Discover more from For Better Or Worse: Tales From A Married Man
Most partners don’t want attention
Most partners don’t want attention; they want consideration. It’s hard to tell the difference because consideration and attention usually come as a pair, like that Kobe (may he rest in peace) and Shaq alley-oop. Consideration throws the ball, and attention dunks it. They are supposed to be a tag team, but as you get older, you realize that attention is in high demand. Life never fails to pull your attention in multiple directions, so it’s understandable that attention can't always be the crutch you lean on to keep the flame in a relationship alive. Consideration requires a lot less work but a lot more thought. Consideration looks different depending on the person and the circumstances.
My friend asked my wife and me for advice on her last two dates. Her post-game analysis: Nice guys. Good-looking. Entertaining. Good conversation. Paid the bill. A lot of fun.
"So what’s the problem?" I asked.
"Well, they are both nice, but one (let’s call him X) told me to pick the restaurant, and the other (let’s call him Y) created a list of restaurants near my house, outlined the distance between each one, and told me what time he planned on coming," she said.
Still, I couldn’t see the problem. To me, it sounded like Y was organized, and X preferred to be spontaneous. In fact, I preferred X (he reminds me of someone I know).
My friend continued. ‘It means that one is more responsible. What if we have children and X can’t organize himself? What if I’m ill? And what if Y is too rigid? How will we plan our wedding? What about when I want to be spontaneous?'
To my friend, a pre-date itinerary showed consideration, while I wondered how we went from pre-date planning to family planning in a matter of seconds. Still, it reminded me of the time I let an egg over-boil on the stove after my wife left the house with very specific instructions: "Watch the egg, Solomon; it’s almost done."
I didn’t intend for Netflix to distract me, but my wife returned to a burning egg on the stove. No big deal, right? We can boil another one. "No, Solomon, it’s not about boiling another one. What if we had kids and I left them with you?"
Biologically, the connection between the eggs and children made sense, but not in that circumstance. Still, we both considered the situation differently.
For some people, a few missed calls after an argument look like anger; for others, it's taking space. A solo night binging a series without your partner doesn't mean you never want to watch TV with them again, and forgotten date plans don’t mean that you have fallen out of love with a person. However, it can mean that you didn’t consider them.
Consideration is not complicated, but it requires a bit of extra thought.
You going to the shop: Do you need anything?
Your partner gets home late. Have you eaten?
Attention can become scarce in a marriage. Dates work at the start of a relationship, but you can't limit intimacy to single actions. We neglect the reasons why dates mattered. We believe that the act takes priority over the intention; it's not just the food or location that makes a date, it’s the time (aka attention) and the thought (aka consideration). When you get married, you see each other all the time, but do you think about each other all the time? It’s not about time spent but time invested.
Over 16 years, my wife and I have a catalog of exceptional dates, but some of our favorite ones happened under the glow of streetlights, on a faded brown weathered bench overlooking the River Thames (legend has it that it's still there). It's not a spectacular London view; most tourists would only stop there to tie a shoelace or take a piss. Yet, at twenty-one years old, we felt like Aladdin and Jasmine on a magic carpet. When the two of us sat on the splintered wood and talked for hours while the semi-polluted Thames water flowed below us, we sat, talked, and fell deeper in love. Every couple has their own version of a ‘bench,’ a location that may mean nothing to the rest of the world, but where the rest of the world means nothing to them. A place where the relationship escapes the boundaries of time or space, and only the two of us existed. I get it; bench dates don't work on a first date. First dates are the best foot forward dates, the intro to the mixtape, the single drop before the album release; the first date needs to make an impression, but every date can't be a first date. First dates start relationships, they light the candles, but consideration keeps the candle burning when attention needs some backup.