This talk will focus upon flexibility in relational foci of attention. This will be defined as a person’s ability to flexibility shift focus of attention between and among three possible targets: a) a focus on one’s partner and how one can support that partner, b) a focus on the self and how the partner can support the self and, very importantly, and c) a joint and shared focus on stimuli in the environment (e.g. sunsets, food, movies) and joint activities (e.g. singing, dancing, conversations)
as thoughts about the self or partner per se fade to the background. Such flexibility, in focus of attention driven by having flexibly activated goals set in motion by situational factors depends on feeling safe in the world and with partners. What it takes to accomplish such flexibility in relational focus of attention and the benefits of so doing will be emphasized. What can and often does go wrong resulting in chronic self-protection and self-focus also will be discussed Empirical studies the results of which support the importance of having a flexible relational focus of attention, will be presented. A special emphasis will be placed on brand new research illustrating the importance of joint, non-self- or partner -conscious outward focus of attention when experiencing stimuli (e.g. tastes, sights) or when engaging in joint activities (e.g. conversations, sports) in the absence of either partner having pressing needs. Such joint outward focus amplifies experiences in ways that benefit both individuals and relationships.