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Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski

Practical Spirituality:
It's in the Connection

by Judith Sherven, Ph.D. & James Sniechowski, Ph.D. 

What do you most want from your relationships?

Is it...


Well, those are all important. But, whether you’ve thought about it or not, you can have all those elements and still not experience a genuine connection. Certainly not the kind of meaningful connection you’re looking for when you meet someone that you hope will become a long lasting friend, business associate, or marriage partner.

Be Loved for Who You Are by Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski

So What Is Connection?

It’s true that a sincere connection can be experienced when you first meet someone. You laugh at the same kinds of things. You share the same taste in movies or sports. And you both grew up in the same town.

That first stage of connection can be easy and automatic. Because it’s all about being alike.

And that’s usually enough to want to go forward.

But is it enough to create a deep, lasting connection, one that continually opens you to new depths of discovery, growth, and lasting fulfillment?

Not usually.

Because, while you may share many things in common, the richest, deepest, most rewarding connection can only come through the ongoing process of understanding, respecting, and being emotionally impacted by the differences between the two of you.

That’s why, in seeking a serious and lasting association with someone, the sooner you can move beyond social pleasantries the better. Because when you meet someone and they genuinely want to get to know you—and you reveal your  unique background, fears and joys, struggles and success—and they let you see, through an emotionally open and honest response, how you’ve impacted them—then, for that moment, you experience the basis for developing a relationship built on the willingness to connect.

The Source of Spiritual Connection

How do you gain access to that kind of in-depth connection? Certainly not just in talking and listening. We’ve all yammered on and on, trying to fill an uncomfortable void when stuck sitting next to someone who would only speak in mono-syllables. And we’ve all listened very intently, trying to grasp what someone was rambling on about, not knowing that they didn’t care whether we understood or not—they just loved hearing themselves talk. So, certainly deep connection isn’t just in the output and uptake of words.

Instead, the richest source of spiritual connection—to yourself and to another person—is available only when you respectfully value and take in the many ways the other person is different from you. Because only then are you able to challenge yourself to grow beyond your own natural, necessary, and innocent narcissism.

Judith remembers being on a psychological study tour of the Soviet Union, as it was called then. And the group was taken to an outdoor market in the Muslim city of Samarkand in Central Asia, which was founded in 700 BC (for you history buffs!).

As she got off the bus she noticed an elderly man seated on the ground against a white stucco wall. His dark face, heavily lined and discolored, supplied the canvas for his front teeth . . . they were gold . . .and glittering in the sunlight.

Her first response was to turn away, repelled by the differences. But a voice inside said, “No, that is also you. Look again.”

When she did, he was now beautiful. Nothing had changed in his appearance. Only this time, Judith’s perception included the awareness that she was not separate from him—that they were connected. And that through their differences they were each expressing the One-ness that exists in all life on this planet.

So the source of the deepest connection—true spiritual connection—resides only within you. Because, whether you’ve experienced it or not, deep within you lies the profound ability to grant another person, any other person, the true value of their role in your life. And that role? To reflect back to you your capacity to connect—far beyond similarities and fun, far deeper than just communication and comradery—to connect at the level of the soul, to connect across eternity.

That is the spiritual power of our differences, to join us in magical, mystical connection.

Staying Whole in the Connection

You may be wondering if you’ll get lost in this kind of deep, almost boundary-less connection. And it’s a good question if you’ve been in the habit of giving yourself away and losing your separate identity in relationships.

But recognizing the rare quality of another’s unique, one-of-a-kind reflection, of the eternal One-ness doesn’t actually work unless you remain whole, unless you keep your own specifically one-of-a-kind self intact.

The New Intimacy by Judith Sherven and James Sniechowski

Think about it. You’ve no doubt had the experience of selling yourself short in order to help someone else. Maybe they called on you for advice. And, no matter what you said to them, they continued to pepper you with questions and concerns. Nothing you said could satisfy their need.

