How important is it that you feel an emotional connection to your spouse?
June 18, 2009 10:48 PM   Subscribe

How important is it that you feel an emotional connection to your spouse?

I've been with my boyfriend for two years and we've been talking about the prospect of marriage. He's a wonderful person in every way and I know I should feel very lucky to have him. The only problem is that he doesn't really seem to "get" me; we don't have the same emotional connection I've had with past boyfriends (or the same emotional connection I have with my close friends). I know this probably sounds very vague but I'm not sure exactly how to explain it. All I know is that he's got a ton of amazing qualities and he's the kind of guy that most girls would snatch up in a second, so I'm wondering if I'm crazy to have doubts because he doesn't "get" me the way I wish he did. For any of you reading this who understand what I mean about having a connection to another person: how important do you think it is to a long-term relationship?
posted by sunflower16 to Human Relations (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Vital as in "Why would you marry someone who doesn't 'get' you?"

Please let him go so that you can both find someone who 'gets' you.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 10:52 PM on June 18, 2009 [14 favorites]

If you are asking this question, it's obviously pretty important to you and that's really what matters.
posted by whoaali at 11:00 PM on June 18, 2009

Well, for the purposes of not joining the inevitable chorus of LEAVE HIM NOW, I'll ask this: do you see this changing?

It's not a date; it's marriage—and if you're willing to spend the rest of your life with this guy, perhaps some mystery/room for growth wouldn't be toxic or disqualifying but adventurous and exciting.

But it seems you want him to get you now. You'll have to ask yourself if he's the kind of guy who might come around, and if you're the kind of girl patient enough for his understanding.
posted by trotter at 11:08 PM on June 18, 2009

Emotional connection is EVERYTHING in a long-term, mature, committed relationship (i.e. marriage). Listen to your instincts. Your guy may, on paper, be incredibly "desirable", but love is subjective--and if you aren't feeling that connection, you really, really mustn't marry him.

Good luck to you both.
posted by salmonking at 11:12 PM on June 18, 2009 [6 favorites]

Passion waxes and wanes in a long term relationship. But if you aren't friends--and to me, that means that you "get" one another--you'll have a lot more trouble dealing with the mundane logistics of a partnership. And believe me, it's hard enough when you do get each other.
posted by padraigin at 11:16 PM on June 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Very important.

But before ending the relationship, have you thought about trying a communication-for-couples workshop, something like this? Maybe the two of you need to work on communicating, especially on emotional issues, but it may not be an irreconcilable problem.
posted by russilwvong at 11:26 PM on June 18, 2009

First, I would say I'm a little curious about your age, the extent of your previous relationships, and what about those previous boyfriends made you feel like they "got" you. You sound a little young, but I could be off.

I would say emotional connection is the most important thing in a relationship, period. But if you've been dating for two years, what has got you this far? Are you good friends? Is it just good sex? If you're younger, is it just that you hang out at all the same places?

When you say he doesn't get you, do you mean he doesn't understand your feelings? He doesn't get you things that you want? Or you're running in two different worlds?

Try this quiz from the Gottman Institute (or any others they offer, for that matter). Figuring out how you operate in relationships will help you understand what you're missing from your boyfriend.
posted by moojoose at 11:41 PM on June 18, 2009

I don't understand.

What else could possibly be more important?

Other than for some sort of financial benefit, why else would you marry somebody?
posted by Netzapper at 12:35 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Vital. Our emotional connection to one another is what guides our actions towards one another, which, collectively, form our relationship, both in its intensity and nature. So without the connection, it wouldn't be a relationship.

We 'get' each other. Intimately. It's the 'getting each other' bit that is really, really important, at least for my wife and I and most other loving, happy and secure couples that we know.
posted by dowcrag at 12:41 AM on June 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

You can't ask him to understand you in ways you don't know yourself. Work harder at communicating what you want. Because these things are often a fear unexpressed by the person wanting the "emotional connection," I predict a crushing sense of loss if you lose him.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:55 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's possible to be in a relationship with someone you don't "get," in the same way it's possible to eat nothing but cereal at every meal for years on end, or live in the same small town all your life and never venture five blocks from home. You could do it, and you'd survive and possibly feel ok, but it's not terribly healthy and you'll end up missing out on so much. But the thing is, you don't have to do it, and there's no good reason for you to.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:22 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sunflower, I think you can have an emotional connection to someone without them necessarily "getting you". I think it would be helpful for you to provide some examples of what you're talking about. Do you mean that you don't really like him and love him? Do you mean that he doesn't understand you or can be inconsiderate?

