If you want a happy relationship, give your partner your attention.
A friend sent me a cartoon recently, of a couple struggling with the interference in their relationship caused by their electronics . http://i.imgur.com/bqHPkpc.jpg As a couples counselor, I am always interested in ways to solve this dilemma in relationships.
In the cartoon, first one person, then the other, feels ignored because of electronic devices. The cartoon made me think about one of the findings in the research of John Gottman and his wife Julie Gottman in Seattle. The Gottmans, http://www.gottman.com , are a pair of well respected psychologists who do research into what makes happy and unhappy relationships different. Their research gives couples therapists information about how to help couples have a better relationship.
Their research has shown that, when your partner makes a “bid for your attention” such as saying something to you to initiate a conversation, looking at you, asking you to participate in something… that it is wise to give them your full attention. “Failed” bids for attention, characterized by ignoring or just not responding to these bids for attention, are characteristic of unhappy and ended relationships.
As a couples therapist in Raleigh, NC I can attest to the accuracy of this research finding. Couples often come into marriage counseling sharing their hurt and loneliness about their sense that they are unimportant, or unvalued as a result of failed bids for attention. Even if its not all the time that their bids for attention fall flat, people feel hurt when it happens. The research confirms this.
So, while you might be distracted 20% of the time when your partner asks for your attention, the other 80% of the time, you will want to be receptive. Overall, happy couples tend to have an 80/20 split of positive/less than positive interactions. A bid for attention matters in this mix.
If you are currently in marriage counseling or couples counseling, bring this up in your next session. Ask your partner how he/she feels you are doing in terms of responding to their attempts to interact with you.
You might be surprised what you hear.