It’s not a secret that our lives move quickly. It’s easy to go through a whole day without stopping to pause and look around your environment once or take a conscious breath.
The speed of our lives affects our relationships—you might find that you go a whole day without one meaningful conversation with your partner. So how do you slow down and be present, both of you?
You could start examining how you are in your partner’s presence. As humans, we constantly seek acknowledgment; it’s how we navigate the world.
A recent article on the internet that has gone viral has posed some interesting questions to ask. The post proposed that we ask each other questions, most fundamentally: do you see me?
At the heart of this question is a baseline check-in with self and other
If your partner doesn’t see you—as in, they don’t listen to you, they don’t notice your presence in the room—you probably know this already but are not asking, for one reason or another. If you ask them this and they can’t look you in the eye and say, “yes”, the relationship is on shaky ground.
If your partner (or you) is content to go out alone all the time or spend hours on the phone with others, your relationship is being pushed aside. When you ask someone “Do you care that I’m here?” you’re essentially asking if they still value the relationship. Even having to ask is an indicator that something’s off.
A third question, “Am I enough for you?” can strike you at any time—that’s how self-confidence is, it comes and goes like the weather. We go to our partners for some sign that yes, we are enough.
And a fourth question, “Can I tell that I’m special to you by the way that you look at me?” is one that we ask every other human. Babies ask this of their mothers, friends ask this of each other, and romantic partners ask it too. See how I look at you and reflect it back—that’s what we need from each other.
Holding up a mirror: affirmation strengthens relationships
Psychologists have also noted these sorts of affirmation requests—and how they are answered—are central to sound relationships.
A psychotherapist named John Gottman (who has developed research that predicts which couples will stay together and which will divorce) calls these attempts for attention and affirmation “bids for connection”. His research shows that if the bid is answered positively 85%, the relationship is in good shape. Couples likely to divorce were answered bids kindly around 33% of the time.
But there are other ways to acknowledge one other. Making eye contact when you talk to your partner, instead of keeping your eyes glued to a screen, is one way to show you care that they’re in the room with you. Casual touch, like taking your partner’s hand when they seem sad, takes literally three seconds but can mean the difference between a real connection and a missed opportunity.
Your eyes and your face transmit a lot of information. If you love your partner, let them see it there. When they ask you a question, really listen—this is another way to acknowledge them and offer your whole self. When someone has to ask you something twice in a row, it’s pretty clear they didn’t have your attention.
Connecting deeply with another person, whether it’s someone you just met or a partner you’ve been with for fifteen years, requires you both to be present. If your relationship is floundering and disconnected, consider reaching out to a couples therapist—they’ve got the experience and training to help you and your partner reach out again, in a safe space.
Do you need relationship help?
If you need relationship help, contact Clinton Power + Associates for a FREE 15-minute phone inquiry to discuss your situation and find out how we can help. Call us now on (02) 8968 9323 or book your free phone consult online.
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.