If you mean that he doesn't understand you, here is a broad sweeping generalization that may be helpful:

Men are not good at picking up on subtle hints. Be direct in expressing what you want, and don't penalize them for not being mind readers. You'll be happier, and your boyfriend will be less frustrated. And he will likely bend over backwards to make you happy. If your boyfriend is good, considerate man who loves you, that is way more important than someone who anticipates your every need.

Good luck!
posted by txvtchick at 5:47 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

It is literally the only thing that is important.
posted by ook at 5:56 AM on June 19, 2009

I don't get you.

Perhaps you are too vague, much like this question. I don't mean that in a snarky way, but you speak of someone "gett[ing]" you as if that is an easily tangible thing. I for one have no idea what you really mean by this. Do you mean he doesn't finish your sentences the way your friends can? He doesn't seem able to read your emotions in what you say? He doesn't talk to/with you the way you want him to? He offends you sometimes?

Maybe you assume he will understand things you aren't saying. Maybe he does understand your emotions very well, but he just doesn't react the way you expect or want him to react.

Incidentally, this:

All I know is that he's got a ton of amazing qualities and he's the kind of guy that most girls would snatch up in a second

is not a motivation to marry someone. It is a great motivation to go on a date or two with someone and see where it goes. Beyond that is where the other connections and intangibles take over and those "amazing qualities" become much less important.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:57 AM on June 19, 2009

txvtchick & others who've asked for more background are dead right. Everyone else who has waded in without wanting to know more is dead wrong & I'd urge you to please ignore their advice for now.

My gf & I are madly in love and there are things that we don't necessarily "get" about the other but that's what I cherish most. Sometimes I get frustrated having to explain or justify myself &/or my actions but, for me, that's a good thing. I'm a better person because I'm not always allowed to just be myself – with all my bad habits – with someone who "gets" me.

But, yeah. More background & examples please :-)
posted by i_cola at 6:06 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Either I "get" everyone or I "get" no one because I'm not sure I understand the distinction you're making here. Imagine you were asking this question to a non-native English speaker who didn't have a strong command of nuances in words like "get". How would you ask it then?
posted by losvedir at 6:12 AM on June 19, 2009

I think you need to provide an example of what you mean by "getting you".

Without knowing more detail about this, I would draw a very clear distinction between "emotional connection" and "getting you". Do you love him? Do you enjoy spending time with him? Do you miss him when he's not there? Do you want to make him happy without expecting anything in return? Do you make an effort to compromise and communicate when problems arise? If yes, then there's an emotional connection. If the emotional connection is lacking, do not marry him under any circumstances. Both of you deserve better - you deserve a boyfriend you care about, he deserves a girlfriend who cares about him.

"Getting you", though, is an incredibly abstract concept. Maybe he doesn't know how to intuit what you want/need, maybe he doesn't see things from your perspective as readily, maybe he has different interests that don't mesh with yours. These don't have to be dealbreakers, if you're happy in the relationship and you have the emotional connection. They can be advantages; having your own life within the relationship is a good way to keep things interesting, getting into the habit of communicating now instead of dropping hints will make conflict resolution come more readily to you in the future, etc.

I read somewhere on AskMe that you should go to your SO for about 40% of your emotional needs. Expecting him to be your shopping buddy, confidante, career consultant, therapist, etc. etc. puts an incredibly high (and somewhat unfair) burden on him. Maybe he can be your confidante, but not give you advice on your career. Maybe he's incredibly rational about big life-decisions, but doesn't get what you find charming about chick flicks. Who knows. It's up to you to evaluate whether any differences between you two are things you're willing to compromise and deal with, for the rest of your life, or whether they are too much for you to bear.

