brett fish and tbV on bench

Note, this is remarkably different from “be incontinent” so try not to get confused. [in fact to be honest one of the definitions listed was “Not restrained; uncontrolled” and i am going to be speaking to exactly the opposite of that…]

At the point of writing this, my wife aka the beautiful Val, is currently in Americaland while i am still in South Africa [that is about to change in 5 days time though, can’t wait!] and if all i was going to say in this post was ‘be on the same continent’ then most of you could probably skip this one and move on to the next one – being on the same continent is something the majority of married couples seem to get right most of the time.

But what i am really wanting to be speaking into is the idea of being present, because there might be times when physically you are around your partner, but because of where you are in your mind [distracted] or your body [watching tv, sending a text] you may as well be on a different continent. You might feel like you have given your partner important time that you could have spent being somewhere else or doing something else [which you might be inclined to tell them – don’t!] but for them it might feel like you weren’t really all that interested or invested in what they were saying.


There may be times when this is not possible or easy – you might be in the middle of fixing a very delicate piece of equipment as your wife comes to have a chat with you or be watching the final two minutes of extra time in the World Cup Soccer final with your side 1-0 but making a monumental counter-attack down the field… and in those cases it might be good to ask for a few minutes first to quickly finish what you are doing before you give your attention. But for the most part when your person wants to speak to you, try as far as possible to stop what you are doing, to look them in the eyes and give them your full attention while they speak to you. This could be for really important conversations or it could be while your wife tells you how her shopping trip went, but the more times you actually stop what you are doing, put things you are busy with down and sit and look her in the eyes and pay attention to what she is saying, the more loved she will feel. [Especially if you are able to pull yourself away from an important game or activity – it communicates “You are important to me and i want to give you my full attention!”]


There is nothing that says “I am listening to you” more directly than eye contact. If at all possible [and it usually is] look at your person when they are speaking to you. If it is necessary to hold them with a “just a moment” so you can put aside your phone, turn the tv off, walk to where they are standing or sit next to them, then do it and look them in the eyes and say, “What is it you wanted to tell me?” This may feel a little awkward if you are not used to doing it, but for most people it can be such a powerful thing. And unlike incontinence this is about being restrained and in control. Be intentional about giving the person you love the knowledge that you care about them and what they have to say. And being present means really listening to what they are saying, not starting to come up with your response half way through their sentence. Listen to the end and then respond.

turn cellphone to silent


Different people feel differently on this one, but i feel so completely strongly about it that it is worth mentioning. If you meet me for coffee and while we are hanging out your phone rings and you answer it, what that communicates to me is that at that moment, for you, anyone in the whole world [even a wrong number] is more important to you than me. If you want to show me love and that you care about me, you will turn your cellphone off when you have chosen to spend time with me. My buddy Dunc in the past has told me he is expecting a business call and then i don’t mind at all because he has invited my permission and shown me he cares for me that way. If you can turn your phone off for the duration of a movie or church service or business meeting, then please show me i am more important than those things when we have chosen to hang out. Obviously different situations dictate different things [i’m not saying never have your phone on around me]

Being present can be such a hugely significant thing in a relationship. It communicates love and priority, care and attention, focus and intentionality… it says “You are important to me. I care about spending time with you. I am interested in what you have to say.”

if you’re feeling brave, go and ask your spouse on a scale of one [being completely distant] to ten [being absolutely present and involved] how would they rate you? this might bring about some frightening results, but it may provide a catalyst to help you start working on an aspect of your relationship that could really use it.

[to continue on to Rich E’s one way to love your spouse better with an excellent activity on listening, click here]