CONNECT WITH DAN

The Difference Between a Relationship and a Connection

The biggest barrier to getting into a relationship is trying to get into a relationship.

There is nothing more socially desperate than dating the way most people do it, searching for that relationship connection. You interview each other, try to impress each other, try to manipulate each other into feeling attraction, and generally spending the whole time wondering and worrying about “Will this go anywhere?”

But some people don’t do it like this. They simply spend time honestly connecting with people. Sometimes this ends up becoming a relationship, or a friendship. Sometimes it doesn’t. There’s no attempt to make it happen. They don’t seem to try.

What’s the difference?

The second group of people have discovered something the first group missed. It all has to do with the difference between our perceptions of what a “relationship” is.

What is a relationship?

Think about it for a second. How do you define that word? How do you know when you’re in a relationship? What are the hallmarks that prove its existence?

Believe it or not, this varies wildly from one person to another. While many of us believe that our perception of what a relationship is will match our peers, it almost certainly does not.

Some people believe it requires sexual exclusivity, others don’t. Some people think it begins with a direct agreement of commitment, others believe it’s implied by spending time together or having sex with each other. Some people think you must hide certain truths about yourself until after a relationship is established, others believe you must share these truths before making a commitment.

The list goes on and on. And this isn’t even the important part. What’s most important is trying to identify what a relationship actually is.

You can’t hold it in your hand. You can’t see it, smell it or hear it. It’s like money in the bank – you believe in its existence despite there being only circumstantial evidence. It has no physical form.

You believe that a relationship exists when you experience certain things. Maybe it’s when you agree to be girlfriend and boyfriend. Maybe it’s when you’re having sex. Maybe it’s when your partner expresses attraction toward you. Maybe it’s the marriage licence.

And then there are the experiences that tell you the relationship no longer exists. Maybe it’s your partner being caught cheating, or telling you they want to break up. Maybe it’s your partner dying. Maybe it’s waking up one morning and not feeling love anymore.

Yet none of these signs show you what a relationship really is, and that’s because of a simple Matrix-style truth:

There is no relationship.

A relationship is simply the illusion that another person will continue to obey the rules you’ve attached to your connection with them.

When you successfully create an illusion in your mind that they will still love you tomorrow, still want to be your loyal partner tomorrow, and still be alive tomorrow, you tell yourself that you’re in a relationship.

When you’re unable to convince yourself of this illusion, the relationship ends.

All those rules you made up about what a relationship consists of are what you desperately chase when you’re dating. You try your best to manipulate and manoeuvre your potential mate into obeying these rules, and panic when they don’t.

Even after they’ve committed, the “fun” of maintaining a relationship is emotionally draining. You try to prevent them from losing love, cheating or dying, because you want to keep the relationship. Whenever something threatens the illusion, you lose sleep.

No wonder dating isn’t working out well for you. You’re not trying to connect with someone; you’re trying to get and keep an asset, an ultimately impossible task.

Why do I say impossible? Because no relationship with another person can last forever. At the very least, one of you is going to die first – and that’s the best way it can end, that’s the definition of the most successful relationship!

Are you so sure this is what you want to chase? Let’s look at an alternative approach.

What Is A Connection?

We all want connection in a relationship. A connection has no rules. There is no expectation of tomorrow. There’s no agreement or commitment. You don’t have to speak or have sex. They don’t even have to stay alive.

You can feel it when you make thrilling eye-contact with an attractive stranger. You can feel it when you hold your best friend’s new-born baby for the first time. You can feel it when you’re deep in a heart-to-heart conversation with your closest friend.

And you can also feel it when you sit contentedly on top of a mountain, watching a beautiful sunset, with no observable proof whatsoever that any other humans even exist.

What does connection mean in a relationship?

Connection can survive the end of a relationship. You can still feel connected to a loved-one who died many years ago. You can feel connected to someone who isn’t in the same room, or whom you haven’t spoken to for years. Connection does not require any obedience, or even action of any kind, from another person.

I believe people begin their dating experiences by searching for a connection, but get confused into seeking a relationship instead. As one of my coaching clients identified with me yesterday, we learn to accept the belief that a relationship creates and guarantees the feeling of connection.

We mistakenly see relationships as the source of connection.

Connection is what we really want. You don’t want to be in a shitty unloving relationship, right? Therefore, a relationship by itself is not good enough. We want to feel connected, and have come to believe a relationship is how we can consistently achieve this, despite evidence that connection can be experienced even when all by yourself.

When you look carefully at healthy couples, you’ll clearly see that the connection was what created the relationship. A relationship is a consequence of a connection.