If you have doubts, don't get married.
posted by Phire at 6:16 AM on June 19, 2009

Disclaimer - I am married to a wonderful woman who doesn't "get me" at times (and it can be very frustrating) but who has other redeeming qualities that I would never be willing to sacrifice


I think, if you ask a similar question and replace the quality of "getting you" with any other positive quality, you will get a resounding chorus of "Yes!" - is it important for a spouse to be responsible, to be kind, to be a good father, to be a good friend, to be funloving, etc.

I can't have a conversation with my wife about the mystery of life, the problems of the world, the complexities about human behaviour, because she is not wired that way. And it is frustrating, because she is my only friend right now, and I need to express myself sometimes and hit a brick wall when I talk to her.

But there are other qualities that make me so grateful to have found her: she is kind, quick to forgive (and I mean quick), respectul to my parents, responsible with the bills, a loving aunt to my nieces, considerate to strangers, classy in public, etc. And she will be an amazing mother, if life gives us the opportunity.

Before her I dated someone with whom I bonded on an emotional level, but she was a horrible person in so many ways - sure we had amazing conversations till 4 AM, but she left me with a dark hole where my soul used to be.

This is not very Hollywood-romantic with the violins, and the candlelight, but it is more important that your husband-to-be "completes" you and doesn't just "connect" with you.

Oh, and seconding Pollomacho's last comment about him being "the kind of guy that most girls would snatch up in a second"

Good luck!
posted by bitteroldman at 6:27 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who married about 18 months ago, lacking the connection you're talking about but married anyway for all the right social, political and financial reasons. The S/O is a wonderful person, and on paper looks like they were probably designed by a master craftsman God.

But they don't have that connection. And they're in therapy and contemplating divorce.

Purely anecdotal, but echoes much of the sentiment here about it being vital.
posted by Thistledown at 6:32 AM on June 19, 2009

we don't have the same emotional connection I've had with past boyfriends (or the same emotional connection I have with my close friends).

He sounds like a great guy, but not the person you should marry. I mean, you've had multiple past relationships with a better connection than the one you have now; clearly you could do better.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:37 AM on June 19, 2009

What was most telling to me is that you say "I know I should feel lucky to have him." Which, to me, means that you actually don't.

You say that you don't think he "gets" you; it sounds like you mean that there is no real "spark", or "chemistry" there, the kind that makes your heart say "yes, this. This is what I was looking for." He feels more strongly towards you than you do towards him. He is more certain that you fit him than you are that he fits you. Does any of that sound accurate?

If that sounds accurate, then first of all, know that that may not be anyone's fault. Your heart knows what it needs for a permanent fit - or at least, "permanent" enough that you know that as your heart grows and changes, you're pretty sure he's going to change along with it in such a way that things will still fit. And if you're not feeling that, you're not feeling that. He could indeed be a fantastic guy, but there are lots of fantastic guys and not all of them fit. Just like there are lots of fantastic pairs of pants out there, but only one fits you perfectly.

If it doesn't fit, then don't marry him.

One exception -- if it doesn't fit now, but you think there is a possibility that you could both try to together work on getting to a place where it finally does fit -- maybe something about what people are saying in here about improving your communication has rung a bell and made you think, "you know, that could be part of it at that..." -- give that a shot. See if it gets to a point where it does fit. But try that first before you marry him -- because if you put that effort in but it still doesn't fix the fit, then...that doesn't work either.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:38 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is not very Hollywood-romantic with the violins, and the candlelight, but it is more important that your husband-to-be "completes" you and doesn't just "connect" with you.

I disagree with this, by the way, though the rest of the poster's advice is sound. You should not find an SO who completes you, but rather be a complete individual whether you have an SO or not. Having an SO who complements you would be nice, though.
posted by Phire at 6:52 AM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

I also want to echo the serious concerns a lot of people have posted above. I'm not even necessarily keen to get specific examples, because I think you were pretty clear... you don't have an emotional connection that you've had with other partners. If your spouse can't understand how you feel, can't recognize your feelings, or can't support you in your feelings, it simply cannot go well. In a spouse, I want someone with whom I can share what happened during the day, who can relate and understand what I'm feeling, who supports me, who can _tell_ when I'm feeling bad, and knows how to make me feel better, all without me having to say anything. And I've found someone like that. I wouldn't consider marrying someone who can't be your partner in your emotional experiences.
posted by davidnc at 6:55 AM on June 19, 2009

