Mindfulness is the topic du jour in the media, and for good reason. The benefits of mindfulness have been extensively researched across various fields–-work, anxiety and depression, parenting, and intimate relationships.  Virtually every aspect of our daily lives has been demonstrated to receive some benefit from the use of mindfulness techniques.

I’ll admit when I first learned about mindfulness, I was a bit wary.  I was suspicious of its simplicity, and it sounded just plain…hokey to me.  But the overwhelming research demonstrating the efficacy of mindfulness convinced me that it was something I needed to explore for my own life and also to be able to provide as a resource to my clients.

The central task in mindfulness is to be fully present in your experience without judgment or analysis. More than anything, it’s about being attuned to what is happening in the moment, without getting stuck in your ideas or beliefs about what is happening, or what you think should be happening. Mindfulness is allowing yourself to accept and become comfortable with what is.

So how can using mindfulness strategies improve your relationship? Below, I outline three key ways mindfulness can help you better your connection with your partner, and also how to put these concepts to work.


A Healthier Awareness of Your Own Emotions

With the many demands of our lives it’s easy to be blind to our own emotional states. In trying to get everything done and rushing from one task to another, we don’t often take the time to gauge our own emotions. Sometimes, we even push emotions down so that we can get through our day, disconnecting us from our true feelings.  This lack of internal awareness makes it difficult to fully connect with our partners, as it’s hard to be open to what’s happening with you, when I don’t even have a clear handle on what’s happening with myself.  Mindfulness provides us with the opportunity to stop and take full stock of our inner world, giving us the space and clarity to better understand our own feelings.

How to Do It: There are actually specific mindfulness exercises dedicated to helping you become more present with your emotional experience. You can find a good example here. The key is to get comfortable with how emotions show up in your body.  When you know that anxiety tends to appear for you as tightness in your chest, or that sadness feels like a knot in your throat—it becomes easier to recognize your emotional states as they happen. This, in turn, allows you to better identify which situations are causing these emotions, and also to share your experience with loved ones, when needed.  It can also help you determine when an emotion is being triggered by another person’s behaviors, versus when it’s being prompted by your own emotional stuff.


Communicating Your Needs and Wants 

One of the biggest benefits of mindfulness is its ability to help us slow down intense emotional processes.  Often, when we are upset or disappointed or frustrated with our partner, our brain is in hyperdrive.  We are on high alert in trying to get our needs met and express ourselves.  Unfortunately, this high anxiety status can impede us from being able to clearly tell our partners what we’re looking for from them. Approaching your partner mindfully can help you slow down so that you can have a more productive conversation.

How to Do It: Before speaking with your partner, take a moment to reflect on what you want to say.  What is it that you want them to know? What do you want to happen as a result of this conversation? Also, what are you feeling in this moment as you prepare to talk with them? As you approach them, try to be present in the experience. Instead of simply waiting your turn to speak or defend your point, try to listen and take in what they’re saying.  Acknowledge that feeling of wanting to be right (which we all have) and recognize that this feeling may not hold the full truth. Remind yourself that you want to end the conversation with you both coming together, as opposed to being right at the expense of being disconnected from your partner.


Enjoying Time with Your Significant Other

By this point, we are well aware of how modern technology can interrupt our time with our partners.  But long before smart phones came onto the scene, we have been going to dinner (or lounging on the couch) with our loved ones and not really being present with them.  We find ourselves thinking about stuff we need to get done at work, or chores we need to take of at home, or other concerns instead of giving them our full attention. Taking a mindful perspective of our interactions can help bring us back to what really matters.

How to Do It: Take a breath internally and release some of the thoughts you have been having about what you need to get done (or anything else on your mind). Stop and really focus on your partner. Bring yourself to the present with them by taking a moment to really look at their face. Direct your attention to what they’re saying, and actually listen. You may be surprised at the difference in the quality of your interactions when you make a more purposeful effort to just be with your partner, instead of being half-focused on other concerns.


By applying core mindfulness practices—such as being fully present and exercising internal awareness without judgement—you can better express and understand your own needs, and also more fully enjoy the time you spend with your partner.   Use these mindfulness strategies to help deepen your connection and strengthen your bond.


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