Eye Contact

One of the sexiest things you can do is look your partner in the eye. I don’t mean some kind of fleeting glance. I mean genuinely lose yourself in her eyes; fall into them and risk losing yourself inside them. Today, we spend most of our time with our eyes glued to distractions: our phones; our laptops; the television. When we are with our partners, we’re pulling in any of myriad directions, and it can start to feel disconnecting and distancing rather than intimate and uniting.

There’s a science to falling in love with someone through eye contact.  More than 20 years ago, a psychologist by the name of Arthur Aron conducted an experiment to see if he could make two people fall in love with each other in his lab.  And the results were surprising. If two people have only a little commonality, but then spent a prescribed amount of time looking deeply into each others eyes, the likelihood of falling in love with that person is surprisingly high.

A year ago now, I had a woman come into my life. We were both were looking for a specific kind of relationship; one that revolved around a dynamic sex life as well as a power-exchange dynamic, where she could safely be submissive in the bedroom and I could be dominant. But after two dates, she was thinking I wasn’t capable of controlling her in that way. She liked the fact that I respected her, but she wasn’t convinced I could be anything other than simply a friend. And while there is a joy to cultivating a friendship, that wasn’t what I wanted. So when she agreed to come down to my apartment for the evening, I told her I wanted four minutes of her time as soon as she arrived.

I arrived at that time because she had taken to saying “good boy” every time I agreed with her. She did it four times in quick succession the day before she was to come down, as well as the day of our date. So I told her I wanted a minute for each of those texts, which really did grate on me. And when she arrived, she thought I was going to do something more extreme than what I did. I sat her at the end of a couch and made her look me in the eye for four minutes. I did this for one simple reason: I’d read her blog about being recently sober, and I knew from what she’d shared that she valued but was nervous about being seen for the person she was. She was learning to be vulnerable in that kind of setting.

What ensued, though, was more profound than what either of us had considered possible. There was a welling up of emotions during that time. We were able to cycle through some feelings of initial discomfort at being so close to each other but not speaking; allowing, instead, the power of our eye contact to carry the conversation for us. There was a amusement at just staring at one another. But then something else happened as those initial nerves and jitters wore down. We fell into a kind of intimacy and disbelief at the connection we were feeling. A couple minutes into the time, she put her hand on my chest, and I put mine on hers. It was a unifying moment that had nothing to do with sex or play or nakedness. It had everything to do with solidifying a connection. And when that time was up, she asked if we could keep going.

Needless to say, we continued.

And that eye contact, now, is part of our routine. When either of us feels off or disconnected, we come back together through quiet time spent simply looking into each other’s eyes.  It’s powerfully grounding as a couple. But it also is empowering as individuals. Each of us feels seen in the space we are. There’s no place to hide or to run. And for both of us, who are predisposed to either running or numbing our feelings, this kind of intimacy is a radical kind of presence.

So the suggestion is something very simple. Eye contact can be ritualized, and it’s a critical component to not only falling in love, but also in staying in love with a partner. The idea is to take just a few minutes each day to stop, be quiet, and to simply see each other as the person we are.  What you’ll find, I’ll bet, is an increased connectivity and validation in the roles you’ve chosen. There’s an appreciation. There’s a deepening desire. There’s more intimacy. And the resulting feeling is that nothing is more important than the person your looking at.

Then next time you’re sitting down for dinner, or before you settle into your evening routines, set aside 5 minutes and agree to power off the cell phones, turn off the television, and remove the distractions. Focus on the person you’re with, and let that person also accept you for who you are. There’s a good bet you’ll prove Dr. Aron’s studies, and create a surprisingly deep connection.

Robert F. James is a lecturer in creative writing at San Jose State University. He’s been a professional writer his entire adult life, and his writings primarily focus on the challenges of modern masculinity. He lives on a small hobby farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, where he raises chickens, rabbits, and ducks while managing a small garden. He’s been a Sailor, a pastor, a television and radio personality, and a professional piercer. His eclectic background lends itself to an exploratory aspect of his writing. His work is an authentic reflection of the issues he puzzles over on a daily basis, and he spends a good deal of time outdoors to process them. A large herd of deer on the property seem to respond favorably to his ramblings.