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How to grow intimacy and connection with your partner, and not to malfunction when they tread on a ‘raw spot’

Love and Sex · 5 min read

Everyone — babies, children, teens and adults — needs to feel connected to the key people in their lives. This is attachment theory’, the idea is that as human beings we were designed to live from cradle to grave enjoying close, attachment’ relationships with a small group of people. Starting with our relationship with our parents or carers, we were created to live interdependent lives, where we can call on our go to people’ and we know they will respond.

We function well when we have this connection but we start to malfunction both emotionally and behaviourally when we start to feel disconnected, so it’s vital to learn to tune in to and respond to this fundamental need for connection with our go to people.

Wise partners are able to take a step back from the problem and begin to think about responding in a different way from our normal knee-jerk response.

If we are having a problem with our partner, instead of asking the question: 

why are they doing this to me?’,

it can be more helpful to ask ourselves: 

do they need something from me’? 

Wise partners are able to take a step back from the problem and begin to think about responding in a different way from our normal knee-jerk response. 

If we are able to take that all important step of reflection we can begin to see the problem in a new way. This involves both thinking about what our loved one might be showing us about what they need, and considering what we are bringing to the party.

All too often when we stop to think (in a non-pressured way) we realise that we are particularly sensitive to certain behaviour due to our own relationship history. 

So, if we get mad when our husband or wife is clearly struggling but refuses to talk to us; we might want to reflect and ask ourselves:

why do I hate this so much?’

and maybe even: 

is there anything I’m doing, or not doing, that makes this harder for them?’

We all have raw spots’, as Sue Johnson calls them, a place on our emotional skin that is particularly sensitive to the touch. 

Reflective conversations with loved ones can lead us to feel even more closely connected if done well. Because in these conversations we openly acknowledge the importance of the other person to us, and show our willingness to learn to respond in new ways that leave them feeling safer and more connected.

You might want to think about a specific moment during a fight or a time of distance when you are aware you suddenly felt more vulnerable or on guard. 

Can you pinpoint exactly how you felt? 

Some examples might be: dismissed, helpless, ashamed, unwanted, lost, let down hopeless. So many of us don’t show these emotions to our partner, especially in the moment. 

Think and talk about what you needed in that moment — trying to be curious I wonder if?’, rather than blaming of course if you hadn’t…’

You might also want to think about what triggered these feelings in the first place? There is often a story behind our seemingly irrational’ responses. 

We don’t choose our raw spots’, but we do get to choose whether to be brave enough to talk about them together, helping our partner understand what’s going on and to respond to one another in new ways. This way we are creating new patterns that strengthen rather than destroy our relationships.

I have one extremely important caveat to all this. This kind of: is it me?’ thinking does not apply in situations where our partner is being violent towards us. A victim of partner violence should not be thinking what did I do to provoke this?’; rather they need to start thinking I need to stop this happening to me!’ If you are in this situation please seek help immediately. A good place to start would be the National Domestic Abuse Helpline.

In general, being willing to think about our responses and our loved ones’ needs gives us new options when we are feeling stuck and frustrated and can lead to greater intimacy and connection. Starting off with questions like what do I do that makes you feel most loved?’ can be a gentle way in. Then as you are both feeling safer and more connected you can start to have those more vulnerable but incredibly rewarding connecting conversations. 

So what have you got to lose? Give it a try and here’s to happy connecting!


We all fall into certain communication habits, for the good and not so good, especially with our partner! Toucan Together helps you discover deeper ways of communicating and find positive approaches for resolving arguments, grow intimacy, trust and more. Get started by taking the​‘Pulse’ of your relationship with our short research-based quiz and see the health of your relationship across seven key indicators. GET STARTED NOW | LOG IN

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