On Connection

I was chatting with a dear friend this morning, and the crux of our discussion centered on connection. And as we argued (because every chat with this friend seems to have some level of “argue” in it), it became clear to me that what I think of as connection is not a universally understood concept. I’m not sure if she understands what I mean or not. I wonder how many people have even experienced the thing I refer to as connection.

I wonder this because I didn’t experience it until I was about 33 years old. I had been in love five times by then. I had been married for nine years. And I had never experienced this thing, which I now think of as pretty much the only defining characteristic of true, deep love. When I was 32 or 33, I experienced it with the girl I was dating, and only because she insisted. She was an especially intuitive woman. A social worker by both training and deep in her bones (as I suspect is the case with all social workers), she was able to sense that I lacked connection to her, which after a few months became intolerable to her. So she set about training me.

She is the one I’m referring to in that tweet. She had me read Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types which covered the Myers-Briggs classifications and emotional intelligence. She uncovered the fact that I have basically no empathy at all, and helped me find strategies for compensating for that using my intelligence in other areas. And she trained me to be connected during sex, which was a completely foreign thing to me. That was my first experience with the kind of connection I’m talking about here.

I had always been a very generous, pleasing lover. I focused on the needs of my partner and was very attuned to whatever feedback I could use to ensure she was in a transcendent state of bliss. But at the same time, I was detached. There is an old saw about men focusing on baseball statistics in order to last longer. The implication is that by being detached a man can avoid climax, and I suppose that is true, because I was detached and I could last pretty much forever. Up until this woman, that had never been something a woman would complain about.

But she taught me to connect during sex. It’s somewhat like learning to meditate. You stop thinking about anything else. You don’t even think about what you are doing at any one moment. You don’t think about what you might do next. You just exist in the now. You let your limbic system run the show. You do what feels right. This is at the heart of the practice of Tantra, I learned later. But then, with her, it was just a new way of having sex, and I liked it. A lot.

I also lost my ability to last forever. Sorry about that.

After that relationship fell apart, the next person I dated was the woman who is now my wife. She has only ever known the connected version of me. What I discovered with her, though, was that connection is not just a sex thing. It can transcend every interaction if you let it. And over time I’ve learned to sense it. I can sense when I am connected, and I can sense when she is connected. That’s another interesting aspect of the thing I’m talking about. It doesn’t have to be bi-directional. I can be connected to her while she is detached. She can be connected to me while I am detached. But if we are both connected at the same time, the force of the connection increases ten-fold.

Being connected mostly just requires having no other obligations. When I am focused on work, or the kids, or anything requiring attention, I detach. It’s natural. Getting out of that detached space and back into a connected space takes time. Decompression time. And I’m not alone in this. I see it in my wife as well.

For example, last night she got home from a business trip and was still her work self. I was patient. Gave her space. Eventually we settled into our evening routine, and I was massaging her feet. As I pressed my thumb deep into the sole of her left foot, I saw it. I saw the connection wash over her. I saw her enter a state of bliss. I knew she was connected. The same way I am connected. And her connection, with my connection, were together an overwhelming calming force for both of us.

“I’m in my happy place,” she said.

Just thinking about that, I’m filled with a ridiculous amount of joy.

I suspect some people never get to feel this thing I call connection. And that makes me a little sad. Because it is everything. I’m pretty sure it’s what life is all about.


11 thoughts on “On Connection

  1. I completely agree. I just had a discussion with a friend about how everyone has a different concept of what love means to them and how are any of us supposed to “connect” if we all have a different opinion of what it is.

  2. Everything you say is true, and yes, once you have it, you want it always.
    I wish it just didn’t take so long for me to learn it, but thankfully I did.
    Great thoughts here about searching for when someone else is connected. I could probably use that advice.

    Loved this

  3. I really like the fact that you say that it can be unidirectional. I realise you are also seem to be saying that the ideal situation is when the connection – the flow – is mutual, happens in both directions at the same time, but there is something about the idea of unidirectional connection, or perhaps what I think of an asymmetrical one, that really appeals to me (I am taking from a perspective of a person who had to, similarly to you, mostly ‘learn’ empathy or construct her own tools for performing the same function natural empathy performs for others). I suspect it is the same thing that deeply attracts me to sexual power exchange and on a more trivial level, what makes me dislike 69.
    I feel that one can focus on the Other or oneself fully at any given moment and it’s almost necessary to choose which one it is if the focus and being here-now is to be complete.