An emotional connection is something that (I think) grows over time. I guess, I'd ask myself has he made any progress at all or has it plateaued (or worse just been stagnant)? To more directly answer your question, I believe an emotional connection is vital, it's what should endure amongst the various things that time and marriage may change (kids, weight gain, ugly haircuts, crises of all forms medical/natural/employment related).
posted by syntheticfaith at 7:03 AM on June 19, 2009

I think I know what you mean - I would echo all the other posters, that "getting" each other is very important in that vaguest of ways - BUT you should really consider how you feel when you are with him. Sometimes very different people end up together - from different backgrounds, cultures, familial experiences, etc., where its hard to "get" your partner, even if you really, really love being with them.

So I think you should re-frame the question for yourself - does your life feel improved by this relationship? Are you happy when you are together and look forward to being together more? Does it feel like a good idea to you to spend the next how ever many years in a marriage?
posted by RajahKing at 7:24 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's one of several necessary things, methinks.

You may think you can overlook him not "getting you" for the sake of the relationship, but spend any amount of time with someone who does get you and you'll start to think twice.

I was in a similar situation and thankfully he realized that we didn't understand each other so much so that we should break-up. At the time, I knew things were off but I wouldn't have been the one to end things. In other words, he did us both a favor.

On the same note, I should mention that an emotional connection can't save a relationship that's lacking in other departments. However, I think it's a requirement for being in one.

I'd personally rather be alone than married to someone who didn't understand me.
posted by patientpatient at 7:51 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would posit that there are two types of "getting" that could be going on here. On one hand, there is the predictability type- you know this person well enough to know that some event or thing will affect them. You "get" them emotionally.

But there is also the motivation type. You may have no idea what the other person is thinking or feeling, what they might do next. But you do intrinsically know what their motivations are. Maybe this is more like trust? You can predict their actions, but you can know what they will want to accomplish.

I would also counter with the other posters here and say that this is not universal, it is highly dependent on the people involved. For me, I don't mind too much if someone doesn't get me all the time, as long as they respect whatever is going on with me. Nothing is more of a deal-breaker than not getting me, AND being condescending about it. I do not want to be in a relationship with someone who "tolerates" me. Not getting something is fine, it's what you do with that that makes a difference.

On the flip side, someone who gets you in all ways, all the time, is sometimes tiresome. It's hard to feel special and unique when this other person seems to always be 100 percent inside your head.
posted by gjc at 8:02 AM on June 19, 2009

Here is my take on compatibility. If you aren't compatible the relationship will eventually end. Yes, breaking up is very painful, but, the longer you are together the more painful the end of it will be for both of you. If your sixth sense is saying no, listen to it, it knows better than you do.

Even worse, if you manage to hold together an incompatible relationship until you grow old and pass on, you get to be miserable and unfulfilled the rest of your life. I'm not looking for that, are you?
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 8:27 AM on June 19, 2009

You sound young and idealistic so I hope you will take this as a bit of wisdom and not stone cynicism: Some of the most intensely attractive emotional connections feel that way because they are feeding your dysfunctions. Those attraction patterns could take years to emerge, and make you miserable once you grasp that you have been gravitating to that which you should avoid. In other words, not so fast on judging the quality of your connections, particularly if you're under 25 and haven't peeked into the abyss of self-awareness in some way (ie., therapy).
posted by thinkpiece at 8:57 AM on June 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

For any chance at success you need to tell him exactly what it is that you need. Maybe he is willing to provide it.

Sorry, but all too often women expect men to read their minds. As a now-veteran of couples therapy, where my wife said I didn't "get her" (her actual words were, "My emotional needs are not being met"), the therapist told her that she had to literally tell me what she wants emotionally (e.g., when she has a problem she wants me to listen to how it made her feel rather than me trying to always find a solution.)

As far as I'm concerned, everyone should read Getting the Love You Want before getting married. I know I wish I did.

