Checking In For Better Or Worse – Attunement and Trust

In Love, Sex, and Relationships by Dr. Keith Witt

Happy couples often enjoy checking in with each other throughout the day. They’ll text, call, email just to have contact—very much like monkeys who can spend up to 70% of their waking hours grooming each other. We’re really smart monkeys who find checking in to be a mostly pleasurable form of social grooming. I call this happy-checking-in. Happy Couple Mature Sometimes happy-checking-in turns unhappy. An anxious or suspicious spouse uses happy-checking-in channels (text, phone, Facebook), and even “I love you” words, but something feels wrong. When worry or lack of trust drives a checker, resentful compliance or rebellion will usually arise in the checkee. I call this unhappy-checking-in. If a checking-in contact feels strained and unsatisfying to the checker, it will probably feel irritating to the checkee, which won’t soothe the checker, which…. What’s the difference between happy and unhappy checking in? Attunement and trust. Attunement is a heightened awareness of ourselves and our surroundings, filled with acceptance and caring intent. When I’m attuned to myself I’m aware of what I’m sensing, feeling, thinking, judging, and wanting, at this moment. I can tell love from fear and anger. When I’m attuned to you I focus on what you might be sensing, feeling, thinking, judging, and wanting. I want to understand and please you, and can feel the nuances of your reactions to me. Trust is vital to happy-check-ins. If I trust myself, I can create support without seeking rescue. If I trust you, I never need to check up on you; I only need to reach out and check in when it feels right. If we trust each other we can communicate honestly, and believe our spouse’s explanations about why some check-ins are welcome and some are not. What to do with unhappy-checking-in people? The short answer is become happy-checking-in people. This usually requires growth—expanding understanding and compassion. Talk about unsatisfying checking in with your spouse, your friends, and therapists if necessary. Ask them to help you be a happy-checking-in couple, and follow advice that feels right and healthy. When we receive influence to grow, we blossom everybody, and blossoming people tend to be happy-checking-in partners. Click HERE to watch the Therapist in the Wild video about the differences between healthy and unhealthy checking-in for couples.