Want connection? Get curious and get open
Have you ever been in love? Or at least in major “like”? Even if you never talked to the person, you were super curious, right? And you wanted that person to notice you, to ask you questions, to know you.
I remember when I first developed a crush on my husband, I wanted to know EVERYTHING about him. “Where did you grow up? Who is your best friend? What do you like to listen to?” And I crazily wanted him to know EVERYTHING about me. I practiced talking to him when I was alone, blasting music in my car, figuring out what to say that would sound cool. “Yeah, I love Nine Inch Nails. I’ve been listening to them since I was like 10.” (Bless his heart, my husband tried so hard to get into NIN. He just doesn’t like Trent. It’s ok... lots of people don’t like Trent.) I blurted out the most random and personal stuff when we were getting to know each other. Shit that I would never tell someone I just met, but I wanted him to really KNOW me, just as much as I wanted to know him. I was super curious and I really wanted him to see me, so I was willing to be super open.
This applies to friends and romantic love. I know I’ve had some friend crushes that started this way, too. If you think someone is cool, you ask questions and you get really open for them.
Long-term relationships get stale because we lose curiosity and vulnerability. We assume we know everything about each other. We stop asking questions. We also assume that if we have something new and different to share - a fear, an idea, whatever - that we’ll rock the boat too much, be seen as weird, or get rejected. Sometimes we get defensive when our partners or old friends want to do something new. Anxiety steps in. We assume it’s because we’re not good enough for them anymore and we get scared they’ll leave us.
If you’re feeling disconnected, I challenge you to get curious and get open, right now. Ask a question of your partner, your old friend, or maybe a new acquaintance you’d like to know better. Something with depth, so not “How was your day?”, but more like, “What do you want most in life?” or “What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?” See where the conversation goes from there. If you want to share something, try a need, a want, a feeling, or a fear. Make sure it’s yours, so not “I want you to take out the trash”, but more like “I’d love for us to have more time together” or “I really hate my job, but I’m afraid to try something new.” The heartfelt questions; the willingness to be open – that’s where the connection is.
And feel free to guide the conversation where you want it. If you’re looking for support, but the person you’re talking to starts giving advice or telling you you should be thankful for what you have, get open again (because this is vulnerability at its finest) and say something like, “I appreciate your opinion and I know you’re saying it out of love, but that’s not helpful to me right now. What I’m looking for is a bit of support and comfort.” You might hear some confusion or defensiveness at first. Be gentle and go slowly, new ways of interacting can be uncomfortable for everyone involved.
In that same vein, if your partner or friend gets vulnerable with you, really telling you about his/her feelings, and you start to feel defensive, wait. Take a moment to validate the other person’s feelings – they may need comforting and understanding. Your side will be easier to hear if the other also feels heard.
Questions? Thoughts? Compliments? Complaints?