How to Build Attraction AND Connection to Improve Your Marriage
You could be failing to reconcile because you are not working on BOTH attraction and connection
In today’s podcast, Coach Jack explains the difference between attraction and connection, why they are essential for relationship improvement, and how to work on them.
After listening to the podcast:
- You may want to buy Coach Jack’s book on building connection with agreement.
- Read an article on what to do when your spouse is strongly attracted to someone else.
- Get a coaching package to help you to re-attract and re-connect with your spouse.
How to Build Attraction AND Connection to Improve Your Marriage
[Introduction to the podcast]
Announcer: On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.
[Coach Jack’s Presentation]
Jack Ito PhD: Connection and attraction are two of the most important skills for starting and maintaining relationships, the third being secure. Even though connection and attraction skills determine not only the quality of person you can attract and have a relationship with, but how well your relationship remains, most people don’t even know the difference between these two things. And, because they don’t know, they often work on one, to the exclusion of the other. Relationships require both of these things to thrive. If you are working on improving or saving your relationship, are you working on connection only? Or attraction? Do you know the difference between connection and attraction? If you don’t, you will want to learn so that you can give your relationship the best chance of success. Although security is necessary as well, that won’t be covered in this podcast.
In today’s podcast, I will teach you the difference between connection and attraction and why it is necessary to work on each of these qualities–for starting new relationships, for enhancing marriages, and for maintaining a marriage that you and your spouse will enjoy. Just as a plant needs both water and sunshine, your relationship needs both. You can become better at both of these things, completely on your own, and create a relationship that you and your spouse will both enjoy. Too many people think that the only way to improve their relationship is to work with their spouse, doing some kind of communication exercises. That could not be further from the truth. Talking with a spouse about relationship problems may be logical, but does nothing to motivate him or her to want to be in the relationship. Typically, talking about problems and doing structured dating or structured communication or structured anything contributes to the feeling that the relationship is a job and does nothing to build feelings of love, commitment, or attraction.
Working to become more attractive, in all the senses of that word, in addition to having good connection skills will motivate your spouse to want to be with you, just as it would motivate anyone else to do that. If you were single and wanted to have a relationship with someone, do you think the best approach would be to approach that person and ask them to go to counseling with you or work from a book? Hopefully that would not be your strategy. Instead, you would want to attract that person and help him or her to enjoy interacting with you. What’s true for single relationships is true for marriages as well. There is no difference in how emotional relationships work whether people are single or married. Marriage brings added responsibility and commitment–it does not change what we need to do to keep our emotional relationship alive. People who rely on the fact that they are married or have children to sustain the marriage are in for a rude awakening when they later get told by their spouse that they love them, but are not in love with the anymore. By the time someone actually says that, they have in fact not been in love for a long time and are at the point where they are thinking of ending the marriage if they haven’t already taken steps to do that.
We tend to think of relationships as being qualitatively different. We think of an “acquaintance” as being qualitatively different from a “friend,” which is qualitatively different from a “spouse.” In actuality, these relationships are more quantitatively different than qualitatively different. That is, they lie along a continuum from totally unattracted to totally attracted, and from totally disconnected to totally connected. If the amount of attraction and connection that we have with our spouse is the same as for a friend, we are in fact just friends. If the amount of connection and attraction is the same as for an acquaintance, we have become mere acquaintances or roommates on an emotional level, although the responsibility and commitment of marriage remain. Many men and women actually become more attracted and connected to a friend or affair partner than to a spouse, although they continue to be responsible and legally committed to their spouse. In short, marriage is defined by the commitment and responsibility, while the emotional relationship is defined by attraction and connection. You can have one without the other, but they work best when you have both together.
Being “married” does not determine how attracted your spouse is to you, or how attractive you are to your spouse. That’s true also for connection. Marriage just means that your relationship is committed for life. Couples are along a continuum from being like strangers to being very intimately connected. Unfortunately, many people believe that getting married will enhance their relationship. So, although they may have had problems with attraction or connection before marriage, they married believing that would increase connection and attraction. When they found out that did not happen, they became disappointed and angry with their spouses for not living up to their expectations. People with such expectations say or think, “you are my spouse–you are supposed to be connected to me, be attracted to me, desire me, and so forth.” If you have such thinking, you need to realize that just being married decreases desire rather than increases it. People do not desire what they have in abundance. Getting married means going from having less of each other to having more of each other, and feeling like you will always have each other, which will naturally decrease desire.
