionate touch and loving attention.

Did you know that having a loving and supportive long-term relationship predicts longevity more than not being a smoker or not being obese? It’s also the single biggest predictor of overall life happiness. This is especially so for those of us with the tendency toward sensitivity.

Reassuring yourself of all this helps tremendously when you are amping up your courage.

3. Make it easier to ask.

If there is fear, notice it is simple energy in the form of sensations in the body. Melt it with breath by taking a few deep belly breaths. Sense your hands or feet, the softness of your lips. Wiggle them all a little. This will help ease fear’s grip. Then ask for what you want using a positive, confident as possible, non-demanding tone.

Keep in mind that most partners feel wonderful when they can please their loved ones, especially when they are being respected. So asking in the following ways can be a gift to him, as well as yourself.

Eliminating the word “you” and simply stating what you want often inspires in your partner a desire to rise up and please you. For example, “I would love to be held right now”.

Yet, sometimes it can be too frightening to say those words, so make it easier for yourself and say, “I miss you. Any chance you are up for cozying up together on the couch?” Or, “I would love it if you would hold me.”

You can use the same words if you desire to connect in other less physical ways. For example, “I miss you. Any chance you are up for eating a meal alone together by candlelight after the kids go to bed?” Or, “ I would love to go for a hike together tomorrow.”

Last time I asked my partner in such a way he responded, “I totally want to when you say it like that.”

Find your own most natural way to express your request, with no trace of complaint.

Risk your partner seeing your longing. More likely than not they will find it sexy and captivating. They will be inspired to show up more fully, and effortlessly return the tenderness, and you will be deeply awash in connected intimacy.

4. Understand and honor the Pendulum Principle.

Know that it is totally normal for partners to have different needs for closeness and space in the relationship. Sometimes the timing is off and your bid for closeness may line up with your partner’s need for space.

I call it the Pendulum Principle. Like a pendulum, healthy people (and especially highly sensitive people) swing back and forth between needing independence and togetherness. Go far in the direction of independence and it is time to swing back toward togetherness. This happens for all of us.

For example, there have been times I have asked for connection and my man has been literally falling asleep as I spoke. As tempting as it is to take it personally if they cannot or do not want to connect at that particular moment, please refrain. Speaking from experience, that will only create resentment and distance.

Remind yourself that your sweetie is simply tired, has something else weighing on their mind, or needs some space to do their own thing for a bit. Trust that your brave vulnerability is still having a beautiful affect and your loving request was heard and appreciated. When the time is right for your partner, they will be much more excited to honor it than when it came in the form of a complaint.

5. Prep your partner for the next time the complaint monster shows up. 

As the saying goes, old habits die hard. It is likely you will need to keep practicing this new, more positively assertive way of getting your intimacy needs met before it becomes habit.

It can help to have a conversation about how this can be hard for you and how deeply you want to be able to voice your need for intimacy in a positive way. Tell them you’d love their support as you navigate the challenge of changing your habit. Ask them to help you out if they ever notice you closing down or beginning to complain about them not showing up for you.

Your partner will likely be more than happy to help you grow in this way—but you’ve got to ask!

Ever since I learned how to reveal my deep wish to feel loved in the form of a request, my partner and I have been experiencing richer intimacy that ever. I am letting him see my real exposed self. My vulnerability is magnetic. It allows him to actually feel connected with me, the true tender me, and makes honoring my request a luscious delight.

Once he said, “It is so great when you ask because sometimes I just get caught up in other things and forget how important it is for me to connect like that. Thank you for reminding me of what really matters.”

About Hannah Brooks

Hannah Brooks is a Mind Body Relationship Coach who helps deep-feeling and easily rattled women create genuine connection, peace, and wholehearted satisfaction in their love lives. For further tips and guidance check our her free toolkit, 3 Essential Steps to a More Loving Relationship, Even When You Feel Irritable, Resentful, or Disconnected. Grab it free here and find her at lifeisworthloving.com.

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  • W.L. Schebaum

    What a great article! Thanks for the wisdom!

  • Nor

    Really loved this. Went straight to my heart! Thank you!

