I have often heard couples describe their relationship like “ships passing in the night.” This phrase has always prompted me to envision a dark, black night with majestic moon beams frolicking upon the water. Two beautiful ships slowly float in from opposite directions and quietly pass each other without stopping. There is no communication between the ships and only the gentle, lapping sounds of water could be heard in the distance.
I have always wondered, when couples use this expression, are they simply talking about inconvenient schedules and different physical locations? Are they constantly running past each other to work, to drop off kids, to pick up the groceries, or to get to the store before it closes? Or are they talking about an emotional connection where two people figuratively or literally float right by each other?
A strong emotional connection between partners is imperative for a relationship to be healthy and long lasting. Partners need to share their thoughts, feelings, wishes, and dreams in order to deepen and enhance their relationship. Both partners should have complete faith that their partner will respect, protect, and keep their deepest and darkest emotions safe.
Partners need to be a safe place for each other and provide one another with security and comfort. A strong emotional connection can help couples to navigate arguments and disagreements, as the arguments are representative of something that is non-threatening. A strong emotional connection develops through quality time spent with each other and through clear and honest communication where partners actually hear each other. Emotional connections persist when partners feel safe and when their needs are consistently being met.
Emotional connection is always fostered and strengthened by strong and effective communication. The development of healthy communication patterns stems from spending uninterrupted quality time with each other. An emotional connection cannot be formed or developed if a person is distracted by the television, electronics, or social media. Attentiveness, interest, and focus are necessary to build and strengthen an emotional connection. Partners need to be accessible and responsive to each other, while being fully engaged in conversation. Individuals need to pay attention to what their partner needs while showing compassion and empathy for their struggles.
An emotional connection is important because it symbolizes trust, acceptance, and bonding. An emotional connection transcends physical needs having to do with lust or other forms of physical intimacy. It takes time and a concerted effort to build a solid emotional connection, which is built on a foundation of trust. A sturdy emotional connection can see a couple through difficult and challenging times, due to unwavering support from each other.
A solid emotional connection is built on an underlying friendship, where couples enjoy each other’s company. Emotional connection signifies respect, loyalty and emotional vulnerability. A positive emotional connection is important for individuals to feel accepted and validated and allows couples to share, talk, and joke without the fear of judgment. Ultimately, a strong emotional connection enhances a person’s overall well being and helps the individuals in a relationship to feel happy, satisfied, and confident.
When couples describe their relationship as “ships passing in the night”, I suspect that they are referring to a physical disconnect and an emotional disconnect. Perhaps the physical distance is what causes the emotional distance, or maybe it is the other way around. I imagine that if a couple has a strong emotional connection, the physical distance wouldn’t matter as much. Of course, physical distance and opposite schedules are not optimal and can be downright inconvenient, but an emotional connection should help transcend these obstacles, right? Just maybe, if a couple’s emotional connection was strong and intact, the ships would stop somewhere in the middle for a few minutes. Maybe they would even schedule a time to pass each other again. My guess is that stopping for a few moments, or even a few seconds would make all the difference, even if they were destined to continue moving in opposite directions.
Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.