Meditation is my go-to for so many things in life, and that includes relationship problems! Most of us have had at least one bad relationship and many of us have had several. It’s easy to fall into the blame game when you’ve experienced a repeated pattern of poor relationships. We blame our parents, our previous partners, even ourselves. But we’re in more control of our happiness than we think.
Science is discovering, everyday, just how much we can actively change our old patterns through meditation. Even when we have a long history of bad relationships or nightmare dating experiences, we can rewire our brains and heal the damage done so we can go on to have rewarding and mindful partnerships.
Meditation doesn’t just help the romantically unlucky, though. Even if you’re currently in a good relationship, you may find that your personal meditation practice will help you resolve fights faster, make better decisions, and remain present when you’re spending time with your partner.
Here are five ways that meditation can help improve your relationship:
You Learn to Respond, Rather than React
There’s a difference between an automatic, stress-filled reaction and a mindful response. Think of the last time your partner pushed your buttons—partners are very adept at this sort of thing. How did you react? Did you explode? Did you start calling that person names or start hating on yourself a little bit? That’s a stress-fueled reaction.
Now imagine that you’ve been studying meditation for a while -- you may have meditated on responding differently to stress or fear. By paying focused attention to a new imagined reaction during meditation, you’ve already laid out the roadmap in your brain for responding to personal attacks or stress. When you’re going about your daily activities, your brain has an easier time defaulting to practiced “roads” on your roadmap. You’ve given your brain the tools it needs to pause when your partner is angry or stressed, so you can consider the source of their stress and respond to it appropriately.
It’s Something You Can Share
Couples who are dissatisfied with a part of their relationship sometimes cite separate activities and hobbies as a reason for a gulf between partners. Meditation is something that partners can do together. If you’re a couple who enjoy trying new things, pop into a meditation class for date night. You’ll learn about yourself and you may find that you’ll enjoy talking about your shared experience over tea or a bottle of wine afterward. Couples who meditate together often find it to be a bonding experience that brings them closer to one another. Who doesn’t want that?
You Learn How To Be In The Moment
When you are present and living in the moment — rather than rehashing the past or obsessing over the future — you can give more to your relationship. Cues in guided meditation help remind you to come back to the present moment. With practice, you can even do it outside of meditation!
Your partner wants you to be right here, right now with them. When they’re telling you about their day, they want you to be tuned into what they’re saying. As you develop a pattern of coming back to the moment through a regular meditation practice, you’ll notice when your thoughts wander during conversations at the dinner table. Bring those thoughts back to the moment—even with a conscious, albeit silent, reminder to yourself—and your partner will notice. You may even notice that they mirror the behavior and become more present for you as well.
Our happiness is happening right here and right now. The moment you’re sharing with your partner as you take an evening walk together or discuss a current event will never happen in that exact way again. Being present helps you to build an appreciation for your partner and for your relationship, and that strengthens your bond.
Understand Yourself; Understand Your Partner
The more you learn about yourself through meditation, the more you learn about the world around you. In many meditation practices the meditator is encouraged to notice the body and the mind. This expanded awareness and practiced self-reflection follow you into your everyday activities, including exchanges with your partner.
When you have practiced observing yourself and have explored your emotional connections to certain words, memories, or actions, then you might begin to notice your partner’s triggers too. Understanding him or her better helps you avoid unnecessary conflict. Bonus: When they ask you what you want, your heightened self-awareness will help you communicate your wants and needs better so you can get what you want out of your relationship.
Leave Fear Behind
We all have baggage and we bring it with us to our relationships. Often that baggage is stacked onto a luggage cart built from fear. It’s heavy, but we insist on pushing that cart from one relationship to another, adding a bag here and there along the way. Your relationship fears may include anything from not wanting him or her to see you naked with the light on, to fears that he or she will grow bored and wander off because you’ve experienced something similar in the past.
Whether you’re new to meditation or you’ve been doing it for years, meditation offers a different way to navigate everyday life. What relationship couldn’t use a bit more of that?