How Much Attention is Enough Attention?

Have you seen the latest comedy special of Ray Romano on Netflix? I love how comedians dissect relationships between men and women. Their observations are spot on I must admit.

Here are two of Romano’s examples. He says, at the beginning we are in the “can do no wrong zone”. We forgive each other all minor lapses and our faults are charming. But when you’re together for a long time, you come to the “can do no right zone” and I hate to admit but he’s right. (My comment usually is: As soon as we become comfortable in our relationship, we also become quite selfish and self-absorbed. We don’t ask any more what can we do for our partner, instead it sneakily turns into the demand of ‘what can (s)he do for me!?’)

So Ray was getting popcorn for his wife, they’re watching TV and he gets up and asks if he can bring her some popcorn from the kitchen because he knows she loves popcorn. But she growls at him there better be enough popcorn! LOL?

And then he talked about attention. How he thought he was out of any danger for the day, that he could do no more wrong in any way because she fell asleep, but then she wakes up and asks what was he doing. “Reading a book.” “But I thought we were going to talk.” – “???…yeah, but you fell asleep…” – “Oh, so the minute I fall asleep, you go and read a book?!”

And then Ray gives the solution and a very accurate answer – if you wanna be on the good side of your woman, have all your attention on HER. And if she falls asleep, you go and do a sketch of her, so when she wakes up, you can go “Look, look, look what I did! I made a sketch of you!”

This isn’t even an exaggeration. We women DO want all the attention on us. There might be exceptions, sure, or there might be women who have given up on getting the attention they crave but I would claim this is exactly how we feel.

Now Ray gave a “solution”, but is it really a solution? How long can even the best of men keep up with that? Perhaps the better question is my favourite one – why do we women need all this attention and why do we become so mean about it later on? And just to be fair to both genders I shall ask – do men need attention as well?

I’ll start with the last one and answer according to my own observation, but you guys please do pitch in with your experience and when I say ‘guys’, I do mean men please. My mother said to me when I was younger “You just keep on praising him for every little thing he does and he’ll be happy like a little kid.” Now this was one of the few useful advices she ever gave, even if it sounded almost a bit mean. We women tend to see men as perpetual boys (and not only make fun of men because of it but kind of lose respect at the same time). Heck, even men say that often about themselves, how they are kids forever, and in that statement I sense a delightful and spiteful defiance to…to what actually? To the world being mean to them? To women not understanding them and not giving them what they need? Or simply out of that notion, resenting having to grow up? Boys or not, I would agree – men need a lot of attention in the form of appreciation. Their need to be enough for this world, to make a woman happy and to manage to please the world around them seems to come from almost a child-like place. But is it wrong because it comes from such a basic place in their souls?

Well, let’s explore our female need for attention. One could argue it comes from that same basic, perhaps child-like place. So why is it ok for us to be so needy in getting attention and not ok for men to look for appreciation? Both is attention, just in a different way. We women care a lot about comments of how we look, which tiles to choose for the bathroom, anything that is important to us should be important to our man.

But here might be the core of our miscommunication – the things which are important to each of us, are so different. And while we women scoff and turn our eyes loudly at the childish delights of our husbands (like comic books, cars, videogames, you name it), we are deeply hurt if his attention is not entirely on us, the wife, the girlfriend, and if they’re not interested in the female “nonsense”.

So back to the question, why do we women need this absolute attention? I’m diving deep into myself to feel the answer… I don’t want to just say how we girls never got the attention we actually needed. That is true by the way and the less attention and more critique or even abuse we got, the needier we might have become in relationships. I know in my case, for decades I felt I needed to fill that gap of feeling loved because I never was. Nothing else mattered. Nothing! Of course looking for a partner from such a place of enormous neediness is never a healthy start to find someone who really suites you. But you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

But perhaps there is a deeper reason for this, buried in our bones. When I dive into the feminine energy, all I can think of is that I want to feel safe. I want to enjoy my capacity for emotions and life and for that I crave the arms of a strong man who would be able to relax me into my most beautiful self. Certain attention from my partner helps create that feeling of safety. No, it’s not enough for him to just be…there, present, sitting on the couch and playing a video game. LOL. I need to know that he sees me, that he loves me, that he’s there for me. In short, I need to feel loved.