So, only after you’d sacrificed several precious hours, did you finally “fib” that you were exhausted and had to go to bed, or needed to pick someone up at the airport so you could finally take care of yourself.

That kind of self-sacrifice never, ever comes from true connection. Because you’ve lost touch with yourself. When you’re lost in self-sacrifice, you have no self. And to create the potential for transformative connection, to really be available to help another person, you have to be a self.

So experiencing deep spiritual connection doesn’t mean you get lost or become submissive to the other person’s needs. Not at all. Care for your own well-being must come first if connection is going to sustain and remain valuable over time.

Only then can you freely open yourself to take in and respect the value of others—no matter who they are or how different from you they may be. Only then can you live as a fabulous expression of what it means to be fully you. And only then can you respect what it means for others to truly express their own unique selves—each in their own way.

Growing the Connection

Yet, too often, because game-playing has contaminated the rules of dating, business, and even marriage, your impulse may be to hold back what you’re feeling for the other person. You think you need to play emotional trivia or, worse yet, emotional dodge ball.

But that old stuff’s the enemy of connection. And it’s a foolish way to treat your own feelings as well as someone you actually care for.

The fact is, for you to make the most of your relationships, you’ll want to avoid game-playing by being honest and emotionally available, curious and revealing, right from the start. Because that’s the only way you can discover whether the other person is emotionally available for the kind of connection you desire.

If the other person shares your interest in growing the connection, then you take the emotional exploration deeper. Because, at every stage of your relationship, the truth really will set you free.

Either you’ll know that the two of you still want to go forward, or you’ll become aware that one or both of you begin to hold back.

If you’re starting to hold back, check to see what’s going on. What is it that’s getting in your way?

Your intuition may be right on point, alerting you that something’s not quite right. Or, on the other hand, everything may be very much all right, and you’ve stumbled into an unconscious block that prohibits receiving far more than you’re used to.

When that’s the case, do yourself and your budding relationship a huge favor. Speak with the other person about your unexpected reserve. Explain that the deepening connection is challenging you to grow, to receive more than you’ve ever known before, and to feel enriched far beyond anything you’ve even imagined.

When you make yourself vulnerable in this way, we guarantee the connection you’ll share will pale compared with anything you’ve previously experienced.

A Spiritual Test

When you follow the truth of what’s happening between you and another person, it’s the best spiritual test you can use to determine whether to continue the relationship and what’s possible in the long run.

You may balk at the idea of a spiritual “test.” But the truth is that many people who want a more fulfilling spiritual connection, fail that very desire by avoiding unpleasant truths in their relationships. They sell out to fear and convenience.

You’ve no doubt seen the man or woman, resplendent in flowing garb and adorned with spiritual symbols, smiling vacantly while their partner flirts with others, speaks in a patronizing tone, and in every way demonstrates a lack of care. That is false spirituality of the worst kind, because it is nothing more than self-abuse parading in a beatific disguise.

When you are true to the what it means to feel spiritually connected, then you must determine and live by the deepest truth of yourself and the very real connection—or lack of—in your relationship. And the only way to determine that is by staying true to yourself and testing to see what’s actually possible.

You either grow your connection—meeting after meeting or date after date—as your souls meet and join in continual discovery through your differences—or you realize and respect that the relationship isn’t happening as you need it to. You then go your own way, unwilling to waste your time if a deep connection isn’t possible.

Either way, you have succeeded. You have succeeded spiritually, by staying true to your connection to yourself. And you’ve succeeded emotionally, by expressing yourself honestly and openly, making yourself available to discover what all is possible in the long run . . . or not. So enjoy practical spirituality in your relationship with yourself and with others, and let connection...or lack of connection...guide your future.

© Copyright 2007 Judith Sherven, Ph.D. & James Sniechowski, Ph.D.  All Rights Reserved. 

Judith Sherven and Jim Sniechowski
Drs. Judith Sherven & Jim Sniechowski
, husband-and-wife psychology team  are the bestselling authors of Be Loved for Who You Really Are (Renaissance Books, 2001). Visit their website at


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