Remember back when you were a kid and you kept wanting to get your mom’s attention?
“Mom, come see this!”
“Mom, look at this.”
“Mom, watch this.”
“Mom! Mom! Mom!”
How many of you actually GOT your mom’s attention?
Moms don’t have time to look at every single butterfly or owie or video or whatever else their kids want to show them. They’re busy. They’ve got things to do.
And so we grow up with this craving for attention that’s never quite satiated.
We fantasize about someone who’ll always have time for us, who’ll stop everything to listen.
That’s the beautiful thing about romantic relationships.
When you’re in a new relationship, this other person has all the time in the world for you. They stop everything when you say, “Hey, look at this.” They want to know everything about your world.
But then time passes…
And this person you thought was going to drop everything for you starts backing off.
They’re there for you sometimes but not always. They don’t answer every time you text. They don’t always have time to talk. They’re not as interested in every little thing you have to share.
It’s like being a kid again.
You have so much you want to share with them. You want to involve them in everything. You want to do things together…
And this person doesn’t have time for you…
Just like it was growing up.
To Be Seen for Who We Are
One of our deepest human cravings is to be seen and known by another.
That’s why love is so beautiful.
For your beloved, it’s like you are undiscovered territory. Your mind and heart and body are an exotic world to him. He wants to know everything about you. Everything about you delights him.
When you see yourself through his eyes, you don’t see that plain, ordinary person you know so well…
You see someone who’s far more extraordinary, captivating, and enchanting than she ever dreamed herself to be.
No wonder the honeymoon phase of a relationship is so intoxicating. You never want it to end.
But it has to end.
Real Life Intervenes
You can put your life on hold for love, but eventually you’ve got to start living your regular life again.
You’ve got work and friends and things to do that don’t involve him. You’ve got to figure out a way to balance this new love with real life.
It’s hard to do that in a way that isn’t sometimes crude and clumsy.
Real love makes room for life.
You’re not the center of this person’s world. You can’t be.
You’re the center of his heart, but not his world.
It’s like when you were a kid. As much as your parents loved you, they couldn’t give you their full-time attention because they had a living to earn and chores to do.
The fact that you didn’t get their attention whenever you wanted it didn’t mean they’d stopped loving you.
It meant they were doing the difficult work of balancing life with love.
Bids for Connection
There’s a technique that’s helped me enormously in finding the precarious balance between loving someone and still having time for all the other things in life I have to do.
It’s being able to spot bids for connection.
When a loved one tells you, “Hey, look at this,” or starts reading something to you, or starts talking to you when you’re in the middle of something, it’s tempting to feel like they’re interrupting you for no reason. Don’t they get that you’re busy?
But what’s really happening is that they’re making a bid for connection.
They want to share this positive feeling with you, or this interesting thought, or this thing they discovered.
They’re not trying to derail you; they just want a quick moment of connection.
And you can give that to them.
You can say, “That’s interesting. I really want to hear about it, but can you give me 5 minutes? I’m in the middle of something right now.”
You can feel grateful they want to connect, even if it came at an inconvenient time.
How we deal with bids for connection matter.
If you don’t know something is a bid for connection and you treat it as an interruption, then you push each other away.
So talk to your partner about bids for connection. Share this article. There’s a great graphic on the Gottman Institute website explaining what they are.
And don’t jump to the conclusion that distance means your partner has stopped loving you.
Sometimes, distance just means your partner has got other things going on.
You still have his heart—even if you don’t have all his time.