Now You See Me, Now You Don’t.

habituation in relationshipsA philosopher by the name of Alan Watts once said, “If you put your hand on the knee of a beautiful woman and leave it there, she’ll cease to notice it. But if you gently pat her on the knee, she’ll know you’re still there. This is because you come and go. Now you see me, now you don’t.”

There’s truth in that. Many women have confided in me about their true desires for a romantic relationship. Very often their description includes something along these lines: “I want us to be together all the time, like two halves of an inseparable whole.”

It doesn’t work out very well for the very reason alluded to by Alan Watts. Any constant stimulus is subject to the brain’s capacity for adaptation. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Have you ever stared at a fluorescent green object for ten seconds and then looked at a white wall? If you have, you know what I’m going to say next. Magically, a fluorescent pink silhouette appears in your vision as you stare at the blank wall.

Why does this happen? This is because of habituation. Your eye begins to adapt to the bright colors of the fluorescent green, causing you to perceive the opposite color when the fluorescent green object is suddenly removed from your persistent gaze.

It’s the same thing that happens when someone gets rich. For a short period of time, they bask in the wealth, enjoying the sudden opulence and many benefits in brings. However, after a short period of time, the feeling of happiness fades because being wealthy becomes normal.

Surprisingly, the same thing happens after we face most types of hardship. Research studies have consistently shown that we tend to adapt to changes in our environment, essentially by getting used to them. It happens on the microscopic level in the retina of your eye when you stare at a bright object. It also happens on a more global level when you experience a sudden change in your life for the better or the worse.

We adapt to the things that remain consistent in our lives, even if we did not mean to. What does this mean for your relationships? Does it mean you should come and go, disappearing and reappearing in your man’s life? Not exactly.

Here’s what I think. Men enjoy women who have other things going on in their lives. It’s actually more pleasurable to be required to pursue someone just a little bit in order to enjoy their company. Let me give you an example to illustrate this point.

Jeffrey comes home every night to find Jill sitting on the couch, anticipating a discussion of each other’s day before they turn to their routine of watching television together for several hours. It’s the same thing every night. They both love each other very much, but this constant routine has dulled the excitement of the relationship.

Contrast this with the lives of Peter and Jenna. They are both active socially with their respective groups of friends, and they also enjoy spending time with mutual friends as a couple. They both have hobbies they pursue independently, and a few hobbies they enjoy together. When Peter wants to go on a date with Jenna, he cannot assume she will be available. He has to ask, “Jenna, are you available Friday night if we wanted to go catch that new movie?” Jenna’s response is, “I have rehearsals that night, but I’d really like to do something fun with you this weekend. Could we do it Saturday night?

Jenna doesn’t come and go from Peter’s life. She is consistently loving, and she puts him at the highest priority when it comes to her commitments and relationships. However, she is not a hand resting on his knee. She finds the balance between spending time with Peter and pursuing other avenues for enjoying life.

habituation in relationshipsWe are all different. Some of us men are more introverted and really do prefer larger amounts of time with the one person we have a deep and intimate relationship with. Some men don’t have that many friends or hobbies. Yet the principle remains the same. You just have to adjust it to the individual personality of the man you are dating. You still come and go, but the “going” part is less frequent for a man who feels happiest staying at home with his best friend (you).

There’s another reason I recommend you come and go. It has to do with you rather than your relationship with him. You will be a more vibrant human being when your relationship needs are met through varied channels. I believe there is truth in the adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

When you diversify the way you spend your time and energy, you grow in a more balanced way as a human being. It’s kind of like the advice given to authors who are told they should read widely from a variety of genres rather than sticking with only the type of literature they read and research themselves. There’s a sort of cross pollination that just happens to be healthy for both, you and your relationship when you spread out your social energy.

These blog articles are meant to be helpful for you, stimulating your thinking in ways that improve your world of relationships. To that end, allow me to leave you with a question. How is your balance? Do you have a good balance between romantic pursuits and nonromantic pursuits with your time and energy?


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76 thoughts on “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t.

  1. I was common law with a man for over 9 years and what worked for us was I was independant with my job, friends, family, hobbies. He was the kind of man that had his own interests, friends, family too. He didnt want me to be stuck to him at the hip and neither did I. It makes for a better relationsip if you both have other activities going on in your life and I wouldnt have wanted it any other way. You both need to do your own thing. If he was straying its not because I wasnt there for him because that would happen anyhow. If you are happy with the relationship and secure then it will survive if other things come into the picture. I dont think its healthy if you are both together 24/7.

