Hello? Is anybody there?


Have you ever had that experience with your spouse when he or she seems so distracted that you wonder if they are having an out-of-body episode? You suddenly realise that everything you’ve just said has simply floated off into the ether and not a word made an impact.

Most times, we find this amusing – we playfully tease each other about being so ‘spacey’ – maybe we threaten a raunchy striptease if it happens again (much to the horror of any adolescents in earshot).

But sometimes it hurts, especially if it’s part of an ongoing pattern. We feel neglected, irrelevant, and unimportant to the other.

In the words of parenting expert Justin Coulson, “attention is also the currency of relationships”. Attention powerfully communicates love; when someone gives us their focused attention we feel deeply loved and valued. It works for children, and it’s absolutely essential for a healthy marriage.

Attention Quotient

And yet, how often do we actually give our spouses our full attention? Here’s an inventory to help you evaluate your ‘Attention Quotient’.

A. When you first reunite at the end of a day apart…

  1. You usually don’t even notice the other has arrived home.
  2. You say a ‘Hi’ over your shoulder as you continue with your task.
  3. You give each other a quick kiss and keep going.
  4. You stop, pause, embrace warmly, and connect for a few minutes.

B. When your spouse wants to speak with you, typically…

  1. You resent it because it’s interrupting you.
  2. You respond quickly so you can get back to what you were doing.
  3. You listen, but you’re somewhat distracted.
  4. You stop, put aside what you were doing, look your spouse in the eye and listen intently for the message behind the words.

C. In a typical work day, the amount of time you give your full attention to your spouse would be…

  1. Less than 30 seconds.
  2. A minute or two.
  3. Five to ten minutes.
  4. Anything from 15 minutes to an hour.

D. When you go out for a coffee together, typically…

  1. You’re checking your phone for messages or reading the paper.
  2. You sit silently side by side with both looking out at passer-bys.
  3. You talk about general stuff or have a planning meeting.
  4. You talk personally about your dreams and heartaches of the past week.

E. When it comes to having a date, in a typical month…

  1. We don’t have dates… we’ve got young children to care for.
  2. Can’t remember the last time we had a date, but would be nice.
  3. Maybe once or twice a month.
  4. We grab a date whenever we can, even if it’s only at home for 15 minutes after the kids are in bed.

F. When your spouse wants to be close to you…

  1. You brush him/her off, with a ‘later’… that never happens
  2. You give him/her a quick hug and kiss and move on
  3. You give him/her a smoochy kiss for a minute or so
  4. You pull him/her into the pantry (or other private spot) so you can make out.

Add up your score, the points you get is indicated by the numbering.


Authors: Francine & Byron Pirola

For more resources on marriage, check out smartloving.org


This article featured in the October 2012 edition of the CathFamily e-Magazine. For more articles and activites, check out:


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Francine and Byron Pirola

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CathFamily is an initiative of the Parish & Marriage Resource Centre (PMRC) Australia.. The PMRC Relationship Education Foundation is a registered charity that supports marriage and relationship education activities. All donations in Australia over $2 are tax deductable. All of the administrative work of the Foundation is provided by volunteers and other support infrastructure is ‘gifted’ by other organisations.