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Mindfulness is often spoken about in terms of wellness and self-care. While that's valid, mindfulness also has other practical applications. Of them, is using mindful practice to better our intimate relationship. Before I go on to explain 3 ways mindful practice can do this, let's recap what it is. Mindfulness is bringing awareness to the current experience with acceptance and non-judgement. To put it another way, it's about not getting hooked or stuck, by evaluating/criticizing our experience. Now imagine all that opens when we pause, increase awareness (internally /externally) and practice acceptance/non-judgement in this manner. This is where all the benefits and buzz we hear about mindfulness comes from; mindfulness for less stress, enjoyment, self-care, parenting, wellness, and more!
So let’s talk about what it can do for our intimate relationships.
Mindfully listening enhances empathy and understanding. When we listen with a stance of acceptance and non-judgement we open ourselves to insight around the feelings behind words spoken. We also are more likely to demonstrate active listening skills. This is as listening mindfully is listening fully, without distraction, with intent of hearing and understanding. Engaging in this type of listening increases the likelihood this listening style would be mirrored back to us.
Being mindful further allows us to be more connected to our feelings, allowing us to better express ourselves. The more we understand our partner and feel understood, the doors for support, appreciation and even affection open.
Improved Conflict Resolution:
As we practice acceptance/non-judgement through mindfulness, bringing this into communication with our partner allows us to tune in with less defensiveness and criticism. Addressing statements that evoke defensiveness with mindfulness allows us to better get in touch with what’s behind those feelings within ourselves. We can then express those feelings/needs instead of anger, upset, defense.
Further as mindfulness allows us to be more aware of what’s happening internally, we can use it to disrupt unhelpful patterns. When we are in conflict, particularly with someone we love, we can end up speaking from a flooded/dysregulated mindset. Speaking from our pain instead of from love. Once we become aware of what’s happening we can use mindful techniques for grounding and breathing to help regulation. With regulation and thinking from our logical mind (which doesn’t happen when flooded/dysregulated) we can remember what’s important and think big picture. We can then engage in further problem-solving strategies, which we may not have otherwise been in a state of mind to engage in.
Being a mindful couple, expanding awareness may allow partners to better see each other. It creates space for us to notice how our partner enhances the relationship, notice their being, and more of what we love about them. This process of awareness, with mindful attention, can increase the fondness in the relationship. Beyond that, by bringing the acceptance and non-judgement of mindful practice to the lens we view our partner from, we create space to see them with love.
Mindfulness isn't the end-all, be-all for improving intimate relationships but it can help to create positive shifts! It's important to remember mindful practice is a practice, it takes time and will have various outcomes.