Mindfulness and Meditation for Relationships and Marriage
Did you know that in the US one in every three marriages ends in divorce? In today’s busy world, there are so many factors diminishing the likelihood of a long and happy marriage – boredom, saturation, lack of communication, loss of connection, stress. If you are struggling with either of these, meditation and mindfulness are an excellent tools to boost your relationship and marriage satisfaction.
Meditation and mindfulness are great tools to explore in a relationship or marriage because they:
- Reduce impulsivity and create separation between impulses and thoughts
- Bring you and your partner closer when you do them together
- Create more empathy, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and understanding in relationships and marriage
- Generate feelings of gratitude towards your partner which increases relationship and marriage satisfaction
- Increase open-mindedness which is key for relationship and marital satisfaction
If you are interested in improving your marriage or relationship, keep reading to see what you can do about it.
Meditation reduces impulsivity and creates separation between impulses and thoughts
Lashing out at your partner too fast, without thinking too much, can have dire consequences later on. Meditation allows us to, instead of reacting to a stimulus (such as your partner’s snide comment about something that upset them), pause and respond to it in a more thoughtful way. By turning to meditation and mindfulness, we nurture a space of nonreactivity.
When we meditate, we focus on one thing, be it a mantra, our breath or an image. While we do it, different thoughts, emotions, memories, desires and sensations will pop up. All we need to do is notice them without judging or engaging with them and come back to our object of focus. This habit of noticing, pausing and not reacting eventually spills over into how we deal with the world around us. Honing this skill will do wonders for your relationship – it will train you not to say things you might regret later, but be more prudent and wise instead.
Learn to Let Go of the Little Things
Meditation and mindfulness help you not only be less reactive to your own triggers but also to your partner’s. You will become more aware of those moments when your partner is just being moody or tired and doesn’t really mean whatever they said. Instead of arguing over every little thing, you will learn to recognize which battles are worth fighting. You will learn to differentiate between when to let things go. Or, when to set things straight.
Also, by meditating and practicing mindfulness regularly, you will learn the importance of taking one deep breath in before responding to a situation. One deep breath is all it takes for your prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain in charge of higher cognitive functions) to get that extra surge of oxygen and blood that enable it to think clearer.
Meditation and mindfulness bring you and your partner closer when you do them together
Another great thing about meditation and mindfulness is that they are great activities for couples to bond over. You are not all alone in doing this. Your partner also wants you to be your best self and is there to notice and remind you to be mindful when you yourself lose track. All it takes is one mutually agreed upon trigger word, such as “breathe,” or “pause,” or something as silly as “Mickey Mouse.” I had a friend who, whenever he and his girlfriend got caught in mindlessness, he would ring a small bell. That was their cue. He usually kept it in the kitchen and would ring it before meal time to remind them to eat mindfully.
Create a Breathing Space or Room in your Home
He borrowed this idea from the famous Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. Thich Nhat Hanh also thought that every family and every household should have a breathing room. It can be something as small as a corner of a room. A sacred space reserved for nothing else but breathing and some peace of mind. When you think about it, it seems logical. If we can have a bathroom, a dining room or a kitchen, why shouldn’t we have a space dedicated to our inner peace? With the TV here, phones there, and our partner shouting something to us from the kitchen, it often happens that we don’t have the space to switch off even in our own homes.
Once you or your partner are in your breathing space, everyone else should be quiet and respectful of your time there. Your partner is of course welcome to join you so you can breathe together. This is a good practice for whenever one of you feels angry or sad or all over the place. Also, if there is a sensitive conversation coming up between you two, the breathing corner could serve as a prelude to it – a time to clear your minds and prepare to mindfully and thoughtfully engage in the conversation.
Meditation and mindfulness create more empathy, compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and understanding in relationships and marriage
Studies have shown that mindfulness increases marital satisfaction and promotes healthy relationship attachment. When partners are mindfully attuned to each other, their neural circuitry connected with safety, security and positive affection grows. Moreover, combining couples therapy with meditation has proved to breed great results. It has even given great results in cases of infidelity, which is considered one of the most difficult problems to treat in couples counseling. A special form of meditation that has shown to be most effective in treating infidelity as well as other relationship problems is Loving-Kindness Meditation.
Loving-Kindness Meditation (LKM) is a meditative practice that comes from Buddhism. It is designed to induce feelings of compassion, forgiveness, acceptance and loving-kindness to oneself and others. The goal behind this meditation is to help us realize that all human beings on this planet are connected and share their humanness with each other. LKM helps us empathize with people who have hurt us, our partner included, and understand the reasons why they did what they did. Once we tap into these feelings of shared humanity, it is easier to forgive.
Also, it is easier to show compassion and understanding of others once we show these feelings to ourselves. For this reason, LKM first focuses on generating feelings of love and kindness to ourselves first, then toward those we love, then towards those we do not know (strangers), next, towards those we do not particularly like and, finally, to the whole world: “May all beings be happy.”
