We start off as strangers, and over time, we get to know each other better. Right?
Maybe in friendships, but maybe not in romance.
I’m thinking of those romances where there is an instant mutual attraction. For the first few dates, you are both in synch – without trying. Conversation flows, you text or call at just the right moment, the choice of restaurant is spot on. Everything occurs in perfect co-ordination, without you making an effort. Its as if you know what the other person wants, and they know what you are thinking, without trying. Its as if you know each other oh so well.
After a while, you start to notice that you are not quite so in synch.
Neither of you has changed essentially. So what has happened? It would be easy to say that its natural for a honeymoon period to wear off; after all, we all make a special effort at the beginning. I expect this is true.
However, I think that something else happens on those first few dates that explains the effortless togetherness. Its something that we do, but of which we are largely unaware. And its irritatingly simple. We pay attention. Full, undivided attention. If that sounds prosaic, its because the words ‘pay attention’ are too prosaic a description. Its almost as if we become Attention. The type of attention that is both focused and open at the same time. We don’t know when we are doing this because, by and large, we’re not taught to recognise how attention functions.
The reason we seem to grow out of synch and into irritations is that we pay less attention to each other. Why? Because we fall into habit. And habit is the enemy of romance.
We’ve spent more time with the other person, so surely we know them better. We assume we know what they will say, think and do. And as we pay more attention to our assumptions, we pay less attention to them.
Over time, we don’t know each other better, we simply build up a perception of each other’s core personality traits and preferences. And we build a habitual response to our own assumption. In fact, we know each other less. We stop giving attention to each other, and give attention to our assumptions.
But I think there is a way to keep the magic of romance in relationship. Its irritatingly simple, but not easy. Consciously pay attention to the other person. Its true that we all have core personality traits and preferences. But its also true that we crave the magical being-in-synch of romance. And the way to have that magic, is to give up thinking that we know each other.