Pay Attention To Your Partner
Partner Alertness Course? Pay attention to your partner. This will build relationship resilience. There is a line in a Nick Cave song, Mermaids that mentions ‘Husband Alertness Course’. Cave is recommending that the character in the song take the course. To be fair to my fellow men, perhaps it should be called “Partner Alertness Course” Maybe we should all be mandated to take a class on the topic of relationship-building skills. Perhaps a refresher should be offered, now and then. Anything required, of course, sounds big brother-like but- hear me out. If we had some training, would be proactive in keeping our relationships well-tuned.
As a psychotherapist who does a significant amount of relationship counseling, I find that not paying real attention to our significant other is the most common hurtful issue to come up in sessions. Over time, (it often takes up to 6 years before problems bring people to counseling) this inattentiveness gradually wears even the most resilient among us down. It turns out it really is the little things that matter, especially when meaningfully practiced.
More than ever, the day in and day out of a relationship can feel like we are “ships passing in the night” (where did that term come from? Longfellow?) This is an image most of us can relate to.
New families are especially vulnerable to the danger zone as they build a life together. This stage of family life often includes a new baby, young children, two income families and/or caregiving for older parents. Sometimes, you can top this with the pressures of paying for a new home.
Because building a future should not mean neglecting each other along the way, it is important to pay attention. If we can stay attentive to each other with respect and communicating mindfully as often as possible, our survival rate as a couple significantly increases.
One secret to happy relationships, we now know according to research, is bringing our attention back to the subject over and over again. This is a strong indicator of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a key component of resilience. It is said that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Staying focused on each other with deliberate intention may be one of the most loving things we can do for each other. So, ace those Partner Alertness courses with each other and set a good example for other couples and your children. Your relationship will thank you!
Jm McErath, LCSW-R is a licensed mental health therapist in the state of New York
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