As couples, we forget that we probably joined into partnership for the purpose of connection.
And thank god! We need that sh*t. Especially right now. Covid and lockdown have pulled us away from our communities, our friend networks, and our families. And isolation is not particularly helpful for our well-being.
Even if you find yourself going through all of these trials with a partner by your side (and that makes me really glad to hear), it’s already difficult to navigate relationships! Add in a worldwide pandemic, spending more time with your partner than you were probably used to, and maybe leaning on each other more now than you ever had before—that’s enough to make even the most savvy of relateurs gauge their own eyes out.
As a relationship therapist, one of my jobs is to guide the couple toward a more securely-functioning system, and basically what that means is that we find ways of using the relationship itself as a holding container for all the bullsh*t. (Hopefully this’ll make more sense as you follow the first guided meditation, which is basically a formula to see your relationship through a new lens—widen the aperture, so to speak.)
We’re only human. Strangely, we can build a relational system (or couple bubble) that’ll withstand a whole hell of a lot more than we alone ever could.
The second meditation you’ll find below is all about finding compassion for your partner. In metta practice, or maitri loving-kindness, it can sometimes be helpful to remember that we’re seeking acceptance and care for ourselves, as well as for others. This is a great practice for couples (if you’re into meditating together) as a tool to come out of our heads, and remember that, even though they can be so f*cking annoying sometimes, the thing we’re angry about might not be the thing we’re angry about.
And, at the end of the day, we’re with our partner because we want to feel safe, understood, loved, and so why not practice giving all of those things to our partner (just as long as they do the same for you).
The point of these two meditations is to come back to the beginning, in a way. Remember why you’re together. Remember why you want each other in your lives. And to go a little bit easier on yourself, and on your love.
(If you’re single, you might give these a shot. I’m single, and I like reading them. Personally, these sorts of musings help me navigate what it is I want out of a relationship, and an intimate partner).
You’re worth it.
The first meditation is based on Stan Tatkin’s “couple bubble.” The second is akin to a metta/loving-compassion meditation that I’ve tweaked to be more relevant to your relationship and intimate partner. I’m not sure how this will work without a facilitator, but go ahead and try ’em out anyway (a podcast of these would be ideal…)!
Find a comfortable posture with your partner. Wherever you are, sit or lie comfortably, feeling the weight of your back on whatever you might be leaning on, or the weight of your feet on the floor. Eyes can be open or closed—whatever feels most comfortable. Take turns reading the prompts to your partner. For the first meditation, the partner being read to can simply listen, being aware of your breath and any tension you might have in your body. You don’t need to change anything.
For the second meditation, take turns reading the prompts to your partner. Your partner can repeat these prompts silently to themselves. For the partner being read to, feel free to add in your partner’s name.
Generally, we would do a meditation like this by starting with yourself, then moving to someone you hold dearly, then maybe to someone you don’t like so much, and finally, we would hold the entire world in our mind. For this one, stick to your partner, and the relationship.
A core tenet in Buddhist psychology is the belief in basic goodness. This idea that on some level, we aren’t sure whether we are, or were taught to believe that we weren’t, good enough. That there’s something wrong with us. In a relationship, we will almost certainly find a partner who brings these old feelings up, with the possibility to change them, as those same feelings come up for our partner. How can we use the relationship itself to both relearn this fundamental truth—that we are both good enough, and that there isn’t anything wrong with us?
Imagine this “composite individual,” the perfect, securely-attached partner. They are both happy in relationship, and happy alone. Yet they know that we need relationship on a fundamental level. It is objectively healthier to be in relationship; we live longer, and we lead healthier lives. We don’t get sick as often, and when we do, we get better faster. They feel emotions because they know they are healthy to feel, yet they have no overly strong, or out-of-proportion reactions to them. They are what they are, and they don’t connect the meaning to any one emotion as better or worse. Whatever they feel, there is no direct or indirect connection to their own sense of basic goodness. They are brilliantly sane. How might they react to perceived distress?
Now, take this perfect individual, and change them from a person to your relationship. This is the concept of a couple bubble in action. We are not perfect; we are perfectly imperfect. Our relationship can, however, as a living system that we enter into and out of, be used to teach us how to be more like this perfect example. You can use this new line of thinking, now, to construct the relationship you both truly desire. And you can use your relationship to change your attachment style.
How revolutionary is that?
May you…feel heard
May you…feel safe
May you…feel understood
May you…feel cared for and held
May you…feel secure
May you… feel heard in your relationships
May you… feel safe in your relationships
May you…feel understood in your relationships
May you…feel cared for and held in your relationships
May you…feel secure in your relationships
*If you are seriously struggling in your intimate relationship, please seek help. Couples counseling can be exceptionally helpful, as can individual psychotherapy. If there is any violence in the relationship, please reach out to SPAN, your own therapist if you have one, or call 911.