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.