  • Hannah Mariah Brooks

    Thank you! And you are welcome!

  • Hannah Mariah Brooks

    You are most welcome. I’m so glad it resonated with you! Thank you for saying so.

  • Abbas happy

    Hay

  • Yvonne

    In a healthier place emotionally now years after the end of a long marriage that in part died of neglect, I am fortunate to be a relationship with a man who genuinely cares for me and with whom I happily anticipate the future. Your article was just what I needed to keep me on track and to help me to feel positively about my deeply-feeling nature. What I’ve been enduring as some sort of curse, you’ve reminded me is actually an asset (not only in my romantic relationship but also in my interactions with others) but that I need to be mindful of communicating my need for intimate interaction. Far from being selfish, it might be the very thing to help me appreciate my role in contributing to a romance that continues to flourish. Thanks for the insight :).

  • Guest

    I don’t whine or nag or complain, but I don’t feel connected with anyone. Not any of my past partners, not my current one. And I don’t even know what to ask for. “I want to be more connected/intimate with you” doesn’t make sense.

    It would be nice to think that a happy long term relationship leads to better longevity, but I’m constantly wondering when the relationship is going to end. Break ups are inevitable and knowing that doesn’t help or make me feel good.

    I want to feel loved, but what does that feel like? What does it feel like to love someone?

    I have come to the conclusion that my expectations are too high. This article talks about topics and feelings that just aren’t present in my life. I’m not built for that level of consciousness or understanding or whatever it’s called.

  • Sinh

    I can relate to this very much. I used to nag my partner, which gradually drove him away. Had I read this article earlier, I would have had a much happier life. Thank you for taking risk to share this article.

  • Anjali Budreski

    This article is spot on and very helpful, AND…as someone who is more of an ‘island’ it can be hard to even want to connect, sometimes. And, sometimes I do want to connect and push away instead. Either way, I love the insights here and openness and esp. the specific tips for HOW to say what you want! Very helpful.

  • Hannah Mariah Brooks

    You are right to say that complaining and whining are not the only barriers to feeling close to others! There are many. Just because you have had trouble feeling connection and love in the past it does not mean it will always be that way. It depends on how much you want it and how much you are willing to apply yourself to that goal. There are many things we can do to shift how we relate to life and love. Some people have more challenges with letting love in and accessing feelings of love than others. That doesn’t mean it will never be possible for you. I believe we are most all built for love (and higher consciousness), though for some it may be more challenging to move past blocks to it. Start small by recognizing the brief times you have had such feelings…Have you ever felt that stirring of sweetness for, say, a puppy, or small child? And connection involves being really present with another being (and I bet you have had fleeting experiences of that).

    If you continue to think that breakups are inevitable (they are not, I know many people who have stayed together until one of them passes on, which is a different sort of parting), you may be setting yourself up to stay cut off from love. Because if you are always bracing against the possibility of a break up, you are never trusting anyone (yourself included) enough to reveal your heart or open your heart to them.

    Loving is alway risky, but we are all less likely to experience its’ sweetness without risking exposure of our most tender selves. If you build a sense of inner safety (the knowing you can handle hard feelings), then opening and showing your heart becomes so much easier.

  • Hannah Mariah Brooks

    It is an honor for me to share my stories and be vulnerable so that you and others may benefit. I hope what you have learned here can help you be happier as you move forward in your life, as well!

  • Hannah Mariah Brooks

    You are very welcome, Yvonne. I love what you say here! Your deep-feeling nature is such a gift, and can become more and more so as you learn how to honor it and work with it (my experience is this is an ongoing process!). Especially when we can communicate our needs and desires in respectful ways…We really do have more power in our relationships than we realize, and taking great care of ourselves and asking for what we want are huge keys that serve both people in the relationship. Great insights!

  • Hannah Mariah Brooks

    Totally. Sometimes we just need space. Connection isn’t for every moment. Some of us enjoy it more than others, and need it more than others. Isn’t it amazing, though, how we can undermine our own desires because of fear? How we push people away when actually what we want more than anything is to feel closer? Self-protection mechanisms can be great at times, but can also take us so far away from our true longings. I’m so glad you found the tips helpful.