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Six Mindful Ways to Deepen Your Relationship

By Kimberly Wulfert, PhD

 

A study by Burpee and Langer,* published in the Journal of Adult Development was designed to find out if there was a relationship between mindfulness, marital satisfaction and perceived similarity to the partner. The researchers wanted to know specifically if mindfulness mattered and if so, how much it contributed to a happy marriage. So they gave a questionnaire and a mindfulness measure to 55 women and 40 men, ages 25 to 74, who were currently married.

Mindfulness in this study was defined as “an active process of drawing novel distinctions” between the spouses and having a heightened awareness of alternative perspectives. I take it to mean that assuming a mindful perspective toward marriage highlights the uniqueness of each person and fosters an open-minded acceptance of the different perspectives that each individual offers.

It turned out that mindfulness was far more important to marital satisfaction than how much the two people shared in common. In fact, perceived similarity didn’t even hit the statistical mark of significance.

This finding got me to think about the practical take-aways from their research. Using my approach to mindful living, I offer these tips for couples married or not.

 1. Celebrate your differences. See the value in having different points of view. There are probably more than a few you can find when you look at the situation mindfully: in the present, with a curious and open mind, without prejudgment, based on the past experiences in the relationship. The differences between you keep things interesting. Two intelligent minds can be better than one when you need to solve problems.

2. Bring novelty to the relationship by doing different things, together and apart. Remember, liking similar things did not correlate with a high level of satisfaction with the partner.

Novelty doesn’t always have to be entirely new things, but variations of what you normally do. For example, cooking or eating food at a restaurant where you have never eaten before, watching a different movie or concert, or reading each other’s favorite magazine.

Afterward have a meaningful conversation about your experience. You’ll be enriched from sharing your novel perspectives and you’ll learn more about your partner when you exchange perspectives in an environment where it’s safe to have a different point of view.

3. When conflict is of a more intense nature, discuss the details of each of your points of view to provide your partner a clear understanding of your perspective at this time. The partners in a mindful relationship remember not to let what was once true get in the way of what is currently true for each other. It’s easy to slip into automatic thinking or mindlessness. Here you may make assumptions that you know what they “really mean” and stay in a conflicted state that may not exist. Actively listen and consider your spouse’s existing of point of view.

4. Take responsibility for your state of being by regularly asking yourself if you’re in a mindful or a mindless state of awareness when relating to your partner. If it’s mindless, shift your attention into the present by focusing on your breath for a minute and observing what is actually happening inside and around you in that moment. Stay in that space until you are focused in the present moment. Maybe you’re hungry, or tired, or irritated from work and therefore relating to your partner mindlessly. First you need to address what’s taking your attention, then you can be mindful toward your partner.

5. Be open to and engage with your partner when they share something with you. Everyone likes to feel they are heard, known and seen when they share. Bringing your focus of attention to your partner, for the minutes the conversation takes can make a big difference to them, avoiding repetition and hurt feelings.

6. Change is the nature of life. Mindful partners are less threatened by change because they know change is inevitable and is happening in every moment. From a mindful approach, the partners see the current context of a situation occurring in the relationship or in their partner. 
Grasping and holding have no place in a mindfully-based relationship.

Enthusiasm comes naturally when you are in a mindful state realizing the value you receive from being aware of your partner’s perspective and experiences. Differences enrich your relationship in many ways.

*Burpee, Leslie C., and Ellen J. Langer. 2005. Mindfulness and marital satisfaction. Journal of Adult Development 12, no. 1: 43-51. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:3160495

Kimberly Wulfert, PhD, is The Woman’s Coach, a meditation teacher and a licensed psychologist with a mind, body, spirit approach to helping adults in Ventura, CA since 1989. Are you hoping to meet a great match through online dating sites, but are only attracting mismatches? Don’t give up. I will help you write a personal, inviting, accurate profile to make the best first impression. Visit: KimberlyWulfert.com/coaching