Being with Your Partner: How Mindfulness Improves Relationships

Mindfulness is to psychology as CrossFit is to exercise. It is a current popular trend that leads to positive results, and you have probably heard or read about it before. Practicing mindfulness techniques allows you to be a better, more regulated, calmer, and focused individual. Mindfulness can also significantly improve your relationships. Here is a brief overview of mindfulness and how it is beneficial for intimate relationships.

What is Mindfulness?

  1. Mindfulness is presence.
    The essence of mindfulness is being present and attuned to your thoughts and feelings. If you are like most people, you do not go about your day checking on how you are feeling in any given moment unless something significant has occurred, like a fight with your partner or a promotion at work. Modern culture makes it all too easy to become distracted and almost uncomfortable if there is not something occupying our minds. Mindfulness works to bring you in the moment and make you more comfortable with just “being”.
  2. Mindfulness is active.
    As humans, we adapted to have the capacity to go on autopilot during habitual activities and in certain social situations. Evolutionarily, this saves physical and mental energy so that we only focus on those things that actually need our attentionfor us to survive. Socially and personally, this can lead us to become unobservant and to miss out on life experience. Mindfulness techniques help people to actively stay in the moment and thus make more informed choices in life based on what one perceives.
  3. Mindfulness is acceptance.
    While being more attuned to your thoughts and emotions, mindfulness inhibits judgment and helps you accept what you can and cannot change. In a sense, mindfulness is like curiosity towards the self, wanting to understand the inner workings of one’s mind in an open, nonjudgmental manner.

Mindfulness in Your Relationship

While the benefits of being present and making more informed choices is evident to personal well-being, it is important to highlight the methods in which mindfulness enhances relationships. Through being present with your partner, you can reach a new level of intimacy and understanding. Here are some of the advantageous effects of bringing mindfulness to your relationship:

  1. Reduction of anger escalation during conflict.
    Relationships need conflict - it is how they adapt to life’s changes and avoid stagnation and boredom. Mindfulness leads to productive conflict by allowing partners to communicate effectively about differences of opinion without being overcome by anger. Attunement to your emotions helps you recognize when anger or frustration is building and to actively choose another course of action. It increases the likelihood that you will take a time-out to calm down or more effectively identify and express to your partner the underlying emotion that is fueling the anger - like sadness, fear, or a sense of rejection. Mindfulness does not mute your emotions, but it allows you to be less reactive in the heat of the moment and to authentically choose how you would like to communicate or respond.
  2. Ability to better empathize with your partner.
    Being more attuned to your emotions and thoughts allows you to be more attuned to your partner as well. This is partially due to your partner more mindfully expressing his or herself, but it is also because by remaining in the present moment, you can more effectively take in and understand your partner’s perspective. Empathy is an integral component to healthy, satisfying relationships and serves as a cornerstone for intimacy.
  3. Increased connection with your partner.
    Through more accurate communication, empathy, and awareness of one’s feelings, mindfulness fosters increased connection and relationship satisfaction. It is a skill that partners can practice and improve over time to create a new, more open way of interacting and being with one another.

Give mindfulness a try and reap the benefits in your personal and relational life. You can try some introductory mindfulness exercises here:
http://stress.about.com/od/tensiontamers/a/exercises.htm

Author: Meghan Emerson, MSMFT