I’m watching a couple through the window of a coffee shop. They are standing at a bus stop in a crowd of people but seem to be the only ones there. They seem to be the only ones there and my eye is drawn to them and sticks like glue.
I watch them for a quarter of an hour. I like to people watch. As a couples counselor, I especially like to watch couples. Body language can reveal so much about a couple, and this couple is no exception. The couple is standing, facing each other, a few feet apart. They never touch each other – hands remain in pockets or at their sides. They never touch each other yet are incredibly connected through their eye gaze, which has them attached for this entire time. I never once see them take their eyes off the other. Not once in fifteen minutes. Wait, that’s not quite true. Whenever a bus pulls up, one of them glances up to check the route, then like a bee to the flower goes back to the other. They are looking at each other, gazing into each other’s eyes, laughing, talking, keeping that eye contact.
Why is my eye drawn to this couple like glue, so much so that I can’t take my own gaze off of them for fifteen minutes, until their bus arrives? So what, a couple is waiting at a bus stop. It’s the eye gaze that makes the difference here. I don’t often see couples engage for so long in this way.
The thing is, eye contact can make such a difference in relationships, and so often we simply don’t engage in it much with our partners. We’re busy, we’re running from here to there, we have lists of stuff to do and people to care for and errands to run and email to check and so much to do around the house, and when we get home from work, we’re tired and we need to get moving on all of this stuff that needs to get done and especially we need some down time in front of our computers or phones or Netflix. Eye contact with our partner is at the bottom of our list, if it is even on it at all – and let’s face it, it isn’t on many lists.
Well, of course, at the start of our relationships, we may have spent many a minute staring into our new partner’s eyes over coffee or a meal. But it was new love. Who has time for that now?
I encourage you to do a little experiment, to try this one thing. Set aside some time with your partner when you won’t have any distractions. You could sit at your kitchen table together, or on the couch. You could go to a coffee shop together, or heck, take a bus somewhere. Take some time to look into your partner’s eyes with intention – the intention to connect, to see the other, to share some time of joining. Look into your partner’s eyes with intention while you talk about your day, while you tell them about your dream last night or ask about theirs, while you remember the early days of your relationship together. Look into your partner’s eyes with intention and leave some time for silence. What comes up for you?
This isn’t a staring contest. It’s okay to look away when you feel the need to. It’s okay to even close your eyes. I sometimes utilize this exercise in my office to see what comes up for couples, because things do come up.
You might get a warm glow. You might feel extra connected. You might feel teary and touched to your core. You also might feel slightly uncomfortable or even triggered – that this intimacy is too much. Because it is a very intimate time. Eyes are traditionally the windows into our souls. We need to feel safe to be seen.
I encourage you to try this and see if it makes a difference in your relationship. If you both feel more connected and seen, you might want to set aside daily or weekly time for this practice. And if stuff comes up, you can use it as a learning opportunity for your relationship and process it with each other. (And if you need help with this, there are many couples counselors out there who would love to support you.)
Happy eye gazing! Just try it and see.