The Thought-Effect on Relationships
“Mindfulness is like that, it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” …Thích Nhất Hạnh. How often do we stop and take a breath? Breathing is natural and we take between 20-30 thousand breaths a day. We would only give it a second thought if it were to stop. Breathing is mindfulness. If our brain is dead, we do not breathe. Mindful Relationships should be just as effortless.
In our relationships, we do things, without thought, continually. Some good, some bad. Little nuisances like leaving the toilet seat up or down, accidentally washing our wife’s slip with our red track sweats. These are thoughtless, but mostly harmless things that we do. Small things can accumulate into neglect and eventually cause pain.
Couples argue, and it is normal, in fact, healthy at times. It is a sign that we are communicating with one another other. In my former life, I hated confrontation and whenever my significant other would bring something up that made me uncomfortable or even hinted that it may turn into an argument, I would shut down. I would leave the room or remain silent (both really bad ideas). Nothing will make someone madder than non-communication. The fights over little things became even more intense and I withdrew further. It became complete radio silence and our home became a quiet battlefield.
I really do not need to tell you how this all ended, but it did not go well. I’m a stubborn man, but I’m not a stupid one. Circumstances in my life have forced me to actually do an internal inventory of my failed relationships. No one wants the fault to be theirs when it all goes bad. The truth is, none of us are blameless. Digging through the fridge on a cleanout day to find out what stinks, is a really good idea. If something smells bad, it probably is bad… Unless it’s Muenster Cheese of course… (Delicious stinky goodness).
When we are in a bad relationship, we all suffer. Our partners, ourselves and children if we have them. Everyone is a victim. Our pride will not let us admit fault and the pain continues. In order to move on, we must remove the suffering from our lives. The thorn has to be removed. This isn’t just Monday morning quarterbacking. And I’m even really a huge football fan. It is more like having your own personal time machine (Doc Brown and his DeLorean will do nicely) and being able to travel back in time to visit yourself. Understanding who we were then, and why we were mired in depression and fear is a critical part of understanding who we are now. It is also a way for us to forgive ourselves. Nothing in the past can be changed, but we can learn to love ourselves again. Perspective is important in mindful relationships and having an understanding of where we went wrong in the past can help us to avoid it again later on.
Mindful Relationships are Now
Mindful Relationships involve being in the now. Understanding that everything that is happening is now. This is really comforting to me. Overcoming the pain of the past is not easy, and the healing process can be slow. It is okay. We work through it, but with a few moments of mindful thought of who we are and where we are now, it can help us overcome the fear and anger that haunt us.
It is important in your current relationship to be mindful. I’m not talking about becoming a Buddhist Monk, (actually not a bad idea for some of us). I am talking about simple awareness. Being aware of who you are and understanding that you are human. Emotions are there for a reason. Without the pressure relief valve of emotions, at some point, we would all explode. Being able to recognize that we are overwhelmed is the key to helping us open that valve.
When you come home from work and your partner asks you about your day… you must talk to them. I know, sometimes it feels like an inconvenience… Annoyance even… You have to be mindful of why your loved one is asking. They are doing it out of genuine concern and love for you. That is why you are together… right?
If it was a particularly bad day, take a moment. Let your loved one know that you love them and wish to speak to them about your day, but you need a few moments to reflect. Take a quick walk or go into a private place in your home. Take a few deep breaths. Think about each breath as you inhale, and each as you exhale. Only focus on your breathing. Do this for about five minutes. Let your body completely relax. Let go and allow the cares of the day to slip away. This isn’t always immediately possible, but that is OK. Taking a moment to reflect and release the pain and fear will be of great comfort and is a step towards mindful relationships. Now, if you are ready, sit down with your loved one and let them ask you about your day. Be honest. If it was stressful, let them know. If it was great, also let them know that. Open communication clears up issues that may come up later on.
“Those who are happy are not without pain, they just know how not to be controlled by it.” – Love and Other Drugs, 2010
Love is stronger than you can possibly know. Being mindful in your relationship will only make it stronger. You hear about older couples, not exchanging a word, but when they look at each other you can see 70 years of love and understanding pass between them in a single glance. Mindfulness and love are at the heart of their relationship.
Most of us can only hope to have such a long-lasting love. With communication, mindfulness and a little bit of luck, it is definitely possible. We must communicate our needs to our significant others and ask them to communicate theirs to us. Merely bull-dozing through life is not enough. The world we live in is much more complicated and stressful, but this is no excuse to neglect ourselves or loved ones in the process. All relationships are work, even the ones that seem completely effortless (Darn those couples!), but this is a job worth doing right.