Attunement: Your Unmet Need for Connection

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been craving someone who would just “get” me—no need for long explanations or justifying my feelings, just pure understanding and being on my side. Whether it was with my family, my best friends, or even therapists, this kind of connection always seemed just out of reach. This sent me on a quest to figure out why I needed it so much. And guess what? About a month ago, I finally stumbled upon something that explained it all in one word: Attunement.

Attunement isn’t just any skill—it’s essential. It’s about really tuning in to what someone else is feeling and experiencing, and it’s key to building secure, empathetic relationships. Despite its importance, it’s a skill that’s often missed in our busy, modern lives. In this piece, I’ll dive into how attunement works, why it matters so much from infancy to adulthood, and how we can all get better at it.


Early Childhood Attunement


Whatever unmet emotional needs we didn’t have fulfilled in childhood from our primary relationships, with mom and/or dad (or primary caregiver), we unconsciously seek out in our adult relationships. To understand this dynamic, it’s crucial to explore early Attunement—the foundation of forming healthy connections with ourselves and others.

As a baby, your primary caregiver, typically your mother and father, were your sole providers for all your necessities like shelter, clothes, food, water, healthcare and education. But we relied on them for our emotional needs, too. 

The biggest need in infancy was for our primary caregiver to understand our cues—whether we were crying due to discomfort, pain, illness, or a need we weren’t getting like physical closeness and connection, your attention, or your presence. Whatever it was, we would be fortunate if our parents discerned what we needed in that moment and were able to supply that need to us correctly 30% of the time. The ability of a parent to quickly discern what her baby needs and respond to this need promptly is vital for the development of secure attachment and healthy emotional regulation skills.

When we think about a new mother, sleep-deprived, and adjusting to significant life changes while she attempts to manage her baby’s cries would be challenging. No caregiver is perfect (especially in the very beginning) and so misinterpretations and delays are inevitable. However, repeated delays or plain avoidance of their baby’s cries can impact the child’s ability to manage their emotions and stress in adulthood. As adults, they might then seek emotional comfort through external means—like food, substances, or consumerism—rather than addressing their core emotional needs.


Attunement in Adult Relationships


We have been taught that one of the main reasons for a relationship to fall apart is when there is no communication in the relationship. But it’s just as much a problem when each person in the couple are not able to “meet” their significant other in their emotional world by matching their pace and tone in how they speak and matching their vibe instead of coming up with a happy, cheerful mood when their partner is in obvious pain or distraught. 

Simply put, they’re not understanding one another, their world, their experiences and their feelings and need in that given moment to be able to respond in a way that makes the other feel seen, heard and understood.

Knowing how to respond empathetically to someone’s feelings and to ‘meet them in their world’ is what nurtures a deeper bond between two people. This is what love feels like.

Balancing Attunement and Emotional Support


There’s a fine line between holding a standard for a partner to be able to meet you in your emotional world and show up in the way you most need in that moment, and expecting and depending on your partner to listen with compassion to your struggles in the expectation that they will be a sort of therapist or parent to you anytime you are dealing with something. I had to learn this the hard way. I grew up in a family where codependent beliefs were present. “You are responsible for my feelings and needs and I am responsible for yours. This is what a loving relationship looks like”. But I was in for a wake-up call when I started dating in my 20s!  

What I learned from getting out of this pattern of overly relying on others to meet me emotionally was to catch myself whenever I felt I was overly depending on someone’s reaction or response to what I shared, and instead ask myself, “What is it that I most want and need to hear in this moment?” This led me to learn how to reparent myself in the ways I most craved and would look for from others closest to me. This began my journey of breaking the cycle of codependency.

We all are unique in our emotional needs and it is unrealistic to expect a partner, a friend, or a parent to attune to us perfectly. The only person that can truly attune to your needs is you.


How to Re-Attune to Those We Love


People often won’t be open to hearing your side of the story (especially if it’s critical of them) until they feel truly heard and understood. In the moment, it may feel very uncomfortable to let go of your stance because the ego is headstrong and doesn’t want to budge. For the sake of keeping the relationship intact, we must surrender our need to be right to hear their side in full.

To practice attuning to your partner, imagine life through their situation and circumstances.

Observe not only what they are saying, but how they are saying it. Tune into their tone of voice- what does it tell you? What are they saying between their words? And finally, what might they need at this moment from a friend?  

When your partner can feel you are genuinely engaged and present with them; that you’re on their side, their protective wall will slowly come down because they feel safe with you to open up more. This is when you can begin to grow your bond together through having that heart-to-heart conversation, to resolve conflict, or simply to just be here with them through a tough moment in their life. 

This also opens up your partner’s heart to want to do the same for you, because when you receive love, you feel more full to give love.




Attunement is an important need that many of us do not have fulfilled growing up because it is a skill that isn’t taught or even well-known. When we have someone attuned to us, it gives us a feeling of being heard, seen and, most significantly, understood. It is a very validating experience when we can mirror back to our partner, friend or even our parent’s emotional experience- whether it is a positive or negative experience- and let them know that we are here with them. It helps us forge deeper, more understanding relationships, enriching our lives and making our emotional landscapes more compassionate and fulfilling. 

Equally crucial, is learning to attune to ourselves. By nurturing our own emotional well-being, we open ourselves up to more meaningful and present interactions with the world around us.

Recognizing the importance of attunement is just the start. Practicing it involves a continuous effort to put your things aside for a moment and tune into your loved one’s experience and what they are sharing with you.

Challenge yourself today to practice the skill of attunement. Reach out to a friend, partner, or even a colleague and ask them how they’re doing with openness and curiosity. Listen deeply, reflect their feelings, and respond with compassion. Each act of attunement, no matter how small, is a step towards a more empathetic and connected world. Start today, and let each connection be a testament to the power of being truly present with one another.

I hope that this has given you some insight into your relationships with closest to you and the relationship you have with yourself. I’d love to hear what resonated by leaving a comment below!