Mindfulness in Relationships: Connecting with Others

 

Horses Grooming One Another

Written by Jenni Chante

 

Relationships of all kinds can be a minefield of unrealistic ideals, old baggage, hang ups, habits and misunderstandings. All too often we find ourselves stuck in unhelpful ideas and beliefs, rather than genuinely connecting with people.

 

Thinking that we know those around us inside out can sometimes block us from being present and really hearing them. Or we may feel so sure of our role within a relationship that we find ourselves repeating unnecessary behaviours which lead to the same old arguments again and again.

In arguments we often place the blame on the other person – they’re not listening to us, they don’t understand, they’re being difficult or purposely trying to wind us up. Conversely, people can feel the same way about us.

Yet by becoming more mindful, we can start to accept some responsibility. Taking responsibility for our feelings and actions is not the same as blaming ourselves. We can take responsibility without layering guilt over the top.

By introducing mindfulness we can start to let go of the repetitive dramas and reach a much deeper, more meaningful level of connection with our partner, family, friends and also ourselves.

Here are some useful questions to ask ourselves when things feel difficult or strained within a relationship.

 

1. What are my beliefs about relationships?

Relationships are important to most of us. We may even attribute our self-worth to our relationship status or circle of friends. It’s useful to be mindful of what we think a relationship should provide us with, or what feelings and experiences we believe shouldn’t arise in a successful relationship.

 

Do you have ideals of what your perfect relationship should look like?

Or the type of people you think you should spend your time with?

Or how your family unit should function?

How does it match up with the truth?

Are confrontations arising because of some discrepancy between your fantasy and reality?

 

The truth is real relationships will rarely meet idealised expectations. Life is messy and unpredictable. Not only will your expectations cause rifts, they may also be holding you back from experiencing the true joy which can come from honest, real connection.

 

2. What are my beliefs about my partner, family and friends?

We can very quickly fall into the trap of thinking we know a person. We experience a few of their idiosyncrasies and bam – we’ve made up our mind up about them. When we do this with a partner it leads to us experiencing people through our limited lens of who we believe they are, rather than seeing them as they truly are – a perpetually evolving human being with great capacity for revealing new facets of their character.

Be mindful of whether you’re being present with those around you, or whether you’re stuck in an old idea of who they seemed to be at some stage in the past.

 

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3. What are my beliefs about myself?

Just as we can become caught in old ideas about others, the same can be true of ourselves. We may believe we have a certain role to play within a relationship, or that certain aspects of ourselves are not good enough.

But like others, we also contain deep potential for change. By bringing attention to the limiting thoughts about ourselves, we can break free of old cycles of behaviour.

 

4. Do my verbal expressions match my true feelings?

It’s an ongoing joke that women expect men to be able to read their minds. However, most of us are guilty of wanting others, particuarly our partners, to guess or uncover what we’re really feeling, and that’s true of both men and women.

 

How often do we really explain our feelings in full?

 

Or when misunderstandings arise, how often do we truthfully look at what we’ve said, rather than staying stuck in how we feel. Of course, sometimes we ourselves aren’t entirely sure of what’s going on inside our minds, so it’s not always possible to be clear.

Yet even during these times we can still bring mindfulness to our confusion, and express that our loved ones. Sometimes just saying “I’m sorry, I know I’m not making sense, I feel really confused” can take the edge of a heated argument or miscommunication.

 

5. Am I exaggerating?

Often when we are upset, we project our current feelings into the past and future. For example, say that we are upset that our partner didn’t help us with a household chore. This may trigger some old emotions around not feeling supported, and that emotion colours our view of the past.

Suddenly instead of it just being “You didn’t help me with ___”, it’s “You never help me” or “You always let me down”.

An alternative suggestion might be “I’m feeling frustrated / unhappy / stressed because the house is a mess. I’d like us to make this more of a priority”, placing the onus on how we’re feeling and offering a solution without the need for an argument.

By being more mindful and honest about the truth of the situation, and of dealing with the present problem instead of raking up the past or projecting our suffering into the future, we can avoid a lot of conflict and remain closer and more connected with those closest to us.

 

Discover how mindfulness can support healthy relationships on a course or workshop.

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