Attention is the Most Important Part of Love
If you’ve ever read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, you know it’s one of the greatest books out there, for defining the ways people give and receive affection or love. Chapman explains that out of the five main ways of expressing affection toward those we care about, we all have a primary and secondary means. They are: acts of service, gift giving, quality time, touch, and words of affirmation. With all of these, attention is required.
Sometimes, in a relationship, if one person is a gift giver and the other needs to hear love words verbally, there can be a disconnect. They both may end up feeling as if the other doesn’t care about them in the same way.
Understanding the differences in the way we feel and appreciate love is important. What must come first, however, is the intention and act of being there for the person you love.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Monk and enlightened teacher, says it this way:
“When the other person realizes that his or her presence has been recognized and confirmed, he or she will blossom like a flower. To be loved is to be recognized as existing. Have you looked at others in this way? If you embrace them with the energy of mindfulness, with your true presence, this energy is completely nourishing. It is like water for a flower. A flower needs water to live, and the person you love needs your presence! Your presence is the most precious gift you can give him or her.”
Addiction to distraction
Our society today is a cacophony of sound, memes, videos, ads and information. Everyone is addicted. Your phone is most likely attached to you from the moment you open your eyes, to the moment you close them. It accompanies you to the bathroom, to meetings, to dates, to meals, to bed. You are always “plugged in”.
There are wonderful advantages of being connected to a hub of information and unlimited convenience resources via our phones. It’s a sense of safety, of never being alone, of having friends with us everywhere, and of endless apps ensuring efficiency in all of our daily tasks. We, as humans, are ever evolving, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing to evolve into a more connected, plugged in species.
Unplugging to connect
However, we need breaks. Our relationships are suffering. Despite always having an easily accessible crowd to talk to through our phones, we are, as a whole, even lonelier. We are animals first. And we need a real, physical tribe.
You may have family and friends, or even a partner or a spouse, you are taking for granted. Perhaps you bring your phone with you during time with them. Maybe you have a habit of hanging out together, watching tv, or each on your own device. Together, but not present. You may share physical space, but you’re not actually there. With each other.
Habits become habits out of training. And thankfully, we get to choose our habits. Some can be so ingrained that they’re hard to break. Like phones. Insisting on a break from your phone every day, can be unbelievably healthy. Making sure that break is during time with someone you love, is even healthier. For both of you!
When you care about someone, you want to help add to their sense of self-worth and security. The best way to do that, is to be present with them. To break any habit you may have, of taking them for granted. To really, truly be WITH them, when you’re sharing space.
Ways to give attention
- Notice your loved one. No, really. Actually look at them. What are they wearing? What color are their eyes right now? What does their hair look like? Do they appear relaxed, comfortable and at ease? Or tense and stressed? Observe.
- Appreciate your loved one. What are the things that you love about this person? What are you proud of about them? What makes you smile about them? What are their strengths and their unique traits? What about them replenishes something in you? How do they improve your life?
- In answering the above questions, express your best thoughts to your loved one. You can say it, write a poem about it, sing a song. But TELL THEM.
- Whether your loved one is a partner, a child, a friend or a relative, take them on a date. Make it fun. Plan it, anticipate it, and both of you get excited about it.
- Create a new tradition in your relationship. Maybe it’s a shared joke, or funny moment, or a new discovery when you were together. Maybe it’s a little shared act, like a coin toss or dinner bet or an episode of a sitcom to end your night.
- Make a no-phones rule while eating or shopping, or for a specific time frame. One hour no phones — and go! That can be time to fill each other in on all of your life’s experiences and catch up with all the important happenings.
- Run errands together and help each other with life’s busy tasks. It’s the best quality time, when you can be productive together and be supportive.
- Let your loved one know you’re thinking of them when you’re apart. Text, call and say I love you, send a shared song, or even send a written letter.
- Send energetic love every time you think of them. You may think this one is cheesy, but all we are is energy. We are also creators and manipulators of these magnificent energies. No matter how grounded you are in practicality and reason, it’s not much of a stretch to believe that energies can travel and affect just as powerfully from afar. Just try it.
We are made to bond. We need each other. The best way to ensure those bonds and connections stay strong, is with attention. Put away your phone, and truly BE fully in the moment with your loved ones today.