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First attraction

My favourite talk show question was Caroline Aherne (as Mrs Merton) asking Debbie McGee “What first attracted you, Debbie, to the multi-millionaire Paul Daniels?” Here at One:Retreat we are interested in hearing couples tell the story of how they met. There is something about telling that narrative that enables them to get in touch with the initial emotions, excitements, intrigues and desires that attracted them to one another and first drew them together.

My partner Tracey, and I, recently tried an activity where, after twenty years of being together, we both wrote down a list of 5 things that initially attracted us to one another.  Here is sneak at our answers:

My list about Tracey:

Her dancing (we met at a club night)

Her spontaneity

Her style and fashion

She was fully present in the moment

She was tactile.

Tracey’s list about me:                   

My shoes!

Topics of conversation

My dancing

That I made her laugh

That I was open & reflective

We found this activity to be incredibly illuminating but also challenging

Familiarity can breed contempt

It was fascinating to find, and to admit, that there were things on each other’s lists that we once found attractive, but can now often be sources of irritation. For example, I can often find Tracey’s spontaneity & ‘presence in the moment’ as making her unpredictable, unreliable and often late! Whilst she can find my humour tedious and my levels of reflection self indulgent, as I disappear into my own naval.

It’s ironic that there are things that first drew us to each other that we have, at best, become weary of and, at worst, tried to change in each other. Apart from the reality that in 20 years we never have, and I suspect never will, have the power to change each other. Moreover, why would we want to change those things that we found inherently attractive in one another? This poses the question – how can we work on re-framing aspects of each other’s characters that we have become frustrated with and learn to love them again (or at least learn to appreciate them or find them endearing again!).

Losing Touch With Ourselves

It is easy for all of us to get a little battle weary and jaded at times. We can lose touch with ourselves, and lose something of the spark that makes us feel truly alive. I found it sobering to hear Tracey’s description that when we first met, my style (apparently you could tell by the shoes!) and my dancing were genuine sparks. These days I struggle to remember the last time I danced and my clothes have certainly become more function over style. Looking further into her list I am certainly less open, maybe even guarded at times, and my topics of conversation are often more predictable, maybe even lazy!

I have recently read Miranda Sawyer’s excellent book ‘Out of Time’ in which she argues that in your middle years you should think about what you liked doing in your teens and early twenties “that time when you are all over the shop but you are brave and are instinctively pushing for what you want, for what you enjoy”. Perhaps getting in touch with my (younger) self wouldn’t just do me a favour it might just help re-kindle something of what Tracey initially found attractive in me too. If this resonates you can read some extracts from Sawyer’s book here

So why not try grabbing a glass of something and making a list with your partner of what first attracted you to each other. You may just find that it re-kindles something and provides an interesting challenge for yourself, your partner and your relationship.

Richard Elliott

Husband, father, teacher, coach & philanthropist. Richard is a director of Pickwell Manor Ltd and a founder of the Pickwell Foundation – a grant making charitable trust focusing on displaced people and climate change. He has a Diploma in Business, Executive & Life Coaching and a background in Post 16 Education in which he taught and managed Social Science subjects. He has a particular interest in how values shape individuals, relationships, families and organisations.