    • Recently someone shared a Shambhala Buddhist text with me that started with a discussion of the “Four Elements of Love.” It emphasized that it is insufficient to desire to bring someone else joy. For it to be love, in their world view, you also must have the ability to bring them joy. That is, you may not love someone without their consent. It strikes me that this is somewhat tragic, since it means unrequited love is simply not love at all. And for that reason, I don’t know that I agree with it. But they also make a pretty compelling argument that being the object of desire that you do not want is actually kind of awful. And the loving thing to do in that case is to let them go.

      Connection and love are not the same thing, of course. And perhaps you can be bringing that other person joy even though they fail to connect with you. But if you can find symmetry, it certainly puts that whole concern to rest.

      • I actually kind of (tangentially) agree with the idea that unrequited love either doesn’t exist or isn’t what I perceive as love. If you truly love someone, it’s about the person you love and their wellbeing REGARDLESS of whether you can contribute to it (it’s wonderful) or not (less wonderful but nonetheless possible and not even necessarily terrible).
        I also don’t think being an object of love (even less so, desire) that you don’t reciprocate is awful itself. Why would it be? It only becomes awful if someone presses on for reciprocation or if you feel/are made to feel guilty for not reciprocating.
        The asymmetry I was talking about was more temporal then permanent, ie in any given moment I personally find it easier and more fulfilling to be the focus or the one that’s focusing, rather than trying to be both at the same time. BDSM exchanges are a striking example of that: a dom “working” a sub is the one that’s focused, a dom ”being served” by a sub is being focused on. The total dynamic still works, even though there is an asymmetry in each encounter. I suppose the connection is still there in both cases, it’s just that’s what’s given/received is diametrically different.
        But I also think – I know – that it can work for whole relationships. I had, and have relationships (both involving sexual element and not) which are much more focused on one side or another (ie the other party or me) in terms of needs, sharing, etc – and they work really well. That’s what they are ABOUT in fact. I don’t want them to change or become more symmetrical/equal/reciprocal.
        Think about parental love: it’s totally asymmetrical, and it’s definitely more focused on the child than the parent. One wouldn’t want it to be any other way either: essentially, the parent cares and the child is cared for. I am not saying that parents don’t receive anything for their care, by any means, but it’s not symmetrical exchange. Reverse situations tend to point to pathology of some kind.
        Apologies for going on so, but I feel that we (people?) are too hooked on the notion of equal/reciprocal emotional exchanges and this often subconscious expectation often leads to a lot of pain.

      • Ah, but focus and connection are different. In fact, in my construct, focus interferes with connection. It’s like meditation. If you think “I am meditating,” then you aren’t meditating. In a D/s exchange, from what I’ve read, the sub enters “sub space” which sounds damn similar to the thought-free, fully-connected state I was trying to describe. The dom/domme, on the other hand, has so much responsibility at that time, that they must remain alert and careful, and couldn’t possibly enter a non-thinking zone. It would simply be too dangerous. Perhaps they can connect this way during aftercare.

        That said, your point stands that there is asymmetry. It’s just maybe the opposite of what you said. At least, for the kind of connection I’m talking about.

      • Then I think I misunderstood the idea of ”being in the state of connection” if it is akin to the no-thinking zoned out trance (of which subspace is a specific example). I wold say tentatively that I do experience such states occasionally but other people tend to completely disappear then. On the other hand, I can be fully, totally in here-and-now ‘headspace’ high. But it’s not unthinking, though thinking is…different then.

        It’s very interesting to get this perspective – I can’t even start to imagine feeling connected to another person while in a blissed-out or meditative state – but now I think about it, I have had it described to me from a sub perspective in almost exactly those terms – so it’s an individual thing possibly and maybe that’s why I make a lousy sub 😉

  4. You were lucky to have a teacher so kind and patient who changed your life and prepared you for your wife.
    (Please note: Rhyming was completely unintentional.)

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