One of the biggest challenges in a marriage is developing strong mutual understanding.
This becomes even more challenging when one partner has a short attention span, and when one or both partners do not pay proper heed to what their significant other is saying.
This absence of attention leads to lack of active listening, which in turn gives way to misunderstandings that result in conflict.
I have always had trouble with active listening. When I was a kid, I often went absent-minded during school lectures and had to do extra reading at home to cover up for the missed points. Even as a grown up, my ever-wandering mind hardly rests at a place for more than a few minutes.
While I realized this problem early on, I never thought of it as a weakness. I focused more on my strengths of being energetic and being able to multi-task, and my ability to make quick decisions.
Things changed when I got married. When I had to live with one person under one roof in one place.
I couldn’t travel as and when I wished. I couldn’t continue working. I couldn’t keep myself interested in the daily routine life. My overtly zealous and active mind longed for a change every few days. I couldn’t stay calm. My fidgety mind grew more restless after marriage.
This uneasiness was reflected in the increasing number of conflicts I was having with myself and my husband. My anxiety became the biggest hurdle in connecting with my soul and soul mate.
This is where mindfulness came to my aid.
I read about it. Wrote about it. Inculcated it. And finally, made it a habit.
By practicing mindfulness, I have learned to stay focused. To be there in the moment. To let the mind stay at one point and let my thoughts concur with my feelings.
I am not an expert on the subject, nor have I mastered the art of mindfulness, but I know that mindfulness is the way to peace. It leads to internal stability and lasting self-connection.
From my understanding of the subject, I can suggest three ways mindfulness helps us in leading better relationships:
1) Connecting with our partner.
In today’s chaotic times, we often complain of shorter attention spans. There are too many distractions around, and amid these interferences it becomes more difficult to connect with our partner. How many times do we (or our partner) complain, “You don’t understand what I am saying. You aren’t listening to me,” in the midst of an argument?
This is a valid complaint. It happens often that we are talking to somebody and hearing what they are saying, but not understanding it. Why? Because we are using our ears in hearing them but not our mind. Our mind is somewhere else.
When the mind is not actively involved, any conversation will go to waste. Which is why we spend hours with friends or our partner, but don’t really feel that we have connected with them in any way. Mindfulness helps in resolving this problem.
When we are mindful, we do not brood about the past or the future. Our focus is on the present moment, and on our partner, who exists in our present. Being mindful helps in keeping the mind involved when our partner is sharing his feelings with us.
Unaware of what is going on outside this conversation, we mindfully listen to him and pay attention to what he is saying. This kind of active listening helps make us empathetic toward him and appreciative of what he has to say. This eventually leads to deeply understanding his emotions and thoughts, and thus knowing him better as an individual.
In return, he realizes that his thoughts and emotions are being attended to—that he is valued.
2) Connecting with our own self.
Mindfulness helps not only in understanding our partner, but also our own self. Studies have shown that mindfulness can improve self-knowledge. It is a skill that can be acquired and learnt with time, and an easy path to understanding our present emotions, rather than slipping into the pangs of the past or unnecessary worries about the future. Connecting with our own selves makes us conscious of our character.
Being aware of our own personality, thoughts and emotions helps us to realize our shortcomings and strengths. When we are aware of our capabilities, capacities and temperaments, we are in a better position to accept our partner in a non-judgmental way and strike a crucial balance in relationships, giving them the stability of care and acceptance.
Mindfulness does not mean burying our emotions and always remaining saintly. It instead means being the sole owner of our feelings and thoughts, and driving them to where we want them to go. It means controlling them—in a good way.
When we have a sound grip on our thoughts, we know where they are leading us, and whenever we see them taking us down a drain, we can steer them in a positive direction and take charge of any distressing situation.
3) Lesser conflicts.
We may not realize it, but we cause the most irreparable damage to relationships when we fling hurtful words, accusations and abuses at each other in the spur of the moment. What begins as a minor argument or expression of our random thoughts, slowly snowballs into a conflict.
Mindfulness fosters the capability to be aware of what we are going to say before actually uttering it. If we are mindful of our speech, we pay attention to what we are going to say, and thus avoid using words or statements that may hurt our partner. This conscious decision to not hurl words that may cause harm results in fewer conflicts in relationships.
During an argument, being mindful helps us to stay on the current problem without adding to it by being judgmental about our partner or bringing up the past conflicts. It means staying on this one particular issue and resolving it as a stand-alone case.
After making mindfulness a way of life, I have taken control over my anxiety and impulsiveness. I have become calmer and more patient with myself and the people around me. My marriage has only become stronger. My mind has learned to focus, while my heart is happy and stable.
It was early 2015 when I had resolved to work on my temperament and inculcated the habit of meditating and practicing mindfulness. It is now early 2016, and I do not need the resolution anymore. It is now in my nature.
Author: Surabhi Surendra
Editor: Toby Israel