How Mindfulness Can Improve Your Relationship

Are you looking to improve your relationship with your partner? Have there been times when one or both of you became emotionally triggered, causing a small argument to turn into a major blowup? Mindfulness can be a helpful tool for couples looking to strengthen their relationships, improve communication, and develop a greater sense of self and awareness of others around them.

What is Mindfulness?

A mindfulness practice is a process directed at the development of having a heightened or fuller sense of self-awareness of the present moment. This awareness involves obtaining an open and non-judgmental stance regarding what is currently happening in front of you.

A developed mindfulness practice can help you to respond more effectively to varied life situations instead of reacting emotionally or instinctively.  It is a mindset that allows you to better cope when there is general stress in general and specific stress between you and your partner.

What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

There are several benefits of mindfulness, both psychological and physical. These include:

  • The ability to calm down
  • Lower levels of stress
  • A strengthened immune system
  • Less anxiety and depression
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Increased working memory

Mindfulness and Your Mental Narrative

Imagine a time when you and your partner began to feel stressed. Perhaps you started arguing over something that has been a perpetual problem in your relationship. Did you ever hear yourself saying, “Here we go again?” When this happens, do you feel yourself tense up and become more emotionally reactive to what your partner is saying?

Mindfulness can help us avoid playing that “tape in the background” which, in essence, is the narrative we provide ourselves when we become emotionally triggered.  Instead, we can stay present and actually hear what our partner says without being judgmental.

Mindfulness and Reactivity

Let’s continue with the example from above. You begin to feel more emotionally reactive to what your partner is saying.  For example, you may

  • Interrupt your partner to get across your point of view.
  • Display nonverbal signs such as shaking your head or rolling your eyes.
  • Get up and leaving the conversation.
  • Feel hurt or angry and wanting to push back.
  • Miss cues that your partner is in emotional pain.

By practicing mindfulness, you can reduce your emotional reactivity. This means that you may avoid having an argument entirely. Or at the very least prevent a small disagreement from turning into a major conflict. You would able to listen and respond more tactfully, instead of emotionally lashing out at your partner.

Remember, healthy couples are skilled at not getting caught up in this negative communication cycle. They can process without easily being emotionally triggered. Some are able to more naturally stay calmer, but for most of us it requires practice.

Three Tips for Mindful Discussions

1. Set aside a specific time with your partner where both of you can be present. For instance, sitting with each other in the evening before bedtime.

2.  During this time practice being fully present and be interested in learning more about your partner. Face each other, make eye contact, and listen to what they have to say.

3. Make sure that there are no electronic distractions to divert your attention. Turn off your cell phones.

These discussions can become great practice for not only learning both how to communicate with each other, but also how to truly listen to each other.

Consider Starting a Formal Meditation/Mindfulness Practice

You and your partner can go a step further with mindfulness by starting a meditation practice. There are several advantages that meditation provides us when having important discussions with our partners. For example, we can:

  • Learn breathing techniques that help keep us calm.
  • Become better aware of our surroundings.
  • Learn to acknowledge our thoughts without being hyper-focused on them.

Couples that improve their “relationship mindfulness” are rewarded with the added benefit of having improved communication skills. Both of you can learn how to be less emotionally reactive and truly be present with one another. It can help you and your partner create a stronger and longer-lasting relationship.

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