Mindful Couples: Taking Your Relationship Off Autopilot

"Couple" by   Dragunsk Usf   used with   CC license   by 2.0

"Couple" by Dragunsk Usf used with CC license by 2.0

Many relationships, especially long-term ones, fall easily into a rut. After years of functioning as a couple, partners become less present in their relationship. Anniversary after anniversary passes and all of a sudden, you realize you barely talk with your partner anymore about things other than laundry and coordinating your calendars and you feel so distant.

Some autopilot relationships can go the other way and people settle into habits of communication that lead to basically the same fights over and over, with nothing ever getting resolved.

When relationships begin, they are so exciting and we feel so connected with the other person, mostly because the novelty keeps us in the present moment. We’re learning about someone new, which leads us to pay more mindful attention to them and the moment we’re in. This fades as the relationship becomes part of our everyday experience.

So how can you become more mindful in your relationship? Well, it starts off by making the mindful decision to do so! Try talking to your partner about your interest in becoming more mindful and try to work on it together. While you can still experience benefits of mindfulness in your relationship when practicing on your own, it will be much more valuable if you are both working on it together. If you’re still a little fuzzy on the details of what mindfulness actually is, read more here.

When starting to become more mindful in your relationship, it should start in one small place but be done consistently, at least once per day. For instance, when you’re sitting on the couch together in the evening, take a minute or two to practice some couples mindfulness techniques. Trying to just “be mindful” in your relationship is a big task. That strategy will lead to failure because it is just too big and too vague to tackle. Think of it as a paint-by-numbers picture. Start with just the greens, then the blues. Add in other colors as you go along and suddenly, a recognizable picture will emerge. All those smaller efforts over time add up to a big payoff. Start small.

Choose a part of your day when you and your partner are typically together and that usually has less stress. Choosing to be more mindful together while in the midst of grocery shopping might not yield the best results, for instance.

Start with opening up your awareness to your current environment, your emotions, any physical sensations you notice. Try to remove judgment and evaluation. Just be curious and observational. You and your partner could each do this silently for a moment. Take the moment in quietly but together. Then begin taking turns reflecting on the moment together.

Ask each other open-ended questions, which means leaving out any questions that can be answered “Yes” or “No”. This helps remove judgment from the experience and allows you and your partner to freely express your feelings about the moment.

Keep in mind this moment has never existed before. It’s chock full of mystery and the unknown. Soak that in.

Another way to increase your mindfulness in your relationship is being more mindful of your words. Often we forget the impact our language can have and we assume, sometimes unknowingly, that our partner will get the gist of our meaning. Truth is, language and wording is really important! Think for a moment about not only what you want to say, but your meaning behind it, and be open to and observant of the reactions of your partner after you speak. It’s perfectly alright if you make a mistake. What matters is that you let your partner know you’re attuned to their reactions and to your own words.

Take a look at these other resources for more information and exercises on how to be more mindful in your relationship!