Mindful Connection Between Partners
by Evie Shafner, LMFT
Kind, conscious, mature communication, especially when we are upset with our partners, is the insurance policy for a loving, happy connection that goes the distance. And by mature, I mean, not reacting like a tantruming child who hasn’t learned the art of self-regulation yet. It’s simple, but not always easy, especially when you are in the thick of a heated argument.
Mindful communication between partners is making a conscious decision to act separately from how we may be feeling in the middle of a disagreement. Here are a few quick tools to put this into motion:
- Respond, don’t react. Responding is learning how to pause and engage our conscious mind so we can respond with values such as empathy, kindness and reason instead of allowing our gut reaction to take over. When that happens, we usually become harming in some way to our partner, and make things worse.
- Harville Hendrix, the founder of Imago Relationship Therapy, has started a Zero Negativity Challenge, where you commit to 30 days of no criticism. Join the challenge and see how much easier having mindful communication can become.
- Avoid the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (as described by marriage researcher John Gottman): criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness. Your partner will thank you later and so will your marriage.
- Understand that one person can single-handedly transform the communication in your relationship. Even if your partner is behaving unconsciously, you do not have to respond the same way. You can stay non-reactive, you don’t have to meet their energy with the same energy.
All of this goes to the practice of learning a mindfulness approach so that we may be able to pause, observe ourselves, and have compassion for the part of us that may be triggered in the moment. Just remember, what we give to ourselves, we give to the world.