Attention vs Investment in Relationships

When we pay attention to something we notice it, we see it, we focus on it but that does not indicate, in any way, how we feel about it. We may pay attention to something that may potentially harm us or help us, for example we may pay attention to other cars on the road or to how someone is cooking something delicious for us - the attention itself does not indicate our feeling about what it is we are paying attention to merely that we are paying attention.
Attention can be paid to something that upsets us, something that makes us feel afraid, angry or ambivalent. Equally, attention can be paid to something that excites us, makes us feel ecstatic or happy. 

Investment is different, it means we are investing time, energy, money etc into something or someone with the hope of a 'return'. When we invest in our relationships we do so in the hope of the outcome we desire - we may desire intimacy, connection, sex, happiness, fun, partnership, companionship & more & we invest in our relationships in order to continue to reap those rewards. When I talk about investment I'm talking about what we give, what we offer, what we put into the shared 'pot' of our relationship. 


People can, however, often confuse attention for investment. Just because someone is paying us attention, perhaps focusing 100% of their attention in the moment, we may feel that indicates or equals investment when it doesn't necessarily. That said, attention can feel delicious, it can feel wonderful to be the focus of another person's attention, we feel special in that moment, seen, noticed - and we all want that, on some level to some degree - but we shouldn't mistake that attention for investment.


Investment takes time, energy & maybe money. Investment is spending time together, building shared memories, listening, asking questions & being curious about each other. Investment requires the cultivation of trust in each other, a deepening intimacy over time, investment has an agenda or goal beyond the present moment whereas attention may only be this moment right now.


As with any aspect of any relationship, noticing our own & the behaviour of the other person is key. Ask questions, be curious instead of making assumptions & be mindful not to confuse attention for investment.

Last updated 02/07/22