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Finding a solid relationship can be really hard for some people, and so when you finally meet someone who seems decent, it’s easy to want to snatch them up and not let go. I should know—I was one of those, “go on one date and instantly fall in love and stay forever,” type girls. I would always wear my heart on my sleeve, thinking this was the key to finding The One. But what I didn’t realize is that even though I was emotionally open, that did not mean we were emotionally connected.

An emotional connection is a bond between two people through deeply rooted emotional experiences. It is a mutual understanding and empathy of one another’s feelings that allow each individual to create a deep appreciation, affection, and intimacy with one another. What I had created was an attachment to the idea of being in love, and an infatuation with any man that gave me attention. I tried to force them into my world by racing into all of my emotional baggage, assuming they would then do the same with me and then BOOM, instant connect, right? Wrong! Because I was so attached to finding The One, I had all of these intense longings for my potential suitors in a physical and/or intellectual sense, and a deep longing to emotionally connect; however, the relationship never went beyond the surface level and left me feeling alone and unloved.

A person develops an attachment to meet a need rather than to fulfill a desire.

A person who develops an attachment to a partner tends to subconsciously seek them out to fulfill a need or a void in their heart, such as getting over a heartbreak, self validation that they are worthy of love, or filling the void of an absentee parent, etc. Someone with a deep emotional connection is a person who comes into the relationship because they desire to be with someone simply for their own happiness and pleasure. When they meet someone they are hopeful to have this emotional connection but they are not married to the idea of the connection having to be with any particular person. They are married to the vision of pleasure and happiness, not to a specific person that the outcome should be with.

Love starts with you. In order to have a secure and fulfilling relationship with someone else, you have to feel secure and fulfilled within yourself.

At face value, emotional connection and attachment are clearly two very different things. And yet, many of us fall into the trap of attachment in the pursuance of deep emotional connection. We behave as if the two are mutually exclusive, but really that’s only half true. Couples that first develop an emotional connection can then experience a healthy attachment to one another, but someone that develops an attachment first will struggle to find a true emotional connection, if at all. Deborah Ward, of Psychology Today, says, “We often absorb other people’s feelings and moods and we can become easily absorbed into their way of life, their beliefs and consequently the way we feel about ourselves.” Essentially, someone with an attachment will become prey to their partner’s beliefs and mindset, thinking that they have fallen in love.

At this point, you might be in a panic, over-analyzing every moment of your relationship. Deep breaths. Everything is okay. Regardless of whether you have fallen in love or you’ve become attached, there’s a lesson to be learned and an opportunity to be taken. This is your chance to decide where you want to go from here, what you want your love life to look like, and what steps you want to take to make it happen. To help move you in the right direction, I’ve compiled a few scenarios that are signs that you are in a relationship of attachment rather than true love, along with some tips on how you can move away from attachment and into a true love experience. So panicking necessary. I’ve got you. Simply use this for a mental note, have a little conversation with yourself (and maybe even your partner) and let’s get down to it.

Signs You (Or Your Partner) Are Attached and Not In Love:

1. You Feel Like You Have to Force Or Convince Your Partner to Be Connected:

People tend to enter a relationship with a particular vision or idea of what it should become. If it is not becoming what they envisioned, a person who is attached will try to force the exact vision to happen, rather than being more open to seeing where the relationship can take them, or even potentially seeking out a new partner if they feel the opportunity is elsewhere.

2. Making Love Is Really Play Time With a Fuck Buddy:

People with attachment tend to be very physically attracted to one another but keep it to that surface level. During sex, it is easy for some to separate the emotional connection and simply use one another to appease their physical desires.

3. You’ve Been Love-Bombed (Or You’re the Love-Bomber):

Love bombing is when one person overwhelms another with adoration and attraction for a period of time, only to then drop off completely when they want out or have gotten what they wanted. They’ll consume their partner with flattery, gifts, and other tokens of affections. They’ll call you or text you nonstop telling you how much they miss you and adore you. They’ll tell you how they dream of traveling the world with you and feel so in love (after only a short time of dating). They coerce you to drop everything and spend all of your time with them. The more you play along, the faster the bomb drops. This tends to usually last about 2 to 3 months, but can go on for up to one year.

4. The Relationship is Stuck in Time:

This is a clear indicator that you are attached to the person and not the relationship. If the relationship is not able to grow or move forward, it’s because the emotional connection is lacking, therefore so is the motivation for both partners to work together to make the relationship better than what it is.

5. One Member of the Relationship is Not Ready For Anything Serious:

Even if this is on a subconscious level, if one member of the relationship does not want to build a relationship of substance, they will do everything in their power to self-sabotage and keep emotional connection out of the equation. They will be very fixated on the physical connection, and maybe an intellectual or spiritual connection, but when it comes to matters of the heart they will keep their partner shut out. For example, they will not share intimate details of their childhood, their family, or their fears and vulnerabilities. Their partner might find themselves having to ask a lot of questions to try to connect more deeply, but they will not get any answers from the attached partner. In fact, this person will be impeccably skilled with detouring the questions and redirecting them to back to their partner.

How Can You Build Emotional Connection in Your Relationship? 

Take the time to listen to what your partner desires. Take some time to sit down with one another, ask questions, and then sit there and listen without any judgment or objection to what it is they say. Use this as the opportunity for research to see where you both can connect on an emotional level and how you can grow. Let them ask you questions and do the same thing. But before you do any of this, you have to be willing to let go of any judgment or vision you carry of your dream life with this particular person. Being with this person is not the goal—that is the story! The real goal is the internal cultivation your ideal mate would bring you. If you were with The One, how would you feel? How would you act around them? How would you present yourself to the world? How would he act around you? How would you both behave during a conflict with one another? The answers to these questions are your core-desired emotions. When you and your partner can get clear on the core-desired emotions, you can then form a path to deep emotional collection.