It’s normal to view your partner in a new light after the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship comes to a close—you may even find yourself focusing on a few irritating habits you didn’t even notice before. But if you start wondering what it is you saw in your significant other in the first place, psychologist Jennice Vilhauer, P.h.D., wants you to consider where you’re placing your attention.
“What a lot of people don’t realise is that what they are seeing has to do with where they are looking, and whatever they look at starts to get bigger in their mind,” she writes on Psychology Today. “The brain has limited attentional capacity, which means it can only focus on a certain number of things at one time. Once your brain is occupied with something, you start to lose awareness of what else is happening around you.”
In other words, your experience is “what you agree to attend to,” in the words of philosopher and psychologist William James, and your relationship is no different. “When you give attention to negative things, it inhibits your ability to see positive things and vice versa,” she explains. “The more you start to give your attention to things that you like about your partner over time, the more you will start to see that person you first fell for, and you will find yourself noticing fewer of the things that are bothering you now.” She recommends the below strategy to refocus your attention and reignite the flame in your relationship.
1. Take a pen and paper, and visualise your partner from early on in your relationship when you started to develop strong feelings. Write down the details of how you felt at that time.
2. Before you go to bed, add three items to the list about what you like about your partner today.
3. Every morning, read the list before you get out of bed, and add three new things you like about your partner.
4. Do this every day for 30 days.