Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can enhance myriad areas of your life. Here are three ways it will deepen your relationship with your spouse/significant other.
1. Healthier Fighting
If you’re in a long-term relationship, you fight. It’s the price of admission. But HOW you fight can determine whether you’re miserable or happy in the relationship. Mindfulness will teach you to do something that seems so simple and insignificant but that in reality will be a gamechanger for your relationship.
Here’s the deal. It’s my experience that about 80 percent of what fuels a fight and pushes it into the realm of screaming and general nastiness is NOT ABOUT THE TOPIC YOU’RE FIGHTING ABOUT. It’s about completely unrelated factors.
Some examples. You’re both tired and grumpy after a long day at work. One of you fought traffic for an hour on your commute home. You’re on a diet and desperately want to attack that pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough beckoning you from the freezer…but can’t.
Significant Other (S.O.): “I see you didn’t get a chance to clean the kitchen this morning…as you said you would. Let me guess: you thought the Magic Cleaning Fairy was going to do it?””
You: “Look, I’m tired. Don’t start with me.”
S.O.: “Every time I ask you to do something, you just blow it off. You’re about as reliable as a nine year old.”
You: “You know what, go f*%k yourself.”
And you storm out of the room, plunging both of you into that frosty abyss we’ve all inhabited, a cavernous sinkhole of averted looks and bullheaded silent treatment for the rest of the night…Or the entire next day? The next week?
Commit yourself to mindfulness and this is how it would play out. After the left hook thrown your way about being a nine year old, you would literally stop. And instead of REACTING right then by telling your partner to F off, you would create some space between what was just said and your response. Bring attention to your breath. Maybe just two or three breaths. We’re talking 5–10 seconds.
You: “Sorry, I got sidetracked this morning. But look, we’re both exhausted so let’s not let this ruin our night. Okay?”
Then a quick kiss on the lips and you move on with your evening. Calamity avoided. All by a few seconds of mindfulness-induced presence.
The simple but powerful secret is: create a few seconds of space between what has just been said that angers you and your response. It’s all about RESPONDING and not REACTING.
Mindfulness is what provides you with the ability to become AWARE that you’re about to go off the rails and need to just stop and breathe. Think about all of the misery you and your partner would avoid if you did this one simple thing!
2. Deeper Intimate Moments
Do you ever experience intimate moments with your partner when you’re thinking about the memo your boss wants on his desk the next morning? No. In fact, you could say that the defining characteristic of intimacy is its requirement that both partners be attuned to the present moment. And that is really all that mindfulness teaches: living your life in the moment. Strengthen that skill and here is what you and your partner can do:
— Watch a beautiful sunset together. In silence. No need to talk about it. Or describe it. Because it’s only in silence that two souls can merge and dance with one another. So you just sit there, holding hands, while you both experience the beauty of the sunset from a place of still awareness.
— Enjoy the deepest levels of physical intimacy. When you and your partner are both truly “there,” present, and in the here and now, you will reach sublime levels of sexual intimacy that you’ve never experienced before.
— Experience a deeper sense of connectedness when doing everyday things together like cooking, working out or watching your favorite TV show. Every one of these activities will be enhanced when you are both in the mindful now.
3. Stronger connection through mindful listening
When you are fully present when your partner is talking, they feel heard. Seen. Respected. When they’re talking and you’re off in LaLa land, stuck inside your head, they feel the opposite of those three things.
It’s my experience that women are generally better, more mindful listeners than men. And they don’t like it one bit when their partner doesn’t pay attention to what they’re saying. So this one is mostly directed at the men of the world: working on your mindfulness will make you a better, more present listener. And that alone will pay enormous dividends with your partner.
Great, so mindfulness can do wonders for your relationship, but how do you actually DO it? God knows there have been thousands of articles written about any number of aspects of mindfulness.
Commit, then practice
But the actual doing of it requires only two simple things: 1. You need to decide that you want to be more present in your life and therefore commit to achieving that; and 2. You need to PRACTICE.
How do you practice? Next time you and your partner get into an argument, make it a point to see if you can stop for a few seconds, take a few deep breaths and then calmly respond.
Next time you’re in line at the grocery check out and you find your blood starting to boil because the clerk isn’t moving their hands at the speed of light, stop. Close your eyes. Take a few mindful breaths. In other words, chill out.
Next time your wife vents to you about some jerk at work and you find yourself drifting off to the Bahamas, become aware of that and transport yourself back to the here and now.
Meditation: the best path to mindfulness
What’s the most effective way to increase your ability to become AWARE that you’ve drifted off from the present moment? That’s easy. Develop a regular meditation practice.
All meditation is is sitting quietly and placing your attention on something happening in the present moment, like your breath. Then, when your mind wanders, and it will, you simply notice that that has happened and bring your attention back to your breath. That’s all it is. When you practice this on a regular basis your noticer “muscle” inside will strengthen.
How do you get started with meditation? Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s not that big a deal. Here’s what you do. When I started meditating seven years ago I created my own program. I made it simple, doable and designed it so that a regular person, like me, would be successful in developing a long-term practice.
The program is eight-weeks and starts off with meditating for two minutes a day then building gradually from there. Give it a try. It’s free. You can access it at davidgerken.net.
And if you really want to take the bull by the horns on the mindfulness front, take the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. It was created forty years ago by acclaimed mindfulness meditation pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn. You meet once a week for eight weeks. I took the course in Los Angeles four years ago and thought it was excellent. They teach it all over the world so go online and see if it’s available near you.