  2. IM said:

    That’s not true! Men don’t like when women is focused on her hobbies and/or her activities! I know this from huge experiences, from the very first second, as soon as men sense or feels that women is happy and fulfilled, having other things to do outside a relationship, any of her personal things: hobbies, job, work, duties, responsibilities, friends, family, helping others, studies, socializing, taking care of herself, -men gets upset and they don’t like it, I’m not joking! They really don’t like it! (I can sense this instantly in his body language, the way he gives a look, the way he moves or freezes himself! -not knowing what he should do, the way he treats or don’t woman, even the way he breathe, attitude changes and above all he feels “I cannot make her happy, I’m worthless, I cannot cope with her to be so great as she is!”: how the hell on earth I can make this woman happy if she is already happy on her own, what can I give her to make her happy if she already having everything, she doesn’t perceive me as the one who can make her happy and therefore I cannot feel she needs me for making her happy so I’m useless here etc…, basically translates as: man wants to have the best and great woman for a partner but I soon as he meets one like that he feels threatened by her greatness, he instantly feels less worthy, afraid not being able to cope with her, so at the second of this realization he prefers to have a women who is less worthy and low then he, so he can use these as a base for building his personal feeling of superiority and self-importance! and consequently he passes to another women hopping to find the one who will focus on HIM only and not her), Even though I wish to include a man in my life, man sense that he is not the only ONE for me and therefore he cannot get his Pride of God in my eyes, even though I crave to perceive my man in this way and I CRAVE to give my MAN that, I truly and deeply want to see my man as the God as the One, but throughout a time, when he becomes THE ONE! But the funny thing is that man does not even try to earn IT, to deserve THIS! They prefer to give up and move to next woman – searching for an easy access to get his PRIDE by giving so little – barely noticing.

    • James Bauer said:

      I’m sorry to hear you have had such negative experiences.

      • Karoline said:

        I have also experienced this many times where the man dislikes you having hobbies and interests, these guys often display narsacistic qualities (but not necessarily have a personality disorder), how can I stop being attracted to these men (I think I am on my way with this as I can now spot it straight away) but more importantly how can I stop attracting them to me? (I am currently online dating and these are the only guys that message me. On dates they only talk about themselves and ask me nothing). Any advice?

      • James Bauer said:

        Hi Karoline. It’s an unfortunate truth that the kind of guy everyone wants to be with gets snatched up rather quickly. The narcissistic type men (who talk only about themselves) go in and out of relationships (because their relationships rarely last for long). As a result, there are more of these guys out there looking for relationships at any given time.

        So you do, unfortunately, have to wade through those people in search of the guys who are emotionally healthy. Now that you have recognized the pattern and become sensitive enough to recognize the negative traits, you’ll be able to quickly dismiss the wrong kind of man.

        One shortcut for online dating has to do with advertising the kinds of qualities that may repel a narcissistic type of man. Talk about your hobbies. Mention some of the ways you would want your romantic partner to serve you. This will not repel a man who is interested in the best kind of romance. But it will repel the wrong kind of man.

    • N H said:

      Hi IM…..seems you have found yourself ending up in unhealthy relationships. At this point, I would suggest that you write down a list of how you want a relationship to be in order for it to make both you and the man in your life happy. Also write down a list of qualities in a man that has to be there for him to be the right one for you, and a list of qualities you have or should have in order to make that man happy with you. Then you know what you want, and you know that you will turn your back on any relationship that does not fill your or his needs. I know for a fact that there are men out there perfect for you, and when you know what you want, it will be easier for you to spot them. Never ever believe that your bad experiences represent relationships and men in general, Wish you lots of luck and happiness.

    • Michelle said:

      I too have a spouse that is the same way. I have tried to go do things on my own for my own enjoyment/enrichment and almost every time he has retaliated afterward with passive/aggressive actions; showing his jealousy and insecurity that I had to go outside of our relationship for entertainment/personal satisfaction. How do I help him see that this is unfair to me?

    • EleSun said:

      From what you said here your experience may be somewhat similar to mine. I got over that kind of issue. Here are some clues.

      Watch out, it seems like you are looking for a God-like man. That’s an idealization and idolization, and therefore an illusion. Men are humans, just like yourself. It seems you are attracting men who has God-like self perception, aka arrogant and with personal and relationship issues. So results are backwards.

      No human is perfect. You say you want God, and then you say you want him to earn it. Gods wouldn’t need to earn their status, they are Gods by default. If you want man to earn the status of God you ask too much from a normal emotionally healthy man.

