Mindfulness and Relationships
If you’re mentally nodding your head – mindfulness is a perfect way to connect and deepening the intimacy you have with your partner. Why? Because being more mindful = being more PRESENT.
“Mindfulness practices and meditation have recently become popular in therapeutic circles,” according to Julia Colwell, Ph.D., psychologist and author of The Relationship Skills Workbook. “With the support of data from neuropsychology about how impactful mindfulness practices are on changing the brain, therapists are encouraging their clients to meditate and to use other somatically focused practices.”
At its core, mindfulness is about accepting and paying attention to experiences moment to moment. These experiences could be anything from having sex or really hearing your partner’s side of an argument. The real key to being a mindful partner is being open to each experience with thoughtfulness and curiosity in order to notice your own feelings in a patient way. Being mindful also includes being nonjudgmental and gentle towards your experience and allowing yourself to let the experience exist exactly as it is without trying to force it to be different (Brantley & Millstine, 2008).
Improving Intimacy: The Mindfully In Love Study
Mindfully In Love: A meta-analysis was published in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension found that mindfulness can be linked to profoundly satisfying, connected relationships.
Researchers pooled 10 different studies, including two mindfulness intervention studies. and found that the relationship between mindfulness and relationship satisfaction was statistically significant with an overall effect size of .27. This finding suggests that higher levels of mindfulness are associated with higher levels of relationship satisfaction.
According to study insights, mindfulness has the ability to promote acceptance and less avoidant behaviours in romantic relationships (Kabat-Zinn, 1990; Wachs & Cordova, 2007). Think about the last time you didn’t clean out the dishwasher — even though you know that annoys your partner — and avoided being in the kitchen at the same time as them for the rest of the evening.
Now think about how NOT participating in avoidant behaviour such as that can help you be a more considerate and loving partner – and in turn lower the reactivity of your angry partner when they bring it up in an argument down the road.
Some research has also suggested that practicing mindfulness has positively influenced social connectedness (Deci & Ryan, 1991), social skills, and perspective taking (Schutte et al., 2001) and has inhibited negative reactivity during conflict (Baer, 2003).
Ultimately, practicing mindfulness helps relationships in 2 major ways:
- It helps to improve your relationship with yourself and your emotions, allowing for less reactive and calmer responses during conflict.
- It creates an improved ability to stay present and attentive when with your partner, allowing for more meaningful connection.
So, how do you get started?
A great place to start is simply having a conversation with your partner about how you want to be a more present partner. It can be beneficial for both of you to develop a practice, though you don’t need your partner to join you to benefit your relationship. Simply letting them know that this is something you want to put effort into lets them know you’re invested in putting effort into your relationship.
Starting a new meditation practice can be intimidating and because results are not always instantaneous, many people give up quickly. It’s important to note that, like any other habit, consistency is key but you don’t need an hour a day.