Mindfulness in a Relationship: Three Simple Yet Challenging Practices to Increase Understanding

Over the weekend I took part in a workshop that I thought might help me understand this thing called relationships a bit better. The training combines mindfulness, body awareness, and most importantly, what Hakomi refers to as “loving presence” when relating to another person. As much as I love working on Global Glue Project, I find that between writing and working on the films, I spend a lot of time on the computer and not much time actually in relationship, which has me missing the entire point.

The experience allowed me to see several areas where I continue to make mistakes, and I am guessing I am not alone. The following are three simple ideas in theory, but so difficult to practice. My hope is that others may find these ideas helpful, whether they are reminders of practices that you already use, or completely new ways of being:

  1. Just being there is enough. Don’t try and fix anything. When the person in front of you– be it someone you work with or someone you love– is in pain, simply have an open curiosity about what they are going through. We all have a tendency to want to fix a problem by offering a solution, or relating to it with a story of our own. Simply keep the attention on the person you are with and allow them to feel their feelings without trying to fix them. This is much easier said than done, it is nearly impossible to sit with someone else’s pain and not feel it, so of course we want to fix it, so that neither of us has to feel the pain. A bit of an extreme example, but this is perfectly illustrated by Nadine & Thomas, she is not able to fix his cancer, but for Thomas “You were there” was enough.

    Nadine & Thomas make sure to respect each other's feelings and openly communicate.
    Nadine & Thomas make sure to respect each other’s feelings and openly communicate.
  2. Those we love and are close to are the easiest targets for becoming our “idea” of who that person should be, versus who they actually are in any given moment. It is nearly impossible to allow our intimate partner to simply be, rather than make them the object of meeting our needs or our idea of who we think they should be. This attitude of open curiosity can allow our partner to change and evolve, free from the expectation of who we think they are or need to become. David & Christopher practice this, David shares the importance to, “Just let each other be who we are, and not try to make him into the person we think he should be.”

    David & Christopher
    David & Christopher love each other for who they are, not who they aren’t.
  3. One of the biggest tools in relationship is being able to simply say, “I feel triggered right now” or “You seem triggered.” It’s so easy to simply get triggered and then go down the rabbit hole of reactivity, defensiveness, and anger. If we are simply able to name our experience, whether it is what we are feeling or what we are witnessing, it can create enough space to make a choice to react differently. Tommy & Kia practice this simply by speaking up when something feels off between them, the key is to say so lovingly.

Relationships are living things, ever-changing and extremely complex. But just as any living organism needs a few basic things- food, clean water, oxygen- the complexity of a relationship can be helped by the simple practices of presence, honesty, and openness about everything. We would love to hear about your experience in using these tools with your partner. Do they work for you?

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