Something that authors, philosophers, and other solipsists like to think about it how everyone is the protagonist of their own story. That isn’t a bad thing; it is a human default. Whatever lies behind the mystery of consciousness, we see the world through a first-person point of view. Not just in an ocular sense- everything we perceive is run through the filter of “I”, and so there is the perception that everyone else is just another character, someone who maybe flits into your story, but doesn’t always exist outside of it. It is staggering when you are on a train or walking down a busy street and realize that every single person has a lifetime of fears and of memories, of hopes and doubts and dreams and fantasies, of pain and love. So it is easier sometimes to not think about it.
Of course, not recognizing it at all makes you a sociopath, but the gift of complete and total empathy is very rare. Even with your long-term partner, it is hard to always feel what they are feeling, and to consider how your actions affect them. Sometimes, it is the person you are with the most that you forget the easiest, because you fall into a pattern.
While empathy is difficult, observation is not, and you’ll find that the former is borne from the latter. Practicing observance here means being an emotional detective- picking up on moods, finding patterns, and really making an effort to understand why a person is behaving the way they are. You shouldn’t just see it as something that is impacting you, as tempting as that is.
The best part of being observant is that it can lead to greater intimacy. Global Glue couple Hazel & Neridah talk about the importance of intimacy- which is touching, yes, but also the kind of respect and understanding that comes from knowing someone and making a daily effort to remember that they are an individual. “We’ve learned to be really observant of each other. It’s not just listening with your ears. That’s not the only way to listen to someone.”
It all ties together. Being observant can lead to a greater understanding, which leads to greater and more fulfilling intimacy, which leads to even more understanding. Your partner is many things- beautiful, fun, maddening, lovable, frustrating, stubborn, clever, curious- but the one thing they are not is a mere adjunct to you. Recognizing that you are two separate people is, perhaps paradoxically, the only way to move closer to being as one.