By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
Just as with some children’s toys, people should be given a warning message when they enter relationships—Caution: Modern life can be hazardous to the health of your relationship. Too often, partners spend very little time together. There’s just so much to get done each day. And then, of course, there is the marvel and ubiquity of technology. While it brings people together in ways never before imagined, it also frequently distracts couples from each other. It slips between them, redirecting their attention to screens: computer, cell phone, iPad, or TV.
This is not to say that technology is bad. It can feel good to relax and watch TV or YouTube together. These shared experiences can be a point of connection. But too often it’s a way of being alone while in each other’s physical presence, which is simply not enough.
Really connecting—as opposed to just sharing space—is essential for relationships. You can do this without saying a word; by being conscious of shared experiences, such as strolling in a park or appreciating a sunset together. But talking with each other often helps deepen your connection. Listening, sharing, and exchanging ideas can be interesting and exciting while also providing you a doorway into each other’s worlds.
To be connected or truly with each other, remember to:
Be aware of – and willing to share – you. When people get so caught up in pleasing others or just focused on doing, they become disconnected from themselves and from others. But by being conscious of your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, you are more in touch with those things that make you you. Then, when you share with your loved one, you are truly opening up to him or her. It is in this fertile ground that love can be nurtured.
Be open to your partner and what they have to share. Sometimes people get so caught up in their own story that they forget to listen and attend to their partner. It can be very helpful to remind yourself to truly try to understand your partner’s experience in the world. Knowing the facts – such as his or her favorite movie – is not enough. Wonder about what they are thinking and feeling and how they came to those experiences. Ask yourself what they dream of and how it would affect them to accomplish that dream. In a word, be curious. This can help you to lift the lens of your desires for or about your partner to reveal the person before you. Only then can you truly love him or her.
All of this takes time and patience. Our true selves are frequently revealed in small gestures or off-hand comments. With a keen eye and an open heart, you can get to know your partner. With a letting go of defenses, you can reveal your vulnerable self. By slowing down your modern lives in these ways when you are together, you can nurture a beautiful, loving relationship.
If you would like to join a general discussion about this topic on the Relationships and Coping Community, click here.