Relationships often suffer from a lack of attention. We don’t exactly take each other for granted, so much as we simply invest less time energy and attention into what lights up our connection. Normally, if this goes on too long we will notice something isn’t quite feeling right. This is subtle and usually happens before we fall into a rut. So tuning in and being more present is a great way to raise the energy, stay buoyant, and energized in our relationship. Before it falls into a rut, and before our partner begins to feel neglected and resentful.
The reignition of passion is first an internal process where one connects with themselves, and from that place of self-fulfillment there is excess energy to share. This usually feels like play. By all means people, play with each other. Laugh, joke, marvel at the absurd circumstances that are part of the human condition. Start by not taking yourself too seriously, be willing to see your own imperfections as an opportunity to play and try out being better. Self-improvement doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be a path of life long joy and humility that leads to humor and compassion.
How we use our time energy and attention makes a huge impact on the available playful energy in the room. So here are 5 amazingly simple things that can set the stage for a more playful approach to the moment, and a way to stoke the fires of joy that build into passion.
1. Put away your devices for 90 minutes around the evening meal time, and up until bed.
The distraction of our devices dilutes the attention we have on our own experience. This includes the TV and Netflix, etc or video games. These devices disrupt the moments we have for listening more deeply and communicating more potently with our partner and family members. We all know this intrinsically but we still struggle with the allure of interacting with the wide world of possibilities that our devices connect us to. Getting the family to agree will be tricky at first, but the benefits will show up as everyone begins to learn that the human connection we have as a family feels more nourishing and emotionally stabilizing in this crazy world of constant distraction. I suggest collecting all the devices in a box of some sort and placing the box in a cupboard or someplace out of reach so that the devices are out of sight and turned off. Initially, this may take some negotiation, people may feel resistant or resentful, but express how much it means to you to connect with them, and then be generous with your playful attitude and willingness to try the things that make them excited to play, as well as what you find fun. Stretch your limits a little and be generous enough to play that card game or get arts and crafty together. Make TV viewing or movie night an event, not just a habit. We forget how important it is to exercise our imagination. I suggest that paper books are ok, but I would still avoid kindles etc.
2. Make offers to your partner that are about their receiving some enjoyment, such as a foot rub, hot bath playing card games or reading to them, whatever you can think of that you know they will like. Don’t be discouraged if they say no thank you. Get curious about what they might like. Pay attention to their responses and use those as possible offers for later. The idea is not to try to seduce them per se but to invite them to receive your attention. Maybe they just want to quietly read or something else. In that case, just be present with them offer them some tea and sit cozily together with them, enjoying the silence.
3. Find at least one moment a day to stop, and look your significant partner in the eye while thinking approving thoughts and remembering their basic goodness. This can be a very intimate experience. Eye contact is a deep connection, so it’s a good idea to ease into it with an invitation or a gentle approach. Remember, the idea is to think approving thoughts of them, feel your love for them and remember the times you had the most fun together. Both of you will experience some level of what you are feeling and thinking. Start with a deep breath and relax into it. It can be enough to do it for 60 seconds or as much as 5 minutes depending on the level of interest. Finish by offering a thank you and a smile, or something deeper like I am grateful for you in my life. Afterward is not the time to go into processing some emotion or negotiating an agreement or otherwise “working” on the relationship. Direct eye contact is best entered into as an emotional oasis and respite of joy and an honoring of the heart connecting between the two of you. Afterward, just go on with your day.
4. Surprise your partner with an act of kindness, like folding their laundry, making them lunch, or creating time for them to be alone, not responsible for the kids’ dinner, etc. This approach is a form of generosity, but it is also a way of transmitting to your partner that you recognize what they need. If it goes well, they will feel seen and that you have an awareness of their needs. This kind of thoughtfulness takes a small load off your partner, reduces their task list and allows a space to open up for them to pursue their pleasure or to just calm down and take some time for themselves in the midst of so much to do. As many of us recognize generosity has a warming effect on people, as long as it is not coupled with expectations. In fact, “Burning Man” is originally based on the idea of a gift economy, where generosity is the primary form of exchange. This is an incredibly powerful way to interact with people.
5. Before bed, verbally acknowledge your partner for what they achieved during the day. Even the small things like a kind word they said to the neighbor or the children. This is another powerful way for your partner to experience being seen and understood by you. When we notice all the things they do to get through the day and perform their best in their job or with children, it reminds them of their own contribution, but also that it matters to us. They are seen as valued. Don’t worry if they don’t reciprocate immediately, it’s not about tit for tat, it’s about generosity. Try to leave your expectations out of it. The acknowledgment they give you will feel more authentic if it is not forced or considered part of a medium of exchange.
Most of these 5 things seem like common sense yet, you may be wondering how it all leads to reigniting passion. The key to this is found in generosity and the way this leads to a warming of the heart. Passion and its expression is the result of a build-up of this warming until it spills over in a form of generosity all it’s own. A form of generosity that originates within the heart of the person giving it. Whether we realize it or not, that generosity is what we crave, precisely because it originates within the giver without obligation. Passion heats up when this generosity goes back and forth between us and builds up reciprocal energy, moving between people back and forth exciting us more and more. This is what we refer to as foreplay, and it takes many forms. The key ingredient is generosity and the application of attention. The kind of loving attention that is practiced in the eye gazing, where we hold that vision of all the best parts of our partner. This is the source of the heat the passion is the recognition of the other and holding them in the esteemed loving heart of recognition of their true self.