by Elizabeth Klaers, MSW, LSW

When you hear the word “connection,” what comes to mind?

As Psychologist Daniel Goleman puts it, human beings are “wired to connect.” Scientific research in the last 10 years has validated this through the language and understanding of neurobiology and brain based research. Whether you are a woman, a man or a child, making meaningful connections is a vital part of growth, development and wellness and believe me, there is more than one way to get there.

Unfortunately, our society emphasizes romantic relationships as a primary path to the connection we so desire. From television shows and movies to mythological tales, relationships are portrayed as a means of satisfying dreams held deep inside the human heart and mind. Too often, people experience deep disappointment when the romantic relationship does not meet their expectations. The disappointment is often tied up in unacknowledged dreams we carry – whether we’re aware of them or not.

If you are feeling lonely, disappointed or unsatisfied, you may want to explore the expectations (dreams) you carry. If you are in a relationship, you might want to do this with your spouse or partner. As you explore, it will be important to remind yourself that these dreams may not become reality. They likely came from a place inside your mind that was influenced by your own experiences and may have nothing to do with your current partner. Make room to acknowledge these expectations and know that you may experience grief for those unfulfilled dreams. Grief for unfulfilled dreams is real, as those dreams have lived with you for a long time.

In therapy, as clients explore disappointment and unfulfilled dreams, a common theme arises: a longing for connection. If the theme of connection strikes a chord for you, it may be helpful to ask yourself these questions:

What does connection mean to me?
How can I meet my need for connection today?

Remember that connection does not always have to come from a romantic relationship, dating relationship, marriage or live-in relationship. In fact, a relationship will likely grow stronger when each partner finds ways to know themselves better and seeks out healthy ways to fulfill their need for connection.

Some suggested “Pathways to Connection” come from Bill O’Hanlon. Notice that another person is just one of seven pathways to connection:

  • Connection to the deeper self/core self, the spirit
  • Connection to the body
  • Connection with another (person or animal)
  • Connection to community
  • Connection through nature
  • Connection with art/music (making it or appreciating it)
  • Connection to the Universe or higher power

Each of these pathways holds endless possibility!

Our need for connection is innate and wise – how you attempt to meet that need matters. As you explore your unfulfilled dreams, be gentle with yourself and know that it is possible to create and learn new ways of meeting your need for connection.

Elizabeth Klaers, MSW, LSW, is a therapist who works with individuals and families, both adults and young children. In addition to her private practice in Boulder, Elizabeth is a ProBono Therapist and Development Extern at Maria Droste Counseling Center.