No matter how far you’ve come in your intimate relationship, cultivating love, intimacy, and union is an ongoing process. As mindfulness is the ever-unfolding compassionate, non-judgmental awareness of each and every moment, mindfulness practice and relationships go hand-in-hand. As your relationship evolves, so too does one’s mindfulness practice, both blossoming to enhance your sense of happiness, love, and equanimity.
Every interaction between you and your partner is an opportunity for mutual appreciation and togetherness. However, when tensions are high and one or both partners are not mindful of their emotions, their words, and their energy, their interactions promote the opposite of togetherness, weakening the trust, connection, and deep intimacy you both yearn for.
To strengthen your relationships in meaningful and sustainable ways, a degree of mindfulness is required. The more mindful you are of yourself and your partner, the better. Yet still, no matter how versed or unversed you are in the art of present moment awareness, your sincere efforts to explore the present moment go a long way in bringing you and your partner closer.
There are numerous ways that mindfulness can enhance your relationships. From improving emotional regulation to enhancing gratitude, the skill of remaining open and receptive to the present moment has deep implications for your relationships. These are just some of the ways that mindfulness practice has this transformative effect.
Mindfulness can help you to better navigate emotions—both yours and theirs.
When you become more mindful of your emotional landscape, self-awareness increases and you experience an increase in your ability to moderate your responses. This does not mean that you negate or deny what you are feeling. It simply means you become a clearer witness of your emotions, better able to soften your responses where it is appropriate to do so.
One of the suggested mechanisms through which this occurs is through mindfulness’s ability to promote executive control. Mindfulness increases your sensitivity to your experience, which helps you to understand and respond in new ways.
But what does this have to do with relationships? As you can understand when you are the receiver of your partner’s emotions, the way an emotion is expressed impacts your ability to receive it with love. When someone lashes out, for instance, the body’s response is to defend or pull away, neither of which promotes togetherness or healing.
By becoming more attuned to your emotions, you start to express yourself in ways that embody both raw honesty and compassion. This sets the stage for how a difficult conversation with your partner will play out.
So, when emotions are running high and impacting your interactions with your partner, you can:
Turn towards the emotion.
Your instinct might be to turn away from challenging emotions as they arise (whether within yourself or your partner). However, Gottman’s principle of “turning towards instead of away” exemplifies a more mindful approach you might take when you or your partner is experiencing a strong emotion.
If you are experiencing a strong emotion, you can turn towards it by taking a few deep breaths, softening the mind, and paying attention to the sensations and stories that are moving through us. After a few moments, you might try to express yourself in a new way. It can be helpful to focus on your own needs, hopes, and desires, rather than expressing the other’s wrongdoings.
If your partner is the one experiencing a strong emotion, you can become mindful of your own instincts to defend, to turn away from, or to invalidate. Instead, you can take a few deep breaths through the heart and encourage a mutual, thoughtful exploration of what is present.