      Think what happened, the reason you stared idealizing men and how it affects the dynamics of your choices of men and then relationships. It happened to me too. It may be too hard to do it on your own, you may want some qualified help to untangle the deep buried pains of the past. It is to simply get help with realization where is the catch(es) in your thinking and perception patterns. Or story will repeat itself again and again.

      You are attracted to a “strong” men. You think they are strong. Those are not. They have serious self-esteem issues, so they need to protect the self at other people’s expense. Truly strong men don’t have that need. They know their own weaknesses and ok with them. They are real. And that makes them strong. And it also makes them caring and understanding, loving, lovable and fun.

      So look into yourself first. You may be in for a surprise.

      Good luck my dear. It will take time. Get help to speed it up. But the efforts are so worth it!

      • EleSun said:

        There are most likely more to that, simply sharing my own experience. Hope it helps in some way.

      • Karoline said:

        Thank you very much for this, something my councillor identified just this week, how I put the man on a pedestal (possibly so I can knock him down). I just need to get to the bottom of why and how to be attracted to other, less narsacistic qualities (very hard to change what turns you on!). But I’m working on it…..

  3. johanny said:

    Wow James thank you! I’ve heard thing concept and never got it’ actually felt very annoyed by it each time I read it. But I finally got it. It makes total sense now, thanks!

  4. June said:

    James,

    I will and thanks so much for your timely advice.

    June

  5. June said:

    James, surprise surprise! Yesterday was my sons graduation and he joined us at the school. He actually got there before me. We went out afterwards in the evening with my son n daughter. He is taking us out for lunch this afternoon.
    He actually cancelled a business trip for this.
    Even though I did not tell him what I plan to say.
    Pls do you think there is hope?
    He was confessing his love for me throughout.
    June

    • James Bauer said:

      I think time and patience will be the best teacher at this point, June. Give him some time to see if this improvement persists over several weeks (like 6 weeks).

      • Melissa said:

        James, your responses and articles are so full of insight and wisdom. I always enjoy reading them. And I really appreciate how you take time to answer questions. Thank you! I appreciate you and what you do very much.

      • James Bauer said:

        I wish there were more encouraging people like you in the world, Melissa. Thanks for your kind words.

  6. June said:

    Thanks James
    Am so relieved. We haven’t heard from each other about a week now. Can I wait for his call or when he text again to let him know this?

    Pls let me hear from you soon.

    June

    • James Bauer said:

      Yeah. I think that makes sense given the situation.

  7. June said:

    James, thks for your timely response. He use to work as an aviation consultant. And now trying to set up a new airline. His work schedule sometimes are in the afternon till whatever time he chooses to close. And I work from 8am to 5PM. I know meeting on weekdays seems somehow impossible. What of the weekends. If he can get time over the weekends why can’t he find just a little time for our relationship if is so important to him? As he stated “there are challenges that we both need to work on in order to move this relationship forward”. Don’t u think he isn’t interested but finds it hard to tell me?
    The excuses to me are so many. Looking forward to your advice. From June

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi June. If he cannot or will not find time for the relationship, there is no relationship. You have reached a place where you have nothing to lose by telling him you need more from him if he has any interest in pursuing things with you. You have nothing to lose because if he doesn’t like that, you won’t see him, which is what is already happening.

    • Svetlana said:

      Hi June,
      I was reading your message here and could not help but say something about your situation. I think you already know the answer for yourself. You said first time “he doesn’t keep his word with me which makes me think he is not all that into me” and the second time you confirmed it by saying “he isn’t interested but finds it hard to tell me”. If we follow our own gut feelings and trust our self more, we can find all the answers we need. Please trust yourself and take care of Yourself first.

      Sincerely,

      Lana.

  8. June said:

    Have a similar situation. Have gone on 2 dates. That was in April. All other plans to go out again failed bcos he was busy at work. setting up a new project. Even though we chatted a lot afterwards he became distant for 2weeks which I gave him that space. He texted to say we need to work on some challenges on order to move the relationship forward which I agreed but said we need to communicate more often if we can’t see each other and he agreed. The next day I sent him a text of greetings but no response. So I left it like that . But he called me last Sunday to say its true that he said there are some challenges we need to work on but we not talking and keeping each other in suspense is not good. He promised that we will spend sometime together this weekend but haven’t heard from him since n I haven’t called either so it doesn’t seem am needy. My problem is he doesn’t keep his word with me which makes me think he is not all that into me. Wants to call it quits. Kindly advice me. He is great guy n fun to be with though. Is it all abt his work. I know there are issues with his girlfriend too they leave apart now. Kindly advice me pls. From June

    • James Bauer said:

      Hi June. There are too many unknowns for me to give you good advice on this situation. However, the advice I do have for you is this. Get more information about his work and his other time obligations so that (1) you can figure out if that is the actual reason for his poor show rate and (2) so you can be more sensitive to his schedule and work with it (assuming it is the real issue).

