Consider this: “The greatest gift we give ourselves and each other is the quality of our attention.” Richard Moss, M.D.
Remember the last time you attempted a conversation with someone who was completely distracted by their cell phone? Or a video game? Take a moment … put yourself back in that moment – how did you feel?
Contrast that with the last time you had a heartfelt discussion with someone you care about- You’re both really listening to each other – leaning in, making eye contact- understanding what you were saying. Imagine being back there … now- how did that feel?
While there is an obvious answer, allow yourself to really think about it- Which one tended to draw you in more? Which felt more distancing? Did you feel important in either one? Dismissed? Safe? Cared about?
Have you ever heard an adult say about a child, “Oh, he’s just trying to get attention” or “She’ll do anything for attention?” When I hear that, I want to scream “well, maybe you need to give that kid some positive attention!” (I don’t ☺ ) We discover who we are, and we decide if the world is a place where we have value and get our needs met by how we are attended to growing up.
Do we say, “Mom!” 10 times before she acknowledges hearing us or does she turn, give a hug, and say “I’m on the phone with Aunt Suzie but as soon as I say goodbye, I’ll be all ears.” Without looking up does dad say, “Can’t you see I’m busy?” or does he stop what he’s doing and say, “I’d love to shoot baskets with you. Right now I have to finish this project, but how about after dinner?”
We take these patterns of giving and receiving attention into our relationships as adults which profoundly affects our ability to create lasting loving partnerships.
Paying attention is a skill. Therefore, you can learn how to do that. And for those of you who are uncomfortable with receiving attention, you can also learn to be receptive of attention. Both are necessary for a healthy relationship because it’s how we can feel loved, cared for, respected, heard, seen. “Needing” attention has gotten a bad rap! Let’s turn that around!
NOTE: I intend to take a bit different approach to this blog. I hope to inject more fun, though that’s a challenge with a subject so critical to our well being. So serious that it needs some levity! ☺ AND, I will be writing with a more random response to what occurs to me as I work with folks, read, and receive your comments.
THANK YOU FOR VISITING!
The degree to which you have learned these skills is the degree to which you are prepared to do your part to grow an awesome relationship.
- You like and respect yourself. How could you expect someone else to love and respect you if you don’t experience yourself as loveable and worthy of respect?
- You trust your ability to make yourself happy. Happiness is an inside job! That is, we choose – consciously or not – when it’s “safe” to express ourselves, and when and with whom we can feel happy.
- You have a variety of ways to calm yourself when feeling vulnerable or threatened. Strategies that help you hang in there when you feel like fighting or running the other way.
- You understand that you create your own thoughts and feelings. That’s a scary thought for some of us. And the rest of us just don’t believe it! The next time you’re uncomfortable (scared, upset, sad, disappointed…) notice what you’re thinking, change what you’re thinking. What happened to your emotions? Consider how your life would be different if you truly had the power to change your thoughts and feelings any moment. If you don’t believe this, then you have to believe that someone else has access to a switch inside you that causes your reactions. Seriously?!
- That, of course, requires you to recognize your feelings. If you don’t, they will control you – a set up for reacting in ways that violate your own rules for yourself.
- You have friends outside of your relationship.
- You are open to the possibility (inevitability?) that you don’t know everything you need to know to create and sustain a loving relationship, and are willing to work with a partner to learn those things. A variety of sources exist – not the least of which is your partner.
- You know that relationship is a place where you will learn more about yourself – and you’re open to that.
This is not an exhaustive list. You probably don’t like some of them. They might sound daunting. And, consider this: We are talking about creating something to last decades! We live in a push button, throw away culture that does not address how to make something last a long time. We take “til death do us part” so lightly – we say those words without thinking about the 30-40-60 years ahead of us – under the same roof where all your warts are illuminated. Maybe that’s worth paying a little more attention to.
The payoff? Having done the work over years, you get to be loved even though your partner knows all your warts.
YOU apparently are thinking along those lines or you wouldn’t be reading my Blog. CONGRATULATIONS!
