Question for you: would you rather be adored or ignored?
Even in this world of 7.4 billion people, someone is enchanted by your uniqueness, believe it or not. And more often than not, partners do care about their other half, but don’t necessarily show it (they might not know how or they haven’t had their own needs met).
What do we welcome any day of the week———and really is the most romantic gift you can give someone?
Warm, attentive and supportive recognition of our needs, welfare, and interests.
We want to see indicators that our partner understands us and cares about us. That excludes being indifferent, judgmental, critical, and insensitive.
A responsive partner is actively engaged while listening, compassionate to our needs, and sensitive to our fears and insecurities. They are genuinely interested in us, care about what we have to say, acknowledge us, and make us feel important to them.
At the end of the day we want our partner to be responsive to our needs and welfare.
That’s how we can build trust, share deeper, and increase intimacy. Indisputably better than anything you can buy at the store.
So let’s break down how to do this, for your partner and yourself (no need to point fingers, just do it yourself first—and share this article).
Now this isn’t a pick and choose game. All three steps must be in place.
1. “No one knows but you.”
Have you told your partner yet what you really think, or how you really feel about ____?
Self-disclosure, or sharing personal information that you don’t generally share, is mysteriously powerful. Statistically, for several reasons: people who share more are liked more (we seem to like transparency), we easily share vulnerable “stuff” when others do too, couples who share more are happier than those who don’t years later, and our brain responds to it the same way we respond to food and sex.
The ultimate thing to share are your feelings for each other… “I love you.”
Too simple for you?
Fine. I’ll give you some reality. An “I love you” can feel insincere if what our partner shares or communicates most of the time is critical, contemptuous, self-interested, or negative.
Don’t take it personal! Just kidding. That’s what boundaries are for, but more importantly the correct human interaction of positive to negative interaction. For every negative you shoot at your partner, hit them with 5 positives daily (endearment, appreciations, flattery, attention, genuine praise, affection, shoulder rubs, play, etc.).
2. “I’m interested in you.”
Imagine if your partner showed you that when you’re hurt or distressed, the world stops and they listen. Perhaps you’re not even distressed and you just need to hear, “Oh, easy. I can make you breakfast so you don’t feel rushed in the morning.” To feel acknowledged and validated is one of our biggest needs, and often. Dr. John Gottman, head of the Love Lab at the University of Washington, said:
Comical as it may sound, romance is strengthened in the supermarket aisle when your partner asks, “Are we out of butter?” and you answer, “I don’t know. Let me go get some just in case,” instead of shrugging apathetically.
He calls these mini-moments, “bids” for attention, affection, humor, or support. They’re small opportunities to be truly romantic—validating.
In one of his 6-year studies of newlyweds at his Love Lab, couples who were still married were responsive to their partner’s bids 86% of the time, and those that divorced were responsive only 33% of the time. And guess what? Both married and divorced couples of this study did not argue about the common issues, like money and sex, they all mostly argued about “failed bids for connection,” not responding to these mini opportunities to show you care and are interested in your partner.
3. “I notice what you do for me.”
If you perceive your partner to be rejecting your bids for attention, you will be less inclined to offer future bids. In that same token, if you perceive them to be caring, understanding and respectful, you’ll be more inclined to self-disclose and offer bids.
So the big question here is, “are you taking notice?”
Let’s say you haven’t and, to give your partner the benefit of the doubt, they have been responsive—regardless if it’s in their own way or in the way you like it (because they can be wildly different methods). So in this case, you could do an appreciation exercise.
Before you think it’s too cheesy, hear me out.
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky from UC Riverside, researcher for positive psychology, found appreciation to be crucial for these reasons:
1) it helps “extract the maximum possible satisfaction” and not take your relationship for granted
2) we feel more connected to our partner and see ourselves in a positive light
3) it motivates us and our partner to work at the relationship with consistent effort
4) it prevents us from comparing our relationship to other couples, risking feeling envy or lacking.
All you have to do is write a private list (you never have to share it), or write your partner a letter, or imagine if you hadn’t ended up together (what would be all the positives you’d miss out?).
Hence, the best part of this gift, is that it doesn’t cost a thing, you’ll never sell out, it doesn’t take a lot of effort, and you don’t have the pressure of performing it best on one day of the year—you can try again the next day if you missed a bid from your partner.
The point is to get out there and find those bids, respond, self-disclose and repeat.
May 12, 2017
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February 17, 2017