Have you ever been with someone you love and you felt alone because he or she seemed a million miles away?Have you ever asked your partner to do something, got a mumbled reply (or no reply)–you thought there was agreement but nothing happened?
Your partner told you he or she didn’t remember the conversation, didn’t hear you or just forgot.Or maybe you’ve caught yourself listening to your loved one and your mind takes you to what happened yesterday or last week–or even what might happen tomorrow–and you have no clue what he or she just said.
(It happened to Susie yesterday!)
If you’re really honest, it can even happen in the most intimate moments in the middle of making love.
The simple truth is that most of us aren’t present with each other a lot of the time–and this lack of presence can cause misunderstandings, arguments and distance.
Even though we all do it and it’s “normal” for our attention to zoom in and out–lack of presence can suck the life right out of your relationship.
So if we all have this “presence” problem to one degree or the other, how can we pull ourselves back into the present moment so we don’t destroy our relationships?
And maybe more importantly, what does being present mean anyway?
Right now, we all have great examples of presence right under our noses.
Like millions of other people, we’ve been mesmerized by the young athletes performing in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
We’ve been thrilled by the agility, speed, and talent of snowboarder Shawn White, skating pair Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, speedskater Tae-Bum Mo, downhill skiier Lindsay Vonn, speedskater Apollo Ohno, men’s skater Evan Lysacek–among so many others.
But what we’ve been most impressed by is the amount of presence and concentration all of these athletes have needed to win their events.
Time and time again, commentators have talked about presence and concentration (or lack of) being key factors in winning or losing.
So the question is this…
While most of us aren’t Olympic athletes, how can we borrow from what they do to earn the gold or even compete for that matter at the Olympic level–to make our relationships better?
We can start practicing presence right now–right where we are.
The idea of “presence” is a little abstract, so we’ll give you some examples…
What takes you out of the present moment might be something your partner says or does that sends you off into what happened in the past or what might happen in the future.
It might not even be something “negative.”
The trigger that sweeps your attention away from the present can be one word or even a facial expression–and up pops a memory that takes you away.
The other person doesn’t even have to do or say anything–because we can zoom in and out of the present moment all by ourselves.
The problem is that when this happens, you lose your connection with each other.
Becoming present is becoming aware of your physical environment in any particular moment.
One technique we use when we realize we’ve “left” is to switch our minds from all the thoughts about the past and the future that are swirling around to what we can see, touch and hear.
Yesterday, when Susie realized that Otto had answered her question but she hadn’t actually heard him because her mind was elsewhere–she paused and started noticing what was in the room they were sitting in.
She noticed her desk, touched her computer and how she was sitting in her chair.
Keep in mind, this “grounding” she was doing happened in an instant.
Then she switched her attention to Otto– apologized for zoning out on him and asked her question again.
This time, when he spoke she really took in his answer.
She looked into his eyes and kept connected to him.
Was this an important moment?
Not in the grand scheme of things…
But it was.
When someone is not present when we are interacting with them, we don’t feel honored or respected.
We just don’t feel important to that person.
That’s why presence is so vital to keeping your relationship alive and well.
What can you do if you feel like the other person has “left”–either emotionally or mentally?
Making your partner wrong for leaving you usually doesn’t work and can backfire on you.
If you start complaining about his or her lack of attention, your partner will usually retreat further into daydreams.
What can bring him or her back?
A touch can bring someone back to the present moment as well as you making eye contact.
Throwing some appreciation in there can also help a mentally or emotionally absent partner come back–but only if it’s sincere.
Start today noticing when you “leave” and then gently bring yourself back.
Just like the Olympic athletes, practice can be the difference maker when it really counts.
And when it comes to your relationships, it counts in every moment.