And you’ll know from experience that a connection cannot be forced just by creating a relationship. You know you can manipulate someone into being your friend or partner without ever feeling genuinely connected with them.

Why Seeking A Relationship Drives It Away

When you’re trying to get a relationship, you ruin your chance at a real connection.

You’re needy, greedy, desperate, false and manic. You hide the “worst” parts of yourself while exaggerating or misrepresenting your strengths, and bizarrely you often hide your true feelings toward them.

You play games, manipulate and trick. You ignore the other person because your attention is completely focused on the strategy in your head, part of which is you trying to convince yourself that you’re not manipulative.

Compare that to when you’re inviting someone to connect with you.

No games, no Pick Up techniques, no bullshit, no deception. You can’t connect with a false representation, so you know you must represent yourself as boldly, vulnerably and accurately as possible. To ensure they’re a good fit for you, you also must engage in empathy and acceptance, listening carefully to them to allow their truth to come out.

There is no strategy, just openness to experience. There is no definition of success or failure, just the experiment – the invitation to explore each other.

In your attempts to get into a relationship, you prevent someone from being able to connect with you. You hide what they could connect with, and you ignore and judge what you could be appreciating in them.

You think this is the best way to do it, because you believe that once you get into a relationship you’ll be able to source endless feelings of connection. But will you? Do relationships work when they’re started on such false pretences?

I’d suggest that the ridiculously high divorce rates in Western countries are testament to the issue of people trying to get into a relationship. I also reckon this is why arranged marriages are so statistically successful – the participants aren’t trying to keep the relationship because they have no choice in the matter, so they focus on trying to connect to make the relationship enjoyable.

How Do You Switch To Seeking Connection?

In a word: honesty.

The key difference between seeking a relationship vs seeking a connection is strategy. Social strategies are always less than fully honest.

Connection is free from strategy. You’re willing to lose the person because there is no relationship to be maintained – there’s Nothing to Lose. You’re either connected truthfully or you’re not – no strategy can support truthful connection, only honesty and respect can do that.

Express yourself honestly, then give them respectful space and encouragement to do the same.

You strategically chase a relationship because you’re trying to remove loneliness. But loneliness is caused by you rejecting yourself – you know this because you can still feel lonely around other people.

Connection is not about someone else liking you. Connection is you liking you. When that happens, there’s no more loneliness. And how is this achieved? By valuing your honesty more than you value any relationship with another person. You impress yourself with honesty to create a sense of connection.

You’ve had the power all along!

For me, it all changed when I made a special commitment to myself. After a decade of desperately and unsuccessfully seeking a partner, I decided to stop trying.

I made a powerful commitment: to accept being single for the rest of my life. The relationship I would focus on would be the relationship I had with myself – the only relationship that was guaranteed to last forever!

The effects were immediate.

Suddenly, dating was no longer a desperate anxiety-ridden experience. I no longer felt any pressure to keep other people in my life. It no longer mattered if they didn’t text back, or didn’t want to sleep with me, or didn’t want to commit to exclusivity.

I still dated, because I like exploring connection. I could offer all these things, but I did so merely to clarify our connection. If they “rejected” me, it simply meant it was time to focus on connecting more with someone else, or just with myself. There was no need to chase.

Whatever you chase will run away from you.

As I write this, I’m in a long-term relationship for the first time in over a decade, with a girl I feel deeply connected to and whom I can be myself around without restriction.

Remember, the right person for you won’t require any manipulation. Your pure honesty will completely satisfy them. You don’t even need to believe in yourself to satisfy another person.

Anyone less than this is a waste of your time.

Commit to being single forever, if that’s what it takes to build the relationship with yourself. And don’t do this just to trick yourself into reducing neediness. This is not a strategy to get a relationship.

Just let go of strategy entirely, and connect.


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A complete in-depth guide on how to build your confidence by being authentic and living with integrity, following Dan Munro’s secret 3X Confidence formula.

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The Legendary Life: Build the Motivation and Confidence to Create an Authentic Lifestyle [book]
Dan’s first book covers a complete blueprint for designing your life in a way that matches your core values, showing you how to overcome fear, set and achieve powerful goals, and build your confidence without needing other people to like you.

Nothing to Lose: Using Curiosity to Destroy Hesitation, Procrastination and Limiting Beliefs [book]
A philosophical examination of the confident mindset, from a scientific and practical viewpoint. This book will help you decode confidence into a set of beliefs and behaviours that you can control.