Marriage isn’t for increasing desire. It’s to “lock-in” a good relationship we already have. It can’t create a good relationship that we don’t have. Cars always look best on the dealer’s lot and a lot of test drives are still required, no matter how good looking the car is. Don’t despair if you feel like you married with the totally wrong idea and thought that marriage would increase attraction and connection. There are still lots of things that you can do to create a good relationship. But, you will have to start by dropping the idea that your spouse has an obligation to be attracted or connected to you, and get back to working on the same skills you would use in a single relationship to help someone be attracted and connected to you. That’s right–how connected and how attracted your spouse is to you depends entirely on what you do, and not on what you and your spouse do together.
Connection is not attraction, and attraction is not connection. To understand the difference, suppose you open a pizza shop. There are already a lot of pizza shops, so you have a lot of competition. To get people to buy from your shop, you will have to create in them the desire not to eat pizza, but to eat your pizza, although they have never tried it. You may use advertising, promotions, word of mouth, and other features to get people to try your pizza. That is, you will have to “attract” them to your product. “Attraction” is that which makes someone want to interact with you, buy your product, or use your service–before they have had any experience with you.
Once they do try your pizza, how much they enjoy your pizza will determine how much they want to eat your pizza again. If you have great advertising, but lousy pizza, they will not “connect” with it. Connection has to do with a person’s experience with you, a product, or a service. What you have has to match their tastes, even if you think what you have is great. You could have the best pepperoni pizza in town, but if what they like is pineapple and green pepper, they are not going to be connecting with your pizza, no matter how good it looked to them at first.
Some people are very attractive and create a desire in many other people to date them. But, lacking good connection skills, their relationships are short lived. When such people get coaching from me, they tell me that for some reason they can’t understand, people drop them as friends, or don’t want to continue dating them. Married people who are good at attracting, but not connecting will say that their spouses want to have sex with them, but have little interest in talking or spending time with them.
Other people have really good connection skills, but are not very attractive. Attraction by the way, includes physical appearance, but is many other things as well–particularly for men. People with poor attraction skills often cannot get many dates, or not many dates with desirable people. For women, their boyfriends may leave them as soon as someone more attractive comes along. For men, they will more often be “friended.” Married men who stop being attractive, but continue to have good connection skills will also be “friended” by their wives. It is good for spouses to be friends, of course, but without attraction, the relationship can lack passion and affairs are more common.
To rebuild a damaged marriage, it is necessary to work on both attraction skills and connection skills. Many people can get started by imagining their spouse was to leave them. What kind of person would your spouse be attracted to, if he or she left you? Would that person be outgoing? shy? intelligent? practical? romantic? sexual? spontaneous? entrepreneurial ? anxious? capable? into sports? heavy? thin? and so forth. Becoming more like the kind of person your spouse would be attracted to will make you more attractive to your spouse. You can also consider which features would be most attractive to your spouse and which wouldn’t matter as much. Relationships always are competitive in the sense that our spouses need to feel that they have a good deal in comparison to other spouses or what’s out there.
Working on connection skills means matching the other person’s tastes, as in the pizza example. Marrying someone very similar to you makes it easy to stay connected, as you will naturally agree, empathize, and enjoy doing the same things. Do you think your spouse thinks of you as very different or very similar? If very different, you will need to reduce those differences in order to build connection. You also will need to stop doing any needy behaviors, which will make your spouse feel like you are different. Arguing, for example, damages connection by polarizing differences. Agreement on the other hand, builds connection, by increasing similarity.
Once attraction and connection are restored, they must be maintained. A pizza shop that starts producing inferior pizzas is not going to keep their customers. And, if what they offer just doesn’t sound as good as what other pizza shops are offering, their customers will become more dissatisfied, even if the pizza quality doesn’t change. When we marry, we must continue to use attraction and connection skills to maintain a relationship we enjoy. There really is no such thing as “locked-in” in a marriage. And, no matter how good a marriage starts off, if it is not maintained, it will not last.
An additional benefit of staying an attractive person with good connection skills is that it will help to maintain your self esteem, bring you more success in general, and help you to enjoy your life. Becoming the kind of person others would like to be with is a fun process. You will enjoy your life so much more if you can get back to being the attractive and connected person your spouse used to have when your relationship was close.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack. Visit coachjackito.com to learn more skills for reconnecting with your spouse and restoring your marriage.