When these difficult periods emerge it’s important for partners to remain composed, positive, and dedicated to working together.
One practice that a couple can do to grow closer, that is easy and wholesome, is mindfulness meditation.
Specifically, Mindfulness-Based Relationship Enhancement (MBRE) has been shown to be an effective way to boost stress coping skills and increase personal well-being.
This is adapted from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, and serves the same general purpose of experiencing present moment awareness, and gaining insight into habitual patterns of thoughts, feelings, and interactions with others.
When applying this concept to relationships specifically, it provides an opportunity to enhance joy, compassion, and connectedness.
There are three ways mindfulness practice can enhance partners’ relationships.
1) Mindfulness meditation promotes relaxation and neutralizes the stress response. Being mindful on our breath and body can be emotionally and physically relaxing, and provides a buffer against chronic stress. It allows us to just “be” with what is and calm the constant flow of thinking and emotional arousal that may follow.
As stress builds so can agitation and conflict, and mindfulness can be a shared activity to prevent conflict from mounting.
2) Mindfulness increases compassion and acceptance of one’s partner. People will have quirks, habits, and qualities that can get a little annoying. Frankly, when we are around someone day in and day out, it’s important to develop a flexible and non-judgmental outlook.
When we can accept the differences and idiosyncrasies of our partner, the trivial problems no longer lead to discord. Mindfulness can help us be more objective and less reactive about these issues.
3) Mindfulness improves ability to cope and function in different life domains. Mindfulness is a “way of being” as opposed to just a specific skill. When this philosophy is applied to day-to-day life it makes work, leisure, and family responsibilities more pleasant and tolerable. It leads to greater engagement in momentary pleasures, clarity in thinking, and improves the ability to cope with unpleasant events.
A few techniques explored through MBRE sessions are partner focused loving-kindness meditation, learning to be mindful of daily pleasant events, and improving intimacy through mindful touching and eye-gazing.
It appears that overall; mindfulness can bring about improvements in day-to-day relationship happiness, relationship stress, and overall ability to manage stress.
Begin exploring how mindfulness practices can help strengthen your relationship.
Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Gil, K. M., & Baucom, D. H. (2004). Mindfulness-Based Relationship Enhancement. Behavior Therapy, 35, 471-494.