“The highest ecstasy is the attention at its fullest.” –Simone Weil
In spite of our best intentions, a holiday like Valentine's Day can often lead to disappointment over all the ways that one feels neglected and misunderstood. For many, it can lead to a breaking point. Avoiding this critical juncture in your relationship is rarely about finding the right card or gift. The attention and emotional connection that is lacking in a relationship happens over time. Even well-meaning gifts can feel shallow and exacerbate the distance and unspoken conflict. It isn’t really the gifts that do this, it is the longing for intimate connection that has to find a voice.
Today, I invite you to look beyond Valentine's Day to the lifelong work of giving your partner your loving and intimate attention. All early romance shares a secret space where two people are so deeply interested in the other that every gaze feels like being held in a warm embrace. Indeed, there may be no more healing balm than the soft and steady gaze of loving eyes resting on our face, or the sweet peace of feeling deeply heard by someone who loves you. I have come to believe that this is really all we ever want: the full presence and attention of love.
Inattention can morph into many kinds of hurtful distraction. We cease to be paying attention to someone when we hold them judgmentally. We are not paying attention when we are doing several other things at once. We are unable to attend to someone else lovingly when we are struggling with our own pain, fear and insecurities. Here is the key that most people miss when the door is shutting behind them: attention begets attention. When you give it, it is like a boomerang on its way back to you.
It is precisely those moments where we are held in the light of a loved one’s generous and undivided attention that become the golden ones. Each of these moments, where time is fuller and richer with memory, become the pearls that we string together to make the narrative of our life and love. The times when you truly connect and share a sense of being in a moment with someone you love is all that you remember.
Taking this concept of attention one step further into the bedroom can be profoundly healing. When we feel invisible to each other in daily life, we are also disinclined to bare ourselves. One of the sexiest ways to practice paying attention to the loving presence of your partner is to take a few moments to bask in their aroma and essence. Our sense of smell is our most powerful attention grabber because our olfactory bulb lives in the center of our limbic brain – where we store memories, process emotions, and ignite our arousal mechanism. The noise and chatter that often blocks us from true connection is cut away when you know someone through scent.
Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets says: “To pay attention – this is our endless and proper work.” You will be amazed by this resource, which already lives in you, ready for use. Re-igniting the romance and feeding the love that you have given your life to, is as easy as paying attention.