The Operating Manual for the Self tm
CIA in Relationships: Capable, Interested, Available
Let’s start with interest, for without real interest there is no motivation to make oneself available. Without interest and availability, there is no possibility of a relationship.
Interest is shown by the amount of time spent participating in an activity or interacting with a person. More time indicates more interest. Less time indicates less interest. While a person may say that there is a level of interest, observing how he invests his time may tell a different story. So to evaluate interest, let’s look at the following questions.
How much time does this person give to the relationships with the people in her life? How much time does he spend with you? Which people does a person spend the most time with? Are they family or friends? Is their time evenly divided? All of us engage in different interests: sports, reading, TV, internet, shopping, computer gaming, and exercising are only a few examples. If a person spends a lot of their time with their hobbies, there is clearly a lot of interest in them. After time is spent on hobbies, how much time is left over for people?
How much time does a person spend at work? Does he invest a reasonable amount of time in his work? Does she invest so much time in her work that other relationships in her life suffer? Would you consider this person a ‘workaholic’? People in relationships with workaholics often feel abandoned and angry.
Other measures of interest include: what we pay attention to, what we focus on, and what we allow to capture our interest. When you are with this person, is he paying attention to you, or is she distracted by other things? Some of the many distractions that can interfere with spending satisfying time together are the cell phone, children, TV, internet, and newspapers. If your partner is preoccupied with work, he may be physically present but is not paying attention to you. With so many things calling for our attention, we have to make an effort, a conscious choice, to avoid such distractions and to pay attention to the relationships that are important to us.
Finally, interest in a person is demonstrated if we think about that person when they are not with us. Buying cards and gifts for them, making a phone call, and texting or emailing, expresses this interest.
If interest in a relationship persists, then commitment often develops. Commitment says: “I will continue our contact and our connection, for a period of time in the future.” Making a commitment means that a person will not leave his partner even though conflict, dissatisfaction or trouble, occur. There is a willingness to resolve conflict and to work through issues. Commitment means that even if interest temporarily wanes, we will continue with the relationship even though we may not feel like it at the moment.
Often, the length of a commitment is not clearly stated, with the exception of ‘until death do us part’. This level of commitment scares many people, and is viewed with confusion and ambivalence. Ambivalence says: “I want it and I don’t want it”, at the same time. Ambivalence can be painful, so that even if there is strong interest, a person may avoid making a commitment to a relationship out of ambivalence.
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