We’ll start digging into how 2 individuals create a thriving long term commitment dominated by love, joy, fun, light heartedness, intimacy – creating together a relationship you relish coming home to – most of the time. ☺
Think of a couple that you would like to emulate in your relationship. Got one? What made you think of them? Do they hold hands? Is the quality of their smile different with each other? Do they play? Do they apologize? Are they each other’s cheerleader? Do they share responsibilities? Can you “see” their respect and fondness for each other? What else do you notice?
If you answered yes to some of these, you’re likely looking at a great example of a healthy relationship.
There are SO MANY check lists and models for a healthy relationship, that I decided I would share the key pieces from the World according to Kathryn. ☺ That World is fluidly defined by my 30 & more years of working with couples and studying with researchers and teachers.
In later conversations, I will offer you deeper understanding and how to’s for implementing each piece. I hope you find it helpful!
ATTENTION: Both partners feel seen, heard, and understood.
FUN: Play, humor, and fun are commonplace.
LOVE: Both feel loved for who they are.
CARE: That love is expressed and felt in specific, caring behaviors, which are different for each partner
INTERDEPENDENCE: There is a fluid balance of meeting your partner’s needs and having your needs met by your partner. Each have friendships, interests, and activities outside of the relationship – some shared, some not.
RESPONSIBILITY: Each accepts that feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are your own responsibility. Blaming is absent.
CONFLICT: Inevitable differences are addressed and resolved directly and respectfully, sometimes by agreeing to disagree.
FIDELITY: Both know that their partner is unquestioningly faithful.
COMMUNICATION: There is an easeful flow of sharing the stories of your lives with each other, including feelings, celebrations, and struggles.
CHEERLEADER: Both enthusiastically support each other’s goals, dreams, aspirations.
SEXUALITY: When there’s agreement to engage in a sexual relationship, it is an open, joyful expression and communication around an equal sexual partnership.
SENSUALITY: While this is a crucial part of mutual sexuality, openness to experiencing life in the fullness of our senses enriches life in general, but especially in relationships. Watch a baby’s whole body belly laugh. What goes on inside – and outside – of you? Do you smile? Chuckle? LOL? This birth right to experience life to its fullest gets squelched as we grow up. It’s not cool to show too much emotion – negative OR positive. The price? ALIVENESS! And it shows in our hum drum, sometimes numb relationships!
Before addressing these KEYS individually, what is necessary in each of us to be capable of implementing these KEYS? The next BLOG will address these critical INDIVIDUAL PRE-REQUISITES. I wonder which will be YOUR greatest challenge!
WRAP UP: STAGES 5 & 6
Dig a hole … OR shore up the foundation to build a High Rise Relationship! YOUR CHOICE!
THE KEY: What are the cool things that your partner does/did that helped you feel special? FOCUS ON THOSE! That will also keep you doing what makes her feel special!
HERE’S WHAT HAPPENS:
Disillusionment(STAGE 5): Falling in love felt SOOO natural. It feels like she made you love her. So now that loving has waned, the automatic, unconscious assumption is that she made you fall out of love. Stands to reason, right? All those irritating ways he has now … of course you will fall out of love. And … The waning of the Love Cocktail over 18 to 36 months contributes to the “inevitable” focus on his obnoxious joking(which was funny at the beginning), or her incessant texting (in which you exuberantly participated in the early months). You’re seeing him through different filters, both chemically and psychologically.
THE BAD NEWS: If you don’t interrupt this spiral, one or both of you will go “past threshold” (STAGE 6). One of those irritating, intolerable habits happens just ONE too many times, and you’re DONE! Your lenses turn black, filtering out why you are with this her in the first place. As you’re talking with him and your friends, you find yourself building evidence for why it can’t work, justifying why you need to break up. Maybe it does need to end. The sad thing is that you’re ending it without knowing whether she could have been a great partner for you. BUMMER!
