Have you ever struggled with maintaining a centered sense of self whilst in an intimate relationship?
Maintaining this more enlightened state seems to get harder the closer we get to people. Relationships offer a number of challenges including how they seem to make this whole being present more difficult.
In the hopes of making this a bit easier, I started to pay attention to times when I felt further from my centered self and what seems to help put me back to mindfulness. I’ve discovered that we can all experience more conscious relationships by remembering three important things.
I recently took a lot of time to get to know myself and work on me. I began to notice that I am making some significant strides in terms of how I interact with myself, how I interact with my friends and how I move through the world as a more present, mindful human.
Then I got into a romantic relationship.
This was my first serious relationship in two years. And, with my new sense of self, I started to think that maybe I had figured out this whole relationship thing after all.
Then it started to become obvious to me that the work I did with myself didn’t necessarily translate seamlessly to being with another person.
I was reminded that there are still deeper, darker areas I have yet to explore and work on in order to be more mindful and conscious when with another person and not simply moving through life alone.
1. Strive to be wrong.
Going with the flow can come quite naturally to us. Humans are great at enduring change. We are highly adaptive. And, yet, have you noticed how ironclad fisted we can get about being “right”? It can cause so much unnecessary pain and suffering — specifically in close relationships. Not only can it harm the other person at the receiving end of our righteousness, it also hinders us from growing.
In order to learn and grow, we must be wrong. Think about it, if we know everything already then there is nothing left we can learn. If we are not learning, we cannot grow.
I find that it is in the moments when I think my way is the only way or that my perspective is the only perspective that I feel the most amount of pain or suffering in my relationship.
It is only when we release our hold on being “right” that we can truly be open and enjoy the beauty of a close relationship.
2. Take responsibility for our emotions.
“He just makes me so mad.” “She ruined the whole evening.” “He really gets under my skin.”
When we say things like this we are immediately casting blame outside ourselves for how we feel and react in this world. Sometimes it might seem like the actions of others cause our reactions or feelings—but this is not the case. The actions of others do have effects in the world just as our actions have effects. However, our emotions and thoughts are purely the effect of our own causes.
This is important to remember for both parties in a relationship. Recently I learned that my boyfriend saw it as his responsibility to make me feel good and—so if I was having a bad day, he wasn’t doing his job. While this gesture is extremely thoughtful, it helped remind me that all too often, not only do we avoid taking responsibility for our own feelings and emotions, we take on responsibility for others’ when we don’t need to.
The more we can take responsibility for our inner state of being and release the need to be responsible for someone else’s, the easier and more peaceful life becomes.
3. Notice what the other person exposes in us.
When we see something we like, it’s a projection of what we like within ourselves. When we think someone is angry, it’s a projection of what we know anger to look like based on how we react when we’re angry. When we allow ourselves to get irritated with something (or someone), it is because that thing reminds us of a trait we have and don’t like.
It is through this exposure that we can choose to either get angry and push people away or expect them to change, or we can use this as an opportunity to more deeply explore ourselves and better understand what it is we are uncomfortable having exposed.
This recently became much clearer to me when I started to notice that I was getting upset with my partner when he did something that seemed to be avoiding reality. Then I stepped back and asked myself, “what is he doing that is reminding me of something I don’t like about myself?” Sure enough, I don’t like to admit that I do a number of things that avoid the reality of my situation.
It is by exploring the parts of ourselves that we don’t like that we can experience happier and healthier relationships with ourselves and with others.
When we are wiling to be wrong, take responsibility for our emotions and examine the dark corners of ourselves, we can experience empowering, sustainable relationships—whether they are with the stranger in the supermarket or with our lifelong partner.
What tips do you have for being more mindful in relationships? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.
Author: Amanda Johnson
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões at Flickr