Focusing on what your partner is saying, tuning in, being fully present to the conversation is one of the necessary ‘arts’ of intimate connecting..
Have you ever walked away from someone and then realized they weren’t finished with what they were saying? Has it ever happened to you? You are telling your partner something that is exciting to you and, in mid sentence, they change the subject, walk away, or worse, start talking about today’s news.
It’s human. It’s real. But it’s annoying as can be. We are after all somewhat afflicted by attention deficit disorder. We have to be. Our culture forces a constant change of focus through entertainment and advertising.
We no longer walk the fields of our farms without interruption – the only distraction the song of a bird or the croak of a frog. We rarely have the luxury of time alone in nature. In a sense, our lives today are driven by the loudest voice, the most compelling distraction.
But this little piece isn’t about nostalgia. We cannot go backward in time. I do think, however, that communication is dependent on our ability to ‘tune in’ and focus, to ‘move into’ a quieter inner place. We can see many forces, in addition to radio, television and billboards, that pull us out of meaningful conversation, few that take us inward.
I noticed that we had several ‘big’ stories in the news this week – Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett’s death, Gov. Mark Sanford’s goofy confession, American troop withdrawal from Iraq – each one, in its own way, a big story. We can be pretty sure that a few days from now we will have moved on.
I like basketball and enjoyed this year’s finals but can’t remember who played in last year’s finals, or World Series or Stanley Cup. Our attention is drawn quickly to the next new thing.
In marriage this is disastrous. Marriage is a continual unfolding of stories within stories. It is revelation, exploration and discovery. Marriage thrives on curiosity and what the analyst Robert Moore calls ‘appreciative consciousness.’
Your attention span, your ability to tune in and stay tuned to each other’s suffering, joys, challenges, discoveries – to each other’s loving – feeds and deepens intimate connecting.
So the next time one of you interrupts, walks away or changes the subject, don’t sigh or become cold. Instead, stop and ask “did you know that I wasn’t quite finished?”
Give your partner or yourself a little forgiveness and then invite them further into the conversation. You never know where that will take you.
For more help on focusing and loving and changing the quality of your communication, we invite you to the How to Build a Better Marriage presentation/ workshop. July 25th 8 -10 am. Call 805 527 2600 for details.
And, if you’re unable to attend, sign up for the teleconference “Building a Better Marriage.” Go to and leave your name, email addresses and phone numbers. www.askstephenfrueh.com
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