"Presence is more than just being there," states Malcolm S.Forbes. How true!
Have you ever been talking with someone and felt that they were miles away even though they were sitting next to you? They might have appeared to be listening, but you could sense that they weren't really mentally and emotionally present in the conversation.
We all have moments when our mind wanders and we lose focus, but if this happens frequently, our relationships with others will be negatively affected. In a marriage, intimacy is enhanced by feelings of connection and harmed when partners start feeling disconnected.
When a spouse is physically present but mentally "out to lunch," the partner will feel the difference. Something important is missing, and what is missing is the spouse's full attention to the conversation or activity. Often, the distracted spouse is feeling rushed, bored, impatient, or stressed. When that happens, the natural tendency is to constantly mentally leap ahead to the next items on the "to do" list.
If this describes you, then you are missing the experience you are having right now because you are so focused on what you're gong to do next. By living in the future, you miss the present. Besides robbing yourself of the enjoyment of the current experience, you are also negatively impacting how others feel when they are around you.
"I'll make it up to him (or her) later," you may tell yourself as you rush through yet another conversation without really looking at your spouse closely or hearing what's really being said. In the mean time, the feeling of disconnection between the two of you grows and intensifies.
One of the ways you can show respect and caring for your spouse is to give the gift of undivided attention. Likewise, you show respect and caring for yourself when you value connecting deeply with others, and that can only be accomplished in the Now. One of the best presents you can give others and yourself is to practice being fully present in your life.
It takes practice and discipline to pull yourself back to the present moment when your mind jumps ahead into the future. Breaking any long-standing habit is difficult and can take weeks, even months, of practice. But the pay-off for learning to live more of your life consciously and with more awareness of the present moment is significant.
Until you can learn to listen intently and focus your total attention on the other person, you are not connecting at the deepest, most intimate level. As Mary Catherwood observes, "Two may talk together under the same roof for many years, yet never really meet." This is the tragedy that befalls many marriages.
Follow these five tips to be more present when you interact with your spouse:
1. Stop what you are doing and look at your partner when he/she is talking to you. This shows respect and will make it easier to keep focused.
2. When your mind wanders, gently re-direct it back to the present moment. Take a deep breath to help you stay anchored and centered.
3. Ignore stray thoughts that flit across your mind, trying to distract you. If you don't give them attention, they won't "hook" you.
4. If you are too distracted to concentrate, tell your spouse, "It's really important to me to focus on what you're saying, and I can't seem to concentrate right now. Could we schedule a time to talk later today?"
5. Keep the bigger picture in mind. You are investing time and energy into creating satisfying intimacy with your spouse. Each interaction either adds a deposit to the intimacy "piggy bank" or makes a withdrawal from it.
Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D., is co-author of Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This is available as an e-book at http://www.KeepYourMarriage.com ,where you can also sign up for the free Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine. Nancy can be contacted at Nancy@KeepYourMarriage.com.