Attention Is the Most Basic Form of Love
Intimacy's secret is simple.
Posted May 06, 2011
"Attention is the most basic form of love. Through it, we bless and are blessed." —John Tarrant
There is an epidemic ravaging the health and happiness of American families.
We simply have no time for each other. All of our attention is paid elsewhere.
One of the most common relationship concerns we have found in our Marriage Checkup study is that partners stop paying attention to each other in the struggle to accomplish the myriad demands of the day.
We are all, so many of us, so monstrously busy on a day-to-day basis that we practically tremble under the strain of it all. To make ends meet, we both work full time with all the stress and scrambling and never-caught-up-ness which that entails, and the attention it demands.
We attend to the needs of our children. Doing our best. Stumbling and uncertain, making our best guesses and so many little, and big, mistakes. We run them to school. We pick them up. We shepherd them through music and sports and special classes in this and that. We worry about them and pick up after them and scramble to care for them when they're sick. Never stopping, rarely resting, always, always on.
And then there are our parents. They're getting older. They need more attention. They need more help. We worry and check and help and struggle and worry more.
And it all takes time and attention. Real time. Real attention. And there is only so much. And we're tired. And we don't sleep well.
And then finally, sometimes, through the fog, we catch a glimmer. My wife. My husband. Our marriage.
If there is one thing I have learned in working with so many couples over the years, and of course living in my own marriage, it is that marriages don't whine, or squeak, or cry. Marriages don't demand our attention in quite the same way that all the other facets of our lives do.
Our children whine, our work demands, our responsibilities urge, our houses keep doing their best to crumble around our ears. Our parents call. Teacher's conference. We're late for piano. Something's burning on the stove. Has anyone fed the dog? Your boss wants what when? Dad hit his head on what?
Our attention is pulled and yanked and split.
And through it all, there is our marriage. Quietly pushed off to the back burner. Biding its time. We think, "It's fine. It can wait. I'll have time for it later."
It's patient. It humbly waits its turn. We move it from the back burner to the shelf behind the stove.
It starts looking a little thin and pale. Not as vibrant as it used to be. It feels drier and more brittle. Still, it doesn't demand. It bides its time. It does its duty.
It slips through the crack... and fades from memory.
All for want of simple attention.
Intimacy's secret is simple. It is attention. Simple attention.
Attention is the basic food and water of a living and breathing relationship. Attention is how we nurture and feed. Attention is what we need and crave. Without attention, no relationship, no matter how strong, can survive for long. The roots of connection simply shrink and whither.
Attention is the most basic form of love. Through it, we bless and are blessed.
So now, while you still can, while we're still able, go love your Love. Pay attention to him. Touch her cheek. Look in his eyes. Ask about her work. Ask him how his mother is. Don't wait. Life is short, and time swiftly passes by.
Yes, we are so busy. Yes, there is so little time. Yes, we will never get it all done.
But this we will do. Because we promised.
I will see you, just as you are, if only for this moment.
I will hear you, just your voice, if only for this heartbeat.
I will pay attention.
Because I love you...
And you'll be gone so soon.