Recognition—in all of its various aspects—is the key to keeping love alive. If you don’t see or understanding something important about yourself or partner, or if your partner doesn’t “get” something important about you or about himself, the small disappointments not recognized become bigger disappointments that won’t go away.
Recognition doesn’t mean you have to play a mind-reading game. It doesn’t mean you are left to guess what’s on his mind or what’s bugging her, or why things feel weird and unsatisfying . . .
Recognition Means Understanding Yourself: Recognition, of course, starts with an important, basic understanding of self and other. We recognize how we feel and we recognize how our partner feels. We recognize and understand what we need from our partner to feel happy in our relationship. And, we understand and recognize what our partner needs to feel happy, satisfied, safe, nurtured and cherished as well.
Recognition Means Understanding the Other: Recognition also involves active thinking. Looking for meaning. We observe our communications, our behaviors and our emotional states and we ask ourselves “What is happening here? What am I feeling and what do I need”? And, we look at our partner’s language, behavior and emotional states and we try to recognize what they mean. We ask the same questions. “What is my partner feeling? What does this behavior mean? What is being communicated here”? We try to understand what they’re telling us about how they feel and what they want. We work hard to put things together. We surmise. We remember the last time this happened. We sense. We work ostensibly. We try to get into the mind and body of the other. This is the work of attunement and recognition.
Recognition Requires Communication About Self: Finally, recognition requires communication. When we’re feeling strongly that we need something, or that we’re hurt, we tell our partner. We share our distress and ask for help. We say something like, “I’m feeling a little lonely lately. I’d love to spend some special time together.”
What’s Your Communication Style? Do you know what your communication style is? Are you the “silent type,” too proud to articulate your wishes but secretly hoping she’ll “get” them? Or, are you the “angry type,” quick to pull the trigger with criticism and put-downs but secretly hurt that he didn’t understand you to begin with?
Recognition Requires Communication About Your Partner: Recognition also requires that we communicate what we sense or what we ‘pick up’ in our partner. When your partner engages in behavior, we observe and try to understand what it means. And we don’t keep it to ourselves. We communicate our thoughts and observations. We tell our partner when we think we recognize distress. We say to them, “I see you’re not sleeping well latterly. Do you think something’s bothering you? Are you worrying about —-“? Or, “I notice you’ve been unusually impatient lately. You’ve been snapping at the kids, and I’m wondering if you’re upset about something”?
Tuning In: Recognition means tuning in to self and other. Recognition requires working hard to understand meaning. What does certain behavior or certain language suggest about the state of the other person? We use our sense, our intuition, and our empathy to try to arrive at meaning. We don’t remain silent with our wondering. We approach our partner and we check in. We wonder out loud with them. We share our questions.
Keeping Love Alive: Keeping love alive means working hard to recognize, understand and communicate with, and about ourselves and our partners. We keep love alive by tuning in to self and other. And we keep love alive by striving to understand ourselves and our partners—the gift of attentiveness and attunement keeps love alive.