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4 min read

What is emotional attunement in relationships?

a couple goes to therapy to learn and practice attuned love

Attunement is one of those phrases that you may hear a thousand times, but never really think about. And yet, attunement can be an essential component of a loving relationship. What is attuned love? In this article, we'll explore the concept of emotional attunement, what emotional attunement involves, and how you can become emotionally attuned in your romantic relationships.

What is emotional attunement?

Attunement means the ability to sense and understand the needs of another person without having to use words. Emotional attunement is key to building strong and lasting relationships. Closely related to empathy, someone who is emotionally attuned to their partner's emotions will be able to put themselves in their place and understand what they are experiencing. This doesn't mean that they agree with these feelings, merely that they identify, understand, and accept them.

Understanding Emotional Attunement

Attunement is a form of spiritual practice that took hold starting in the thirties and is still a common form of relationship therapy today. We can start learning attunement in the early years, when we begin noticing the reactions of our parents or caregivers. For example, a parent might smile back at you when you smile at them, or say, "Uh, oh!" when you drop a cup.

Some experts hypothesize that emotional attunement involves the firing of mirror neurons in the brain as a response to other people's reactions and emotions; feeling them as if they were our own emotions. This can lead to bonding with others.

Just as some of us are more aware of our own feelings, emotional attunement comes easier to some than to others.

Benefits of Emotional Attunements in Relationships

Emotional attunement allows you to respond to your partner more effectively. Being sensitive to emotional cues can offer several benefits in a relationship, including:

  • Better communication with your partner or spouse
  • A strong and more supportive relationship
  • Better conflict resolution
  • Increased empathy
  • Personal growth and self-awareness
  • Better sex and intimacy

Some Tips for Practicing Emotional Attunement

Not everyone has the innate ability to be emotionally attuned to others, but it is a skill you can learn and practice. Practicing emotional attunement in relationships can strengthen your emotional connection and help you understand your own emotions too. Here are some ideas to practice emotional attunement in your adult relationships.

Notice nonverbal cues

Try to understand a person's feelings without using words. Nonverbal cues can include things like facial expressions, body language, and eye contact.

Are your partner's facial expressions happy? Anxious? Neutral? Learning the subtleties of your partner's expression can help you better understand nonverbal cues. For example, if they are smiling in a way you know to be insincere, you may understand that they're not happy with a decision, even if they say they are.

Body language can also be telling. If you have a partner who picks at their clothing or wrings their hands when they are anxious, you can get a better read on their feelings. If they're in a relaxed position, you may understand that they're in a better place to ask a favor than if they're having a tough moment.

Practicing reading nonverbal cues can be an excellent way to improve communication and conflict resolution skills, which can lead to a healthy relationship.

Practice Active Listening Skills

Active listening can be key to emotional attunement in relationships. This type of effective communication allows you to ensure that you're on the same wavelength by asking clarifying questions, listening to the answer, and then using the information you receive to drill down to your partner's true thoughts and feelings.

Reflect the information back to them and then ask for confirmation that you understand what they were saying. Using questions to understand shows a deeper level of concern and interest in what your partner is saying, and ensures them that they have your full attention.

Physical Touch

Exploring physical, and non-sexual touch can be an excellent way to practice attunement. Sexual touch is also good, but touching your partner in non-sexual ways can offer a kind of emotional safety and a feeling of validation. This touch can be something as simple as putting a hand on the shoulder, pushing their hair back, reaching for their hand to hold, or bringing them in for a hug. These forms of touch can show that you're fully present for your partner in that moment.

Recognize possible triggers for yourself

While paying attention to your partner's emotions, learn to understand how you respond to certain actions and emotions as well. If you know your emotional triggers you can share them with your partner so that they can avoid them. Emotional attunement in relationships should be practiced by both partners and worked on as a team.

Hold the gaze of your partner for a period of a few minutes

This is a simple way to practice emotional attunement that can offer excellent results. Take several minutes to simply look at your partner. This can create a deep connection and help you get on the same page emotionally.

Practice mindfulness.

By learning to observe in the present moment, you can improve your ability to understand your feelings, as well as get on the emotional level of another person. Mindfulness can help us become better at paying attention, as well as learn to better self-regulate. These can be essential pieces of forming a respectful bond with a partner.

Can I Improve My Emotional Connection in a Relationship?

While some start with a greater aptitude for emotional attunement, you can practice attunement and become better at it. Emotional attunement can be as much a learned skill as an inherited one. Try some of the exercises above, and if you feel as though you need more help in learning to recognize your own needs and get into your partner's shoes emotionally, therapy can be a way to learn and practice these skills in a safe space.

Practicing Emotional Attunement in Austin, TX

Communication in relationships isn't always easy, but improving emotional attunement can help. And if you need a hand learning more about how to become more emotionally attuned, therapy can be an effective solution.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, we believe that relationships can benefit from the application of evidence-based practices, which is why we are staffed with doctoral-level psychotherapists that work in a variety of specialties, including couples therapy.

Give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right couples therapist in Austin to help you become more attuned to your partner's emotions, as well as your own.

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