Each person feels loved in a different way. Now I don’t know but I wonder – could it be if a woman doesn’t get the feeling of being loved(enough), then she lashes out? Why? Fear runs our lives, perhaps even more so in women than in men. Would the right attention and enough attention calm a woman down? Make her feel safe enough? So if she doesn’t get what she needs…does she become scared? Is that why women become so extra demanding and mean? Or is it just something we learned from our mothers? Maybe both.

(That a woman could give herself a lot of the things she actually needs, that thought doesn’t seem to occur to anyone:))

As I know people though, a) we are not even aware of the possibility that we can’t read each other’s mind, b) we assume our partner needs the same kind of attention as we do, in fact we assume the whole world feels and thinks as we do, duh, c) don’t have the basic knowledge about love, d) even if we had it, we still don’t talk to each other to explain. Because let’s face it, it sounds bizarre to have to explain something so “obvious” to the one we love or who claims he loves us.

Just because someone loves us, doesn’t mean they know what we need. That someone loves us for his reasons, not for the reasons we think. Our partners are not our parents. So NO, our partners are not here to love us in that unconditional way our parents did or should have. Is THAT the core problem? Is this what we expect from a partner, unconditional love we give a child? Newsflash – we aren’t children any more! We might have deficits from our childhood, absolutely. And therefore we act in a very needy way. But if we could stop ourselves for just a second and ask ourselves – what makes me feel loved here and now as an adult? Could you answer that to yourself? Good. Now – can you tell that to your partner?

Let me give you an example where things almost went terribly wrong because I thought it should be sooooo obvious to my man.

Last week my partner got offered a potential contract in Germany and possibly other parts of EU. He was all happy about the prospect of a new adventure and then coming home on some weekends and split the time to see his children and me.

My heart sank. It sank deeply. He was about to go even further away. Not even with a word did he mention he would want me with him.

I wanted to pack my things and run away. Because this is what I do when I don’t feel wanted. It was not a case of feeling rejected. It’s not the same. Just not…wanted.

Then I shook myself and called him.

“Here is something you need to know about women – in particular about me….” I told him what I just told you. And he answered: “I didn’t want to just assume you’d drop everything and come with me. I didn’t want to impose myself.”

“Well, and I didn’t want to impose myself either. So once more out of politeness and being too careful, we could have had a catastrophic result, do you get me? I will just ask bluntly – DO you want me with you?”

“Of course I do! Dasha, will you come with me?”

“Good. Remember – when in doubt, always ‘impose’ yourself on me. Do the opposite – and I might disappear without a word.”

So much for not telling each other what we need. And since I already tend to look for reasons to sabotage a good thing, I always have to overcome my sadness or anger and simply speak my mind or risk losing the relationship!

I believe I’ve mentioned it before, my way of feeling loved is through touch. I need my partner to touch me even if just passing by. It can be on my neck or my bum, I don’t care. He can even slap me hard on my behind, attention is attention, as long as it’s meant lovingly. And if we are enduring a long-distance relationship as we have been these past 8 months? Then he has to make up for it when we see each other and while we are apart, it does help to communicate during the day but it’s not a substitution.

So the question at this point is: if a woman was to get the kind of attention she in particular needs to feel loved, would she feel happier and be less needy and mean in demanding attention non-stop or in grand gestures? I’m not sure. All I can verify is how it worked for me and the answer is, yes, I need less attention than I did before. My partner listened to what I really need and gives it – and THAT in itself, the fact that he took it to heart and I didn’t have to tell him a third time what works for me, that already calmed my heart way down.:)

And the other way around? I read a few years ago what a man in general needs – some solitude and appreciation. I tested the theory and I can only say it works like magic. My partner gained his confidence back within weeks. People saw the difference right away in contrast to his previous relationship where he was abused on a daily basis. He calmed down, became ultra-productive, a joyful person everyone loves to be around. I asked him what makes him feel loved. He couldn’t think of anything because apparently he already got what he needed, mainly me listening to him, taking him seriously. But then he came up with something after all. He wished I would play a video game with him.

And so I did.

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