The Relationship Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness
My Own Experience
I started practicing meditation and mindfulness about fifteen years ago, and it has been a huge game-changer. It has made me a better human being, therapist, parent, friend, and romantic partner. In this article, I aim to help you understand the benefits of meditation and mindfulness for intimate relationships, allowing you to decide if this is something you want to explore further. You will understand this article better if you have already read my article How to See Your Partner.
Understanding Meditation and Mindfulness
Let’s begin by debunking a common myth about meditation: it is not about stopping your thoughts or emptying your mind. Your brain is designed to think and it will never stop thinking until your last breath. Meditation is about observing your thoughts, emotions, and biases without judgment. It is about being curious about how thoughts immediately generate feelings and feelings make us want to take specific actions, often urgently.
Think of meditation like a rock that is sitting at the bottom of a river. The current is rushing by like crazy, but the rock is unmoved. When you meditate, you learn how to become that rock where, no matter how much chaos is happening in your life, you are anchored, you are solid, you are steady, you are at peace.
Can you see how it would benefit your relationship if you were more deeply at peace?
Mindfulness is about bringing increased awareness and engagement in every moment of your life. Think of mindfulness like you’re guzzling a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day, but suddenly stop guzzling and become aware of how beautiful the day is, the sweetness and tartness of the lemonade, the gentle breeze that is blowing, that you are feeling a bit tired, that you miss your daughter. Mindfulness helps you fully live, be fully present, in every moment.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Mindfulness and meditation are essential tools for self-examination and gaining a deeper understanding of oneself. Every person is every relationship wants their partner to understand them, but in reality, most people don’t even understand themselves very well.
Noticing and Dealing with the Narrative in Your Mind
Our minds constantly generate narratives and assumptions. The point of meditation is to notice this tendency, direct our attention to it, and realize how these running narratives affect our behaviors, reactions, and ability to pay attention. When your partner is talking to you, trying to connect with you, your brain is doing that thing again. Making assumptions about what they mean, what their intentions are, where they’re coming from, what they must want out of you. What if you could clear away a lot of that clutter so you could just be there for and with your partner?
Meditation helps you see the way your mind is constantly generating narratives, jumping to conclusions, deciding it knows before it has really heard, and helps you learn how to remain open and focused in the middle of your brain’s relentless onslaught of often meaningless and counter-productive activity.
Mindfulness helps you bring the openness and focus you learn in meditation into the specific moments and situations of life, so you can be present and show up and listen and really connect.
Recognizing Presumptions and Fostering Empathy
Meditation and mindfulness help us recognize that our viewpoints are rarely universal truths but rather presumptions we hold based on our unique life experiences. Understanding this enables us to also see our partner’s perspectives as a reflection of their experiences and beliefs, not as judgment or criticism of our beliefs and opinions. This helps us remain open to them and just be present as they are explaining how they feel and what they think, instead of responding defensively or rushing to get our own views in. When we can listen to our partner, and remain present, without judgment, we validate their emotions and experiences, and this creates a deep sense of connection.
Breaking the Cycle of Misinterpretation
Reactivity–having to respond to our partner right now, not being able to remain quiet and present while they explain their thoughts and feelings–hinders effective communication in relationships. Through meditation and mindfulness, we learn to be present not only to our partner but also to ourselves. By learning to pause and reflect on our own reactions, to be curious about them, we break the cycle of automatically blaming our partner for our negative thoughts and feelings. This conscious approach allows us to choose our words and actions deliberately, promoting healthier and more constructive communication.
Cultivating Presence and Intimacy
I commonly hear people say, “It feels like my partner and I are business partners.” This is another way of saying, “We are around each other a lot, but we are not really present to each other. We’re not connecting. We’re talking past each other.”
Intimate relationships thrive on presence. Regular meditation practice helps us learn to be increasingly present to our partner when we are with them, letting go of distractions within and without, and our preconceived notions of what they are saying and what they mean. This creates a culture of openness, and in that culture, opportunities for engagement and connection will constantly present themselves.
Infusing Your Relationship with Fondness and Admiration
Relationship expert John Gottman says one of the pillars of healthy relationships is regular expression of fondness and admiration. Meditation and mindfulness help us cultivate these things. By reflecting on our partner’s positive qualities and the good things they do, we develop a deep appreciation for their presence in our lives. Acknowledging the fleeting nature of life and the value of every moment together (even the seemingly small moments, which make up the vast majority of our lives) creates a sense of gratitude and cherishing every moment a couple shares.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness can make a significant positive impact on our lives and intimate relationships. It enhances personal growth, resilience, and our ability to savor the time we have on this earth. With so much to gain and no downside, embracing meditation and mindfulness is a wise choice.