THE GOOD NEWS: You can interrupt the spiral! Build a solid foundation by DECIDING TO PAY ATTENTION to the things about your partner that are really cool. Defy the chemistry. Defy our Homo Sapiens wired in focus on the negative. Bask in the cool things about her – list them – tell her. If there’s genuine potential, a trust takes root – unlike the blind trust that occurs in STAGE I. Now that you have a rooted belief that he has your best interests at heart, you can effectively address with each other the not so cool stuff. Then you will know that this is not a good fit … OR that you are on your way to constructing that beautiful, High Rise Relationship!
THE NEXT PHASE:
WHAT DOES A HIGH RISE RELATIONSHIP LOOK LIKE?
We each have an idea of what a troubled relationship looks like. And most of us don’t have great models of a healthy relationship. We need to know what we’re working towards to create that path.
We’ll start this discussion in 2 weeks. You likely noticed my use of 2 different metaphors – Roots and High Rise. We’ll make sense of that. ☺
As you are wondering where this unlikeable person was hiding when you were falling in love, you are sliding into the hole of Disillusionment, Stage 5. If the gray lenses through which you saw your partner in the Expectation Stage felt yucky, those charcoal gray lenses block your attention to the cool things you saw in the beginning. You are gaining momentum on this downward spiral as your focus “naturally” goes to the irritating things about your partner.
Two factors make this happen:
- Falling in love felt SOOO natural! It feels like she made you love her. So now that that loving has waned, the natural assumption is that she made you fall out of love. Stands to reason, right? All those irritating ways he has now … of course you will fall out of love. And …
The Dopamine and Phenylethylamine (Love Cocktail) wane over 18 to 36 months after that 3 to 6 month big hit (the rose colored glasses).
- THE BAD NEWS: If you don’t interrupt this spiral, one or both of you will go “past threshold” (Stage 6). One of those irritating, intolerable habits happens just ONE too many times, and your lenses turn black. You can’t remember at all why you are with this person. As you’re talking with him and your friends, you find yourself building evidence for why it can’t work, justifying why you need to break up. Maybe it does need to end. The sad thing is that you’re ending it without knowing whether he could have been a great partner for you.
THE GOOD NEWS: You can interrupt the spiral, so you can discover through CLEAR lenses if this is that great partner for you.
Shoring up the foundation by DECIDING TO PAY ATTENTION to the things about your partner that are really cool. If you allow your attention to go mainly to the disliked behaviors, you will never know if those dislikes could be successfully addressed to your satisfaction.
IDEALLY, you know to focus on those cool behaviors early in the relationship. You can more accurately recognize if the things you don’t like mean that the relationship cannot work for you long term.
BOTTOM LINE: It takes getting through the chemical crutch to know whether this is worthy of long term commitment. That is, can I keep myself in love with this person for the rest of my life?! 18 – 36 months after the rose-colored glasses. You could call it Divorce Prevention!
In 2 weeks we’ll begin to look at The Keys for Successful, Committed Relationship. The first topic: Is Communication the Key?
[The hard part is that the chemistry has lulled you into the unconscious belief that this should be easy, AND it requires a willingness to focus on your partner’s cool stuff. If you don’t, our wired in tendency to focus on the negative will take over]
PRIORITIES SHIFT AS THE CHEMISTRY SHIFTS
You’ll remember STAGE 1: that delightful, world-by-the-tail 3 to 6 months, driven by PEA and Dopamine.
And STAGE 2: Chemistry starts to settle, feel calmer, focus continues to be on the rockin’ things about your partner. 18 to 36 months.
In STAGE 3, we’re getting rather hum drum – ruled again by routines that had dimmed in importance through rose colored glasses. The great sex happens less often, fire doesn’t come so easily. You’re used to each other’s ways of greeting … or departing, of going on and on about their day … or hardly sharing a thing. You know when they’ll awaken, what makes them laugh. You know all their little expressions – the endearing ones and the … others ☺. You can set your clock by their schedule … or they are predictably unpredictable. No surprises.
You look at them differently. Or, in the busyness of your schedule, maybe you don’t REALLY look at them. It doesn’t feel bad – just not as juicy.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IS subtle at this point, as you slip into STAGE 4:
- The very nature of the falling in love experience feels so natural, so easy, that it lulls us into believing that all we have to do is roll with it.
