We all get triggered in our relationships, and we all have moments we wish we could take back. Whether we can have a satisfying relationship isn’t determined by the above but by our ability to deal with these situations in a healthy way. Mindfulness is a great tool to help us go through life with more ease as individuals, to support our relationship with one another, and in particular our intimate relationships. Some of the ways mindfulness can support your relationship is by reducing the amounts of conflicts you have. When in conflict, mindfulness can help you resolve it and bounce back faster, ultimately you can have a more intimate and fulfilling relationships.

What is mindfulness?

Jon Kabat Zinn a pioneer in the application of mindfulness to different clinical situations,  defines mindfulness as: “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.” Paying attention usually involves slowing down and enables us to be aware of more subtle experiences such us our sensations, feelings, thoughts, impulses, memories, images or anything else that passes through our internal landscape with an attitude of curiosity. 

Why is it important in your relationships?

Mindfulness allows us to take a step back, breath, and observe what is actually happening. When we are triggered we are usually operating from an automated state.  Our intimate relationships by their nature trigger our early childhood wounding and circuits. In the flash of a moment we can find ourselves reactive and highly activated. Mindfulness allows us to slow down and break the cycle of either shame or blame that couples can get stuck in. By observing our experience we open ourselves to vast amount of information that wouldn’t be accessible to us otherwise. We might discover that while we are blaming our partner, what’s happening inside is the fear of being rejected, or when we are shutting down and moving away we can actually connect to fear of feeling shamed. All these experiences were highly disguised even from our own eyes by all the drama that was going on. The information that we tap into allows us to snap out from being in auto pilot reaction to actually seeing the situation more clearly and then to choose actions that better serves us. We can start moving toward each other in a empathic and open way, rather shut down or blame which only makes us feel more separated.

Developing a mindfulness practice is important in being able to apply it to your relationships. It is like building a muscle, the more you practice it the more you will be able to slow down, even in heated moments, and be open to your own and your partner’s experience. Practicing mindfulness will allow you to tolerate the feelings that are arising, and be less reactive.

Some practical tools

A simple way to start mindfulness practice would be to take a few minutes simply paying attention to your breath. you can do this practice on your own or if you would like you can also find a time to sit with your partner and share the practice. 

Find a quiet spot, and for few minutes let your awareness go inward and follow your breath with your eyes closed or open with a soft gaze. Notice your inhalation and exhalation. Every time you notice your attention going somewhere else just gently bring it back to the breath with the understanding that it is just the nature of the mind to jump around. The purpose of the practice isn’t to master staying with the breath but to pay attention to whatever is happening and direct the attention back to the breath - so no matter how many times your mind drifts it is all part of the practice.

Doing it together:

Another practice you can do together would be to sit and hold each others hands with mindfulness. Make sure you are sitting in a comfortable position that you can hold for 5-10 minutes. While holdingyour partner’s hand also let each of your awareness to go inward with your eyes either closed or softly open. Pay attention to your experience as you are sitting together. Notice the thoughts, feelings, your body sensations and muscular shifts, impulses, images, memories, anything that comes up. Again, there is nothing to achieve, you are just allowing yourselves to be curious of whatever is happening in you. After the sitting you may want to share for a few minutes your experience with your partner or just thank them for sharing the time with you.