Bottom line: Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. He may actually be a real good guy and a great life partner.
posted by teg4rvn at 9:05 AM on June 19, 2009

Sorry, but all too often women expect men to read their minds.

Yes. And vice versa. Humans expect other humans to read their minds, and this is probably the main reason why relationships don't work, when they don't work.

Agree that Getting the Love You Want is a key text, as is How to Be an Adult in Relationships by David Richo. OP, read them both, see if he'll read them, and then you'll have more and better information to evaluate whether or not you guys have a relationship that has the potential for long-term marriage or partnering.

It sounds to me like you're not in love with him, though, and that bodes ill for marriage if either or both of you expect love as a central part of the marriage bond.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:30 AM on June 19, 2009

I'm going to go a bit against the flow here. Someone up in the thread said "Emotional connection is EVERYTHING in a long-term, mature, committed relationship", and although I agree that emotional connection is pretty important, I don't see it as being everything. In fact, when you put it that way, it sounds silly.

For a while, I had a sort of complicated relationship to a guy with whom I had a very strong emotional connection. He GOT ME, in the way you expect your lifelong SO to get you. If my life had been a Hollywood movie, he'd been tagged as my soulmate or something like that. BUT, emotional connection isn't enough. I never felt any physical connection (or attraction) to him.

Eventually I fell in love with another guy (now my husband). We had a lot of things in common, and also a lot of things where we had different opinions and perspectives. He didn't get me sometimes in things we all consider important like humor, or feeling upset about things. He doesn't get my need for romance once in a while. Yet, I love him very much and he loves me very much, and even now that there's no more of that initial infatuation, we're very happy together.

Of course, I'm not saying there's no emotional connection whatsoever, just that yes, I married this guy even if "he doesn't "get" me the way I wish he did", as you said. I don't know if this is your situation or not. Maybe it's more serious than that and maybe you feel unsatisfied all the time. If this is the case, don't marry the guy. Specially if you "see" all the amazing qualities he has, but just don't feel as if that's enough. I just wanted to come here and say that I don't agree with those poeple saying "if he does't get you, dump him". I think there's a lot more to relationships and marriage than that.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:47 AM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Although I think CrazyLemonade makes some really good points, I want to offer a different perspective on this one bit:

even now that there's no more of that initial infatuation, we're very happy together.

I've been married nine years, together for eleven, and Mr. Sidhedevil and I still have "that initial infatuation" thing going.

This may or may not be important to you, OP, but if it is important to you, don't believe it's necessarily impossible to find.

The important things to look for in a partner are the things that are important to you, not to other MeFites or the authors of advice columns or your friends. There are people on this thread who are happy with people who don't share their sense of humor--more power to them, but that would be a deal-breaker for me. On the other hand, I am quite religious and my husband is a vehement atheist, and that would be a deal-breaker for lots of other people even though it isn't for me.

Your original post sounds like you're trying to talk yourself into believing that this guy is a good match for you, but you're not really feeling it. I don't think that works out very well most of the time.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:10 AM on June 19, 2009

Sometimes I think about what sometimes happens to people, paralysis, severe accident, etc, and you see how their spouse loves them and wants to share their life with them, even though the lifeSTYLE changes drastically. To me, that's what I'm looking for - someone I want for who they are, and not just the lifestyle we can share (though that's important too!)

I think that might not be true for everybody, but theoretically marriage IS for better or for worse, so it might be worth thinking about.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:17 PM on June 19, 2009

Here is my take on marriage. My (now ex) husband and I connected very solidly, and while we didn't get each other at first, we spent lots of time together and through the years, experienced enough crises and experiences (illness, surgery, death of family members, etc.) that we knew each other inside and out. But the physical intimacy suffered, hence the emotional connection did as well. We were basically roommates. Which may have been fine, but we wanted more. So we split. We are still good friends, and we can still call each other and say, "Yeah, well, you know" about something in particular, and we know.

But getting to that level of understanding takes time and work. Are you willing to do that work? Do you respect him? Do you want to tell him the stupid stories about your day? Do you give each other the benefit of the doubt on those days when you just feel like a bitch/jerk? If not, then it may be time to move on.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:58 AM on June 20, 2009

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