Sandy, a mother of three young sons, felt extremely bored in her marriage with Mike. They were both super busy with the rigors of work and parenthood. Mike also felt a lack of intimacy and warmth in the relationship.
Even though he was always “busy”, he felt lonely. So the two sat down and created a list of ideas to rekindle their flame: A weekend trip? Planting a garden? A nightly walk?
Sure, any one of these activities would likely provide a temporary benefit. But the deeply engrained problem of feeling disconnected wasn’t going to be magically solved by a weekend get-away. So eventually, they turned to the world of mindfulness where they extracted three universal lessons about relationships and intimacy.
What follows are those three lessons, which are psycho-spiritually linked to the most powerful source of energy in the universe – love.
1) Use active listening
Believe it or not, one research study found that couples who were married for many years were less perceptive of their spouse’s feelings and thoughts than newly married couples.
Let’s face it – the longer we are with someone, the less focused we are on what they say and how they feel. At time goes on, we begin to make assumptions about our mates to the point they can become caricatured, much like a cartoon. If left unchecked, the attributes we assign to them end up distorting their true essence, which acts as a major roadblock to intimacy.
The way erase the caricature is to engage in active listening. This means allowing them to freely share what is on their mind, asking follow up questions for clarification and paraphrasing back key points to demonstrate understanding.
An important aspect of active listening requires that we not jump to conclusions. In long term marriages, this is easier said than done. I encourage you to approach spousal discussions with an open mind/heart and listen with all of your senses to what is being said.
2) Use a beginners mind
Focus your attention on your spouse as if you are seeing them for the first time. This mindful approach is what some Buddhist teachers call a Beginners Mindset. Using this method, you purge your consciousness of toxic thoughts about your spouse and free yourself of negative energy.
It will not always be possible to keep a beginners mind for long periods of time but even if you can do this for a few moments, you will be creating positive change. Over the course of time, this can shift your perspective through the power of living in the here and now.
When we are able to become fully aware of who are spouse is at the present moment, we drop preconceived expectations. This allows our mate to feel like they truly matter and validates their emotions.
This is not to suggest that we blow off important issues in order to keep harmony. Instead, it means that we build in breaks in the form of a timeout when they are necessary and become aware when we are falling into old, unhealthy communications patterns.
3) Reverse Roles
One of the things I like to do when working with couples is ask them to reverse roles (to the extent possible). In other words, one person in the marriage literally switches regularly held duties and activities with their spouse.
Examples: If you are the one who usually does the cooking, let your spouse attend to it for the night. If your husband is the one who always mows the lawn, you assume that task. You get the general point.
What I have generally found that happens during this activity is a new sense of awareness on the part of both individuals about one another. The most frequent comment made in fact is: “I had no idea what this was like for you.”
By literally walking in our spouses shoes – even for a day – we gain fresh insight into their life and increase our awareness about their experiences.
Summing Things Up
Breathing new life back into a long term marriage isn’t easy. Anybody who claims otherwise frankly doesn’t know what they are talking about. It takes real effort to keep a sense of connection alive. That’s why mindfulness can be helpful in this area.
By keeping a beginners mind, using active listening and reversing relational roles, you can help to keep the connection strong with your spouse and move about the business of feeling happy you are married.
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