habituation in relationshipsA philosopher by the name of Alan Watts once said, “If you put your hand on the knee of a beautiful woman and leave it there, she’ll cease to notice it. But if you gently pat her on the knee, she’ll know you’re still there. This is because you come and go. Now you see me, now you don’t.”

There’s truth in that. Many women have confided in me about their true desires for a romantic relationship. Very often their description includes something along these lines: “I want us to be together all the time, like two halves of an inseparable whole.”

It doesn’t work out very well for the very reason alluded to by Alan Watts. Any constant stimulus is subject to the brain’s capacity for adaptation. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Have you ever stared at a fluorescent green object for ten seconds and then looked at a white wall? If you have, you know what I’m going to say next. Magically, a fluorescent pink silhouette appears in your vision as you stare at the blank wall.

Why does this happen? This is because of habituation. Your eye begins to adapt to the bright colors of the fluorescent green, causing you to perceive the opposite color when the fluorescent green object is suddenly removed from your persistent gaze.

It’s the same thing that happens when someone gets rich. For a short period of time, they bask in the wealth, enjoying the sudden opulence and many benefits in brings. However, after a short period of time, the feeling of happiness fades because being wealthy becomes normal.

Surprisingly, the same thing happens after we face most types of hardship. Research studies have consistently shown that we tend to adapt to changes in our environment, essentially by getting used to them. It happens on the microscopic level in the retina of your eye when you stare at a bright object. It also happens on a more global level when you experience a sudden change in your life for the better or the worse.

We adapt to the things that remain consistent in our lives, even if we did not mean to. What does this mean for your relationships? Does it mean you should come and go, disappearing and reappearing in your man’s life? Not exactly.

Here’s what I think. Men enjoy women who have other things going on in their lives. It’s actually more pleasurable to be required to pursue someone just a little bit in order to enjoy their company. Let me give you an example to illustrate this point.

Jeffrey comes home every night to find Jill sitting on the couch, anticipating a discussion of each other’s day before they turn to their routine of watching television together for several hours. It’s the same thing every night. They both love each other very much, but this constant routine has dulled the excitement of the relationship.

Contrast this with the lives of Peter and Jenna. They are both active socially with their respective groups of friends, and they also enjoy spending time with mutual friends as a couple. They both have hobbies they pursue independently, and a few hobbies they enjoy together. When Peter wants to go on a date with Jenna, he cannot assume she will be available. He has to ask, “Jenna, are you available Friday night if we wanted to go catch that new movie?” Jenna’s response is, “I have rehearsals that night, but I’d really like to do something fun with you this weekend. Could we do it Saturday night?

Jenna doesn’t come and go from Peter’s life. She is consistently loving, and she puts him at the highest priority when it comes to her commitments and relationships. However, she is not a hand resting on his knee. She finds the balance between spending time with Peter and pursuing other avenues for enjoying life.

habituation in relationshipsWe are all different. Some of us men are more introverted and really do prefer larger amounts of time with the one person we have a deep and intimate relationship with. Some men don’t have that many friends or hobbies. Yet the principle remains the same. You just have to adjust it to the individual personality of the man you are dating. You still come and go, but the “going” part is less frequent for a man who feels happiest staying at home with his best friend (you).

There’s another reason I recommend you come and go. It has to do with you rather than your relationship with him. You will be a more vibrant human being when your relationship needs are met through varied channels. I believe there is truth in the adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

When you diversify the way you spend your time and energy, you grow in a more balanced way as a human being. It’s kind of like the advice given to authors who are told they should read widely from a variety of genres rather than sticking with only the type of literature they read and research themselves. There’s a sort of cross pollination that just happens to be healthy for both, you and your relationship when you spread out your social energy.

These blog articles are meant to be helpful for you, stimulating your thinking in ways that improve your world of relationships. To that end, allow me to leave you with a question. How is your balance? Do you have a good balance between romantic pursuits and nonromantic pursuits with your time and energy?

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