You Will Become Good At Whatever You Constantly Focus On and Do
Here is a recording of LKM U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center for anyone willing to try it with their partner. The great news is that you can try it without your partner too and it will still work.
There is nothing mysterious about why LKM meditation works so well. Whatever you constantly do, that’s what you’ll become good at. If you spend a lot of time exercising, it will show on your body. If you cook often, eventually you will become a good cook. However, if you spend a lot of time complaining, you will become a master at complaining. And if most of the time you are annoyed, this will become your second nature. The same goes for any other activity or emotion. So why not harness this power of your mind to generate some positive emotions, moods and states in your life? Simply bring up any feeling or mood you desire, spend enough time focusing on it, and it will eventually become a part of your daily life and reality.
“Whatever you constantly do, that’s what you’ll become good at. If you spend a lot of time complaining, you will become a master at complaining.”
Meditation and mindfulness generate feelings of gratitude towards your partner which increases relationship and marriage satisfaction
All too often in life we focus on what’s wrong in our lives and what could be better. It’s not our fault, it’s been proven that our brains are hardwired that way. And of course we take this to our relationships as well. “Oh, if he/she was only more (fill in the gap)__________,” “if only he/she didn’t (fill in the gap)__________so much”, etc. But what would happen if we decided to focus on the positive aspects of our relationships? Chances are, we would be more appreciative and grateful for what we have.
Indeed, partners who communicate genuine gratitude for each other regularly have been shown to have greater relationship satisfaction. This goes both for the giver and the receiver. Such partners are more committed to each other, more supportive of one another, have deeper intimacy and stronger connection.
Psychologist James K. McNulty and his coauthor Alexander Dugas did research on 120 newlywed couples to see how gratitude influenced their relationships over time. It turned out that people with highly grateful partners were still more satisfied in their marriages three years later. Three years is often when the decline in marriage satisfaction is normal. Numerous similar studies were done and they yielded similar results.
So, how about next time your mind wanders off to everything that’s wrong in your relationship, you decide to meditate on your partner’s strengths, your relationship’s strengths and the wonderful memories you have together?
Other ways in which you can bring more mindful gratitude into your relationship or marriage:
- Write gratitude journals every morning and evening. You two can either have one journal where you write about everything that’s good about your relationship and each other or keep separate journals.
- Do not take anything for granted – say thank you to each other more.
- Show your gratitude and observe how it multiplies. Here the law of reciprocity comes in; the more you show your gratitude to your partner, the more he will want to return the favor.
- Praise them publicly. Tell your family, colleagues or friends about something nice they did for you the other day. Also, you could share a nice post about them on your socials.
- Take some time every night before bed to mentally go through your day and everything that was wonderful about it and your partner – maybe a nice walk you two had, those laughs you shared, the laundry they did, etc.
Practicing mindful gratitude in a relationship is priceless both short and long-term. With so many benefits that gratitude has to offer to our brains, relationships and lives, the time to start being more grateful is – now.
Mindfulness increases open-mindedness, which is key for relationship and marital satisfaction
Mindfulness in marriage is defined as the ability to be open and receptive to the present moment. When we spend a lot of time with a person, in this case our partner, we can become used to our perception of what this person is like and why they do what they do. We think we know them and whatever opinion we have formed about them in the past becomes hard to change.
However, being mindful in a marriage means being constantly open to new interpretations, perspectives and perceptions other than our own. This is hard and it means constant work. And that’s why so many marriages fail.
When you are in love, you are open and observant of everything your partner says or does. Over time, the exchanges between you two can start to turn into mindless activities, half-hearted conversations, autopilot reactions, patterns of behavior.
Mindlessness is rooted in the past. It stops us from seeing novelty in new situations; all we see is the same old, same old. This extends to conflicts such as “You always do this.” Daily rituals that once meant a great deal to us become boring and predictable.
Seeing only one perspective of a situation prevents us from seeing the other person’s views. As we grow older, this can become more prevalent in our relationships. Soon we stop carefully listening to our partner because we think we know what they are going to say next.
How To Better Listen To Our Partner’s Perspective
- By practicing mindfulness, we can manage to stay open to what our partner has to say.
- Remind yourself to listen to your partner deeply. Put yourself in their shoes and consider their point of view about a topic in question.
- Separate each new situation from those from the past that seem to be similar.
- Introduce novelty. Do something new with them, something you’ve never done before.
- Put your phone aside when talking to them and give them your full attention.
- Whenever you catch yourself thinking you know what they are going to say next, notice these thoughts and do not engage with them.
It takes a lot of work to maintain a marriage. Since I’m sure you want your marriage to be happy and prosperous, the idea to incorporate mindfulness and meditation seems like a no-brainer. There’s substantial science and research proving meditation and mindfulness can help make a marriage successful. There are no negative side effects. Why not use some of it and make your marriage or your relationship a good one for the long run? Sure, it involves changing some of your habits. However, when you think of the benefits, you will most likely find that it’s well worth it.
*This article was originally published at L’Aquila Active and was reposted with full permissions.
You can read the original article here: “Mindfulness and Meditation for Relationships and Marriage”