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The Role of Mindfulness and Emotional Mastery in Couple Relationships

Ever notice how many of your thoughts, during a communication with your spouse, take you out of the present moment to future worries or past laments? If you’re not aware of what you tell yourself in your mind (self-talk), and uncertain about how to return to the present moment, you are at risk of mismanaging your emotions in sensitive discussions with your partner.


The thoughts you think inside your mind end up on your lips. Life-draining thoughts cause similar emotions that, in turn, produce unwanted behavioral outcomes, such as reactivity, in your discussions. And, the point is to obtain great outcomes for both, right?

Now, there is a proven solution: developing a practice of mindfulness to master your emotional states.

Mindfulness and emotional mastery go hand in hand.

Mindfulness is a learned ability to live in the present moment experience of life. Emotional mastery, according to Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of the 1995 groundbreaking bestseller Emotional Intelligence, is the “capacity for recognizing [your] own feelings and those of others, for motivating [yourself], and for managing emotions well in [yourself] and in [your] relationships.”

The two together form a mindful process of attuning your awareness to what is going on in the present moment—your emotions, feelings, thoughts, yearnings, and so on—and doing so in a way that connects you authentically to both your heart and the heart of life around you.

This is where mindfulness can play a major role in allowing you and your partner to remain empathically engaged with one another in challenging moments. In his book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, neuroscientist Daniel Siegel, MD notes that certain areas of the brain receive “intuitive” wisdom from visceral parts of the body, such as the heart and the intestines.

The bottom line is that, in order to remain in rapport, you and your partner’s hearts need to remain open to one another. Mindfulness helps you retain a calm heart-centered awareness in challenging moments by making it easier for you and your partner to:

  • Focus your attention regardless that other thoughts may be vying for time.
  • Manage your body’s reactions with conscious awareness and response choices.
  • Calm any reactivity that would interfere with your ability to communicate.
  • Notice any limiting thoughts that cause emotions of fear, guilt, shame, and so on.
  • Better understand yourself and others as human beings on a learning journey.
  • Let go of fear-inducing beliefs and replace them with life enriching ones.
  • Choose the thinking-feeling state you want in a given moment.
  • Set an intention for what outcome you want to produce in your communication.

In sum, mindfulness works as it allows you to get comfortable with the inherently uncomfortable aspects of emotional intimacy.

In any moment, for example, you simply pause to mindfully set an intention for what outcomes you want to produce in your communications. You have a lot more control over the outcomes of your relational communications than you think. You have a choice in what you think and feel.

Mindfulness offers practical tools, such as deep breathing, meditation or imaging, for making emotional self-mastery a lifestyle. All of these are powerful choices on behalf of your life and relationship—and your present moment communications.

Inner calmness is strength that keeps your heart engaged and fears at bay where they cannot control your responses.

Why not test its benefits for yourself?

The Role of Mindfulness and Emotional Mastery in Couple Relationships

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2011). The Role of Mindfulness and Emotional Mastery in Couple Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Oct 2011
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