What does it mean to “be present” and why does it matter?

January 05,2021

It’s 2021 and I’m in a new relationship with a new man.

No, Xander and I didn’t divorce. 

No, we haven’t opened up our relationship.

What’s so different?

Xander has become much more present.

2020 was a challenging year for everyone, and Xander and I are no exception. Xander in particular really struggled with the stress, isolation, and uncertainty of this season of life. 

I could feel some of the impact his personal struggles were having on our relationship, but I thought it was an understandable reaction to a traumatic year. 

There’s more to the story that we’d like to share with you at some point in the future, but for now, the short version is that he started getting support and doing a lot of personal work.

We both believe that personal development is a life-long journey, but the changes I’ve seen in him over the last month have been incredible. 

I wouldn’t have said that Xander wasn’t present before, but now his presence feels truly extraordinary.

I’m proud of him for getting to a healthier and happier place personally, and I feel very lucky that I get to benefit so much too! 

I’ve talked about the importance of being present many times, but I didn’t even realize just how big of an impact it can have on a relationship. 

So we decided to focus this month on the power of presence. 

We’re going to teach you:

Let’s start with understanding what the heck presence even is. 

Last month, someone sent me this DM on Instagram: 

What is presence? 

Presence means being fully and completely in the moment. 

You’re not thinking about other things, but focused on the here and now. 

You’re free of distractions, and aware of what your own experience is. 

What does presence feel like? 

There’s a scene from The Office when Jim and Pam are getting married. Pam says she knows the day will go by really quickly, so she decides she wants to stop and take mental images of the day. During a particularly meaningful moment, she holds her hands up as if they were holding a camera, and squeezes her finger like she’s taking a picture. 

That’s what presence feels like to me… Taking little snapshots of a moment. Fully inhabiting that moment. Almost as if time stands still.

There are times when Xander and I are doing something simple, like laying in bed or playing with the dogs, and I feel my heart swell like it’s about to explode. It feels like there’s enough joy and happiness in that tiny moment for me to live off of for the rest of my life.

Presence feels light and playful. There’s a childlike awe to it. Like, “Wow, this is really my life!”

To me, there’s also an element of being in your body rather than completely in your head. When I feel present, I feel connected to my own skin. Grounded, and rooted to the earth. 

And then there’s the experience of feeling your partner’s presence. 

There’s a difference between being together and being present. A lot of couples spend a decent amount of time together, but they’re not really with each other. 

Ever had the experience of being with someone, but still feeling alone? 

Presence is about being truly there with each other! You feel like you have real company.

When I feel Xander being present, he feels solid and steady. I instantly feel safe and trusting of him, and connected to him. I feel seen and heard by him, and like I have his undivided attention. His presence helps me relax. 

Presence is also wildly attractive. Xander’s presence draws me into being present with him too. We can have those movie-like moments where the rest of the world fades away and it feels like it’s just the two of us. 

What do we get wrong about presence?

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that presence requires you to be zen or excessively positive. But we can be present with negative or painful emotions. 

For example, some of the times that I’ve felt Xander being the most present have been in the middle of an argument. 

Presence isn’t a permanent state of being either. We’re constantly going in and out of being present. In fact, it’s not realistic to think you can be present 100% of the time. 

Why is presence so important? 

This is going to sound so cheesy, but presence is important because this moment is a gift. There is so much joy, love, peace, and connection available to us! Presence is all about accepting those gifts. 

Plus, living in the past or in the future usually feels pretty damn crappy. We can get stuck feeling regret about the past, or anxiety about the future, and completely miss out on what’s present in the here and now. 

Presence makes our relationships feel so much more solid. It builds good will and trust. It makes us feel seen and known. 

Presence also increases attraction. It creates that “spark” between you and your partner. 

Presence is what creates true intimacy!

Start 2021 being more present in your life

Starting today, we want to challenge you to work on your presence! 

We’re going to be sharing tons of tools this month for improving your presence, but for today, we want you to think about this question:

“What’s something I could do today to be more present with myself and/or my partner?”


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I'm Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and writer specializing in helping you have more fun in the bedroom.

I have bachelor’s degrees in human sexuality and sociology from Brown University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist. I’ve been working in the sex therapy field since 2002 and have been featured by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and many more.

If you’re interested in improving your sex life, you can work with me via my online courses or personal coaching sessions. I look forward to supporting you in creating the sex life you’ve always wanted!