Mindfulness is a more important part of communication in relationships than many people realize.
Conflict is productive in healthy relationships if both partners stay present, listen actively, and promote healthy communication. Here are 10 ways couples can stay mindful in their relationships:
1. Be assertive.
Learn how to ask for what you need in your relationship and express your feelings.
Your partner can’t read your mind — they need to hear how you feel in order to understand you. Therefore, it’s important to express your truth, even if it sometimes means making your significant other angry.
It takes courage to confront someone you love, but if you don’t, you accomplish nothing and resent your partner, which hurts both you and the relationship.
2. Stay present.
When you’re dealing with conflict in relationships, it’s important to hear what your partner is saying and for them to be willing to listen to you. Reliving history just to prove a point isn’t as effective as living in the moment of the present conflict.
If the problem is a recurring theme you’ve swept under the rug to avoid conflict, then perhaps you should share the times when the problem occurred. But otherwise, stay in the present moment. When you stay mindful of the present, you can express your emotions healthily instead of bottling them up.
3. Avoid lecturing.
Nothing is a bigger turn-off than a partner lecturing you and forcing advice down your throat. In relationships, lecturing is a surefire way to push your partner to go into “fight or flight” mode instead of encouraging them to listen.
Lecturing will surely remind them of someone in their past — perhaps their mother or father, depending who did the lecturing when they were being scolded as a child. Lecturing can even trigger trauma memories and cause your partner to become reactive, so remain calm.
4. Avoid judgment and criticism.
Whenever you throw judgments around, they’ll spin right back to you. Judgments and criticism are two of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” couples therapist and researcher John Gottman identifies in his work with couples. So to avoid a relationship apocalypse, stay judgment-free.
5. Be honest.
When you and your partner are in conflict, nothing works better than honesty. Changing the facts to massage your point, exaggerating, or stretching your side of the story only creates a stronger reaction from the other side.
Remember: The brain often distorts, deletes, and generalizes information. Therefore, it’s important to be as accurate and honest as you can during arguments with your partner. We all wear different filters when we engage in conflict, so be aware, and stick to the truth!
6. Don’t argue about details.
Another way to lose your partner’s interest and patience is to detail your partner to death. It’s a surefire way to needlessly escalate a conflict.
Most people — especially men — want the bottom line, so keep your words brief. If your partner needs more information, they’ll ask for it.
If you repeat the same arguments over and over, adding insignificant details to magnify the case, you’ll lose your partner in the process. Sometimes less is more!
7. Don’t assign blame.
When you put your partner at fault, they’ll find a reason to make you the problem instead. Remember, though, that conflict is not a blame game. Unless your partner abuses you, ignores you, or is MIA, don’t blame them.
If your partner does any of those things, seek professional counseling or leave your relationship.
8. Practice active listening.
It’s very easy to “unload” on your partner, but it’s much harder to listen. And of course, active listening takes practice.
When you actively listen, you use all your senses to truly hear what your partner’s saying. Convey interest through nonverbal cues, like eye contact and head-nodding, or verbal signals, like saying “yes” or “mhmm” to encourage the speaker to continue.
If you don’t listen actively, you may miss something important that your partner said. Good listening is at least 50 percent of effective communication. After all, sometimes it’s not what you say; it’s what you hear.
9. Only fight about one issue at a time.
When we argue, we often lash out with a laundry list of complaints. But Remember to focus on one thing at a time in an argument.
If you present your partner with a list of character defects and frustrating instances that occurred last month or years ago, they’ll either become defensive or check out.
Wheeling this sack of problems out when you fight with your partner will never help you resolve your conflict.
10. Don’t use sex as a distraction.
Communication begins with a discussion, not sex. Sex will never resolve your issues.
Many couples use sex as a distraction to the discussion, but it’s not a resolution. When you actually solve your problems, the intimacy in your relationship will increase drastically.
Try these mindfulness tips to resolve conflicts with your partner. You’ll find that staying present and calm will work wonders in your relationship!
Joan E. Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker, and author of I Hate the Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success to be released in May 2020. To learn more, visit her website.
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