- Therefore, when “rolling with it” gets dull, confusing, or just lost the magic, we start looking at what’s wrong with our partner. His spontaneity … or her as the planner that we so admired is annoying. Little quirks we thought were so cute/sweet/attractive, are distasteful, if not disgusting.
- All those sweet attentions that let you know she’s always thinking about you, the helpful things he did without your asking – have slipped into the recesses of your mind – OUT OF YOUR AWARENESS.
- You are in EXPECTATION, STAGE 4. What’s truly disgusting, is that most of us never learn that the way to prevent this downward trajectory is SHOCKINGLY SIMPLE!
NEXT WEEK: CHOICE POINT
DIG A HOLE? … OR BUILD A HIGH RISE?
* Adapted from Solutions by Leslie Cameron-Bandler
Understanding this process is critical support to engaging the tools and skills necessary to get what you want: a thriving relationship.
Perhaps you’ve lived the MAGIC :
- “THIS COULD BE MY SOUL MATE!”
- Talk, text, or be with him – He’s all I think about.
- I have SOOO much energy around her.
- We have so much in common!
- When I’m with him, it’s like nothing else exists.
IT’S SO MUCH FUN!
You feel so ALIVE! You’ll do things you’d never before consider:
- Taste strange foods
- Call in sick to have a picnic
- Stay up all night talking – and you still have energy for work or school the next day!!!
You insist it feels like you’ve known each other all your lives … you feel loved and respected for who you really are … never mind that this person couldn’t possibly know who you really are in 3 to 6 months.
Yes, that’s how long the Love Cocktail, as Pat Love, PhD, calls it lasts. That funny feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re not in contact with your special person? That’s withdrawal from the cocktail: mostly Phenylethylamine (PEA) and Dopamine.
This big hit of the cocktail lasts 3-6 months. That’s when you might say, “What on earth did I see in him/her?!” OR, even with the fire dimmed, there’s enough good stuff to hold your interest…
STAGE 2 – APPRECIATION
If our STAGE 1 lenses are rose colored glasses, STAGE 2 has pink tinted lenses. You’re still enthralled with your partner. Your attention, more or less, is still on the things you really cherish – the thoughtful way he lets you know he’s thinking about you, the cool little things she does for you, the frequent connections: affection, texts, emails, phone calls, initiating plans to be together, smiles, laughter, …. You’re discovering each other’s foibles, annoying traits, things they talk about that you have NO interest in. AND it still works, because your focus is still on the things that captured your attention – that made you decide that you want to spend time with this person – get to know him/her.
STAGE 3 is starting to creep in. We’ll discuss this next week….
* Adapted from Solutions by Leslie Cameron-Bandler
TIL THEN, remember:
“The Greatest Gift We Give Ourselves and Each Other is the Quality of Our Attention!” ~Richard Moss, M.D.
If you are baffled about LOVE RELATIONSHIPS…
If your relationships end after just weeks or months…
If your dating partner’s actions evolve to not making any sense…
If your partners seem to change personalities after 3-6 months, 12 months, 2 years…
If you find yourself caught in the same old pattern AGAIN!!! …
If you find the fire went out as fast as it started…
YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE!
In my 30 year career working with tons of couples as a Nurse-Psychotherapist, John Gottman’s and others’ research have revealed more and more about how relationships thrive vs. come apart. Yet the divorce rate stays essentially the same. ENOUGH ALREADY!
As I see once committed lovers at each others’ throats, blaming the other, or surviving in tense silence, I say ENOUGH ALREADY!
As I hear the stories of joy and hopefulness turn to disappointment, to questioning, to anger, to despair, I say ENOUGH ALREADY!
THIS JUST DOES NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN!
And it starts with recognizing what’s right with the hardware you’ve been given, and then discovering, upgrading, and installing software needed to:
• Have fun dating with your eyes wide open.
• Learn to think both individually and relationally.
• Navigate differences.
• Build an enduring relationship friendship.
• Implement the true secret to life and relationship (YES! THERE IS ONE!).
I heartily invite you to join me HERE for this most important relationship conversation!