One of the most common questions I get asked is “how do you sustain a long-term relationship?” Today, I’d like to share with you one of my top tips for sustaining love and intimacy. It is something so subtle that it is easily missed. However, if we pay attention to these small cues, it can revolutionise how we feel connected with our partner.
Studies show that often when one person in a relationship wants to get the other’s attention, they make a small gesture or comment. This is a “bid for attention” from the other. It may be a comment or it may be a subtle movement which is easily missed. These gestures are often disguised as something else, so we need to pay attention for them. For example, one partner may put out their hand at the breakfast table. Ostensibly it may appear that she or he is reaching for their cup of tea but the hand goes slightly aside the cup, reaching subtly towards the other person. If the other partner doesn’t pick up this subtle cue for connection the first person in unlikely to repeat it.
Once a bid for attention is made and missed, the person making the bid may likely feel ignored, unimportant or even rejected. Each of these small gestures or acts is an invitation to come into closer contact with your partner. Once the movement is made and missed, the opportunity has passed in that moment. We will need to wait until another opportunity presents itself.
The same is true with “throw-away” comments. The person may comment on something they see or have experienced. Once spoken, if the other ignores the cue, the first person will tend to withdraw a little from contact with the other. It may seem subtle and hard to spot at first, but this attention to the small things is a key in continually creating a bond with our partner. If repeated attempts at gaining the other’s attention fail, the person will gradually withdraw and over time, make less bids for attention. Studies have shown that partners who respond positively to these bids for attention are more likely to describe their relationship as loving and fulfilling. Those who fail to do so, are more likely to witness their relationship fail over time.
You can think of it this way – each of us wants to be seen. Perhaps because of childhood insecurities or beliefs it may be hard for us to openly invite in this sense of connection and love. To ask for what we want risks rejection, or even ridicule. So, instead of asking outright, we make these subtle bids for attention. If the bid is seen and responded to, we increasingly feel loved and connected to our partner. If it is ignored, we are likely to revert to old beliefs possibly around lacking self-worth, or feeling foolish for wanting that connection. So, however, subtle the bid is, I encourage you to pay attention to it. Otherwise, the consequences may be negative for your relationship in the long-term.