This is a story from a busy couple who both have careers and are in the process of raising two girls. They told me that they had to learn the hard way and that they both suffered from feeling neglected when they didn’t take time to show their affection for each other. They were grumpy and had a short fuse that led to arguments over small issues. Now they have a full-hearted commitment to taking good care of their partners in the midst of the competing urgencies that clamor for their attention. They say that since they have instituted the practice of designating regular time to be together, their partnership is flourishing. Let’s hear from them in their own words.
Mira: I know that Ari loves me, and even when he is away from home traveling for business a lot, I know he loves me. But knowing that he loves me and experiencing his love are very different. We have worked out a method that has really been good for us over the busy years of raising kids and our careers. We choose a block of time, a few hours during the day on a weekend, or an entire evening, where we will not be disturbed by children or the telephone, and we make an agreement to be in service to each other the entire time.”
Ari: “Over the years, we have become quite creative in the variety of ways we have devised to be in service to each other. Mira likes me to feed her dinner. So every once in a while, I play this game with her and she gets a big kick out of feeding me, not just a few mouthfuls, but the whole meal! It definitely does jog us off of automatic pilot. Slowing down the pace of the meal forces us to pay attention to what is happening moment-to-moment. When I stay in eye contact with Mira while she feeds me or I feed her, we tune in to each other and learn a lot, she takes smaller bites than I do. But I pause more in between bites so my pace of eating is slower. I had some resistance to it in the beginning. It brought up issues of feeling vulnerable and dependent. It’s been good for me to practice generosity and patience, gently pressing the edge of my comfort zone by surrendering and allowing myself to be given to, I have become a good receiver.”
Mira: “Ari is a great receiver now, but years ago when I would offer to give him a massage he would refuse. It would blow my mind. I love massage so much that I couldn’t fathom why he would say no. Now that he has become a gracious receiver, he lets me give him full body massage and he actually enjoys it. He gives a wonderful massage too. We took a couple’s massage class, which was a great confidence booster to find that you don’t have to be professionally trained to do a satisfying massage. Sometimes we just massage each other’s feet or give head rubs or back rubs.”
Ari: “Mira really likes it when I brush her hair. We have also played with brushing each other’s teeth. I’ve shaved her legs and armpits. She’s shaved my face, trimmed my eyebrows, nose, and ear hairs. She even put my contact lenses in for me one time. It’s an adventure that breaks up our automatic patterning and keeps us more alert.”
Mira: “Ari has a melodic singing voice. Sometimes he’ll haul out his guitar and sing a song to me and I just melt. We don’t ever rely on the message in a card for birthdays, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, or anniversaries. We always write a personal message. We are constantly scanning for possible ways that we can show our love and devotion. By practicing so regularly, we have both opened to deeper levels of giving and receiving love.”
Even during the times when this couple is busy (which is the vast majority of the time), they find that they can at least take a short amount of time to drench themselves in the luxury of being in service to each other, a little bit of time that goes a long way. There are long hugs, deep passionate kisses, and sweet eye contact. These gestures don’t take very long but satisfy on the deepest level.
This couple makes do with the short but frequent quality times to connect, and then plan a longer period of rejuvenation for the next episode of service to each other. These two have learned that it is these small tokens of affection that have the greatest meaning. It doesn’t have to take too long; it just has to spring forth genuinely from the heart.