I bet you're wondering what mindfulness has to do with relationships and if it's something that you should even think to learn more about. I'm here to tell you that your relationship will definitely benefit if you take the time to learn about mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about paying attention to what is going on in the present moment --- it means no more obsessing over what happened in the past or what might happen in the future, recognizing what feelings you are currently experiencing, and it also means no longer judging yourself over your thoughts.
Mindfulness can improve your relationships in many ways by changing how you connect and interact with others. Here are some of the reasons that mindfulness matters in a relationship:
1. Mindfulness helps you to understand your partner's needs.
How many times have you been having a conversation with your partner and you're not really hearing a thing that they're saying? Or you're busy trying to guess what they're thinking and feeling while they're talking without actually giving them a chance to explain themselves? You may get distracted while they're expressing their needs and not even hear what they're saying. These things have become normal for all of us but practicing mindfulness allows us to recognize these behaviors when they're happening so that we can focus on our partner.
This means that we can be present so that we have a better idea of what they need from us. It allows us to notice if we start checking our e-mail in the middle of the conversation so that we can stop and put our phone away. It helps us to hear what our partner is expressing to us so we can acknowledge what they're saying and how they feel without trying to guess what we can do for them. For example, instead of trying to give them solutions for the frustration they experienced at work that day maybe you can empathize with them about how hard their day actually was so that they know you're hearing them. After all, sometimes your partner wants your presence and doesn't actually want you to try to problem solve for them but you won't pick up on that if you aren't mindful.
2. Mindfulness can decrease stress in relationships.
Relationships can be stressful and it is sometimes because we aren't really living in the present moment. We often bring up issues from the past over and over again and we react to current situations based on something that has happened in the past. Did your partner forget to pick up milk on the way home from work? Do you react by reminding them about all the times they've forgotten to take out the garbage, not helped out with the cleaning, or did something else that really pissed you off instead of recognizing that they had a busy day and it slipped their mind? Being mindful of the current moment and the present situation decreases a lot of unnecessary stress on your relationship.
3. Mindfulness allows you to appreciate the good moments more often in your relationship.
By paying attention to what you are doing with your partner, you will be able to enjoy the good moments in your life more because you're going to be able to experience them more fully. This means that when you're doing something with your partner, you're going to actually be present during it. You're going to be more aware of how you are feeling and you're going to be able to experience those feelings and sensations in your body as well.
You're no longer going to be drifting off into space thinking about the chores you should have done or the fight you had last week. When you catch yourself doing that (because let's be real -- this takes time to learn!) you're going to be able to re-focus on what you're doing that moment whether you are enjoying your favorite TV show together, cooking a nice dinner, or even laughing together on a drive somewhere.
Now that you've read about why mindfulness matters, here are some quick tips to get you started in using it in your relationships. Pause before you speak, bring yourself back to the present when you get distracted, and most importantly --- go easy on yourself as you start this new practice!! You will start seeing small changes but it takes time to create new habits so be patient when it doesn't happen overnight (although we wish it would)!
Nicole Liloia, LCSW is a therapist and coach who helps women step out of stress and overwhelm so that they can achieve success on their own terms and design a lifestyle and business that is full of freedom and flexibility. By stepping out of their comfort zones, her clients are able to create a life that they are passionate about. She is the creator the Live More E-Course and can be found at www.nicoleliloia.com.