      Generally speaking, I find people that do not honor other people’s time (e.g. those who are late repeatedly or those who fail to show up) tend to be people who are a little on the selfish side. This is not always the case as some people really do have serious problems keeping themselves organized, but as a general rule it seems true more often than not in my experience.

      James

  9. Cherie said:

    James is cool,GO jAMES

  10. shirley said:

    James,thank you for insight. Your messages are so welcomed.

  11. b said:

    I’ve been dating this guy for 6 months. Things were going great! I have a 6 year old daughter and he has 2 kids (10 & 12). We’ve all hung out and got along fairly well. We went to the beach last week and my guy totally withdrew…. And he won’t talk to me about it. He just says he’s busy with work, etc… It’s been almost a week and i’ve been giving him space but the waiting for him to reach out to me is killing me…. What do I do?

    • James Bauer said:

      Give him space. I know it’s hard, especially after feeling a growing connection, but if you want to do what will improve your irresistible qualities, give him space. Men often pull away when something needs their attention in one of their “missions.” For men, something at work can completely derail the mental energy they have for even a great relationship. Women who recognize this ebb and flow and work with it find themselves with guys who are crazy about them and want to keep moving forward.

  12. Fauzia said:

    So true and SO important. Just the other day day, my boyfriend told me that one of the things he really likes about me is that I am busy and have hobbies. We both enjoy each others friends and our mutual friends and also the quiet times we get to spend together on the weekend, since we live about an hour apart. He likes including me in his interests, and I love sharing things with him he is not aware of ( we are 17 years apart in age – I’m the older one) and it feels like our life together is made doubly rich by all the adventures we bring to each other.

    • James Bauer said:

      Exactly. Good example. Thanks.

  13. I really appreciate your service to relationships. I love your articles. I tell my friends about you as well and I have purchased your online literature. You are a TRUE servant. Thank you, James!

    • James Bauer said:

      Thank you for supporting my work!

  14. Ludah said:

    The very best is that you know your stand and you have your both interests to balance and sustain your relationship needs with your life area. I can imagine to be always and every where with your partner.

  15. Diane Monte said:

    I could not agree with you more. I was married for 33 years and raised two children, and worked full time most of those years. I always made a point of maintaining close ties with my girlfriends and made time for “girls night out”. I also made time for myself and consistently worked out at either a gym or jazzercise. But I always made time to play golf or go dancing with my honey. Sadly, my honey died five years ago and I was devastated. If it were not for my friends and my own sense of self, it may have been more than I could handle. However, my story has a very happy ending and includes a wonderful man who has brought me more happiness than I could have ever imagined. It’s VERY important to keep a sense of balance and optimism for one never knows what life has in store for us.

    P.S. I find your blogs extremely interesting and informative. Thank you so much! Diane M.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s encouraging and is great advice. My ex-husband and I were the opposite and it really took a toll on my health mentally and physically, it was kind of a toxic relationship anyway. After 13 years, and two kids, we finally decided to divorce. It’s amazing how great I feel these days now that I’m back to pursuing my own interests and living a more balanced life. I’m happy and, as a result, my kids are too. It also shows on the outside to everyone around me, to my friends and family, and also the great guy I’m getting to know. : )

      I’m definitely planning on maintaining that balance in my next long-term relationship, so I don’t sacrifice my happiness again. Encouragement to everyone…LIVE your life, take care of you first, then others. After all we only get one life to live and the joy or sorrow you live out will most definitely effect you and others around you! Namaste.

    • Sally Sunday said:

      Beautiful story!!!

  16. Odette said:

    …. he wants you to be his siren…. not his slave!

    🙂 It follows that if you honour yourself by pursuing things that are enriching for you, then it relieves him of the responsibility, but also causes him to honour you as well…..

  17. Excellent article, James! This is very true, and the best part is it benefits both people in any relationship (not just romantic). It follows the same principle of giving and receiving in other areas of our lives: if you only give you are left empty. If you only receive you are overfilled and no longer able to appreciate the gift whether it be time or anything else.

  18. Deborah Gomez said:

    I love it! It so very true, sometimes hard to do, but it is necessary.

  19. Thank you very much, James. You insights are thought provoking and invaluable to me. I appreciate your thoughtfulness in your writing.

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