Week 3: Engaging True Connection
Day 15: The Power of Engagement
The opposite of love is not hate – the opposite of love is apathy.
There is one thing that damages relationships more than any other. It is not abuse or criticism or judgment. The most damaging thing to relationships is when we disengage.
The difficulty with disengagement is that it is hard to put your finger on. The pain it causes is real, yet we can’t really pinpoint anything specific our loved one has done. I may observe my spouse come home everyday at 6, help with the kids and household chores. I know he is working hard and providing for our family. But yet, something is missing. I don’t feel connected or noticed.
Sometimes criticism is better than disengagement. At least if you criticize me, I know you are paying attention. But when you don’t even acknowledge me, even in negative ways, I begin to think, “Do I even matter to you?”
We have numerous moments everyday where we have the opportunity to initiate connection with each other. When we were first dating, we capitalized on these moments as much possible – stealing a kiss here and there, placing a hand on your spouse’s back, smiling from across the room. We were constantly noticing each other and sending messages of care and concern.
I don’t know of anyone who wakes up one day and decides in their heart “I’m going to ignore my loved one today.” It doesn’t happen like that. Disengagement happens slowly, over time, when we stop connecting, stop noticing, stop appreciating, stop watching.
Engagement happens in the small moments – the everyday windows of opportunity we have to either turn toward our spouse or turn away from our spouse. It happens in the unexpected moments, the non-routine moments when we are busy and doing everything we are supposed to be doing, and yet, we still take the time to pause and send the message of “I see you and I still love you.”
The trick to engaging is that there is no formula for it. We must notice our loved one and we must reach out to them.
Here is an example from my own life:
My husband and I were at a crowded wrestling tournament and it had been a very long day. We were both battling tiredness and trying to encourage our kids who were battling the emotional ups and downs of trying hard and still losing. At one point, toward the end of the day, my husband came and stood behind me and started rubbing my shoulders. It was like liquid love to my whole body. I didn’t realize how tense and stressed I was feeling until he did that. All of a sudden, a crowded, loud, competitive gym atmosphere faded into the background and my heart felt peace and gratitude for our connection.
These are the little moments that matter. We don’t have to capitalize on all of them. But when we find these windows of engaging with each other, we build connection, one moment at a time.
Here is a bible verse that reminds me about engagement:
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:8 NIV)
If I modified this verse slightly to fit my own life, it would say: “Love never fails. But where there are kids’ activities, they will cease; where there are work projects, they will be stilled; where there is frustration and trials, it will pass away. But love never fails.”
Challenge for Today: Watch for a window of opportunity to engage with your loved one and do something to send the message, “I see you and I still care.”
Author: Janet Hoyt