For more on connecting better with a partner or loved one, check out Regain.us today

15 Responses

  1. Thanks Dan for tackling the subject. I totally agree and of course have minor suggestions to develop it, but first of all thanks and bravo for such clear and useful content. I share my life with an extraordinary woman since 6 years now, in what could be called an open relationship, but actually being more than that, as you describe, an ongoing connection, and authentic one.

    Thanks again, see you,
    Ariel Gustav Guerra

  2. Extraordinary stuff!
    You really seeded tons of interesting thoughts to think about!
    Indeed, we need deep connections instead of only relationships. We seek more understanding than collaboration, it is true, and it is both amazing and simple.

  3. This article provides a simple and elegant shift in perspective that can be life changing. However, I would add that the need to constantly realign oneself with this connection-based mindset cannot be overstated. It’s one thing to use this mindset to make dating more colorful, it’s another when you have a child and career to attend to and the reality of diminishing returns sets in when your old tricks don’t seem to stimulate the connection that once came easily. The very definition of connection can shift along a much longer timeline. Being too attached to the particular beinginthemoment brand of connection can discolor the richness of a kind of connection only found at the end of a long . . . I’m dead inside. never get into a relationship.

  4. Maybe this would have been better written as self-journey article from the author’s point of view. The article seems to makes a huge number of assumptions about the reader.

    Regardless, there are some interesting points if you can filter out all the nonsense and seemingly inflammatory remarks. In my experience it’s not a Relationship VS. Connection either/or battle in dating, it’s more a spectrum, and they build on each other. As a connection develops, the relationship does too. Still, thanks for putting this out there, it’s something to think about!

    1. You’re welcome Steve, thanks for your candid response. Interestingly, yours is the first response I’ve noticed that takes umbrage with how I’ve written it. Seems you’ve been provoked somehow in a way that others aren’t

  5. Just one more thing . You talking about your experiences and others experiences and opinions l but still doesn’t mean if 100 people have the same opinion and experience the other 100 will have the same opinion and experience . Let’s remind of ourselves that we all different , I can relate to what you say but I don’t agree

    1. Yes, this post isn’t for everyone, nor is any of my work. Specifically which part don’t you agree with?

  6. very interesting post! But what if you are in a relationship with someone who you connect with deeply and have a wonderful time together, but despite the good connection (which is very hard to find these days) that partner deciding to breakup because one of our values don’t match (after I revealed about my past)? The past was about my dating history which is something he says he would never feel comfortable doing. What happens to the rest of the good qualities of this connection that we shared? Do they all disappear just because one of our values didn’t match (as per my past actions)? He thinks that now my values only improved after checking off doing those things when I was in my 20s, and that’s still not an okay reason for him.

    1. Yeah, that’s a sad situation. Unfortunately, a connection must be 50/50. If he cannot accept your past, then it’s actually him violating YOUR values – he’s not living by the values of respect or acceptance.
      Sounds like he has sexual shame and jealousy issues. Mark Manson calls this “friction” – the kind of deal-breaker that kills a relationship even if everything else is awesome. Simply put: if he really was a good connection, this wouldn’t be a problem. Hard as it is, move on and find someone who accepts you for your past. Every second spent trying to win back this guy is a second where you’re missing out on meeting someone even better

  7. This helped tremendously! It’s like a weight was lifted. I’ve been divorced for 3 years and I’ve been mistakenly trying to fill a void, I’ve been doing some soul healing, simultaneously dating. This time, I’m not trying so hard. I’m trying less! And I’m seeing a wonderful man who just last night told me we have an amazing chemistry and connection. That’s how I stumbled upon your article. I googled “connection in dating.”
    Of course I’m hopeful a relationship will bloom from our connection. He asked me if I believe in Providence….yes I absolutely do! Our connection feels natural.
    Thank you for the reminder to connect with myself first and foremost!
    Love your work!!

    1. Thanks LMC, I hope you and this guy continue to enjoy your connection – wherever it goes and however long it lasts
      Dan

  8. Connection often comes with the entitlement. Yesterday my son took his doll back from one of his playmates because of this sense of entitlement. After all he owned it! Despite the fact that he behaved really badly with her, he had a lot of expectations from her that she couldn’t measure up. She was startled and her expressions said that how could he understand everything if you aren’t even in touch? How is everything about you or your boyfriends? There was no connection between them! Though when my son snatched his doll she felt as if the garbage lifted off itself. She was happy without chair and doll. My son didn’t like it and started doing face. It was pretty amusing what these innocent kids do sometimes which our more mature peers and pals miss out.

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