What is Mindfulness in Relationships and Some Tips on How To Do It?

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Mindfulness has many meanings but the basic concept is about consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, curiosity and receptiveness. This means being able have awareness of what is happening in the current moment and being aware of bodily sensations, feelings and thoughts. 

TRANSCRIPT:

Jenny:    Well, Melissa Ferrari, who we have spoken to before on this program is one of Sydney's leaders in relationship psychotherapy, relationship therapy, and coaching. As a specialist in the field for over 18 years, she has helped many people, and worked with them to live more fulfilling and happy lives. She joins us again today. Good afternoon to you, Melissa.

Melissa:    Hi, Jenny. How are you?

Jenny:    I'm good. Thank you very much, indeed. It's the whole thing about happiness, isn't it? We all have expectations of being happy all the time if we could be.

Melissa:    We certainly do, and sometimes those expectations can bring disappointment, particularly in relationships.

Jenny:    Yes, through history, I think most people can probably say they've had good and bad in their times, and it's a matter of knowing how to deal with situations when they arise. Most importantly, you deal with couples that want to fix the situation, don't you?

Melissa:    I do. Many people bring different things to me in terms of their relationships. Sometimes relationships have windows of things being good, and windows of things not being so good. One thing that I really do use a lot with couples is my thoughts around mindfulness in relationships.

Jenny:    What is that?

Melissa:    Mindfulness is a mental state that you can achieve by focusing your awareness on the present moment. In that present moment, you come to acknowledge and accept your own feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Interestingly enough, mindfulness has always been used in therapeutic techniques and probably has done so for decades. What I like to talk about is bringing mindfulness a little bit more into our actual relationship, and how being mindful with your partner can have a profound effect on the quality of your relationship.

Jenny:    Women talk relationships not just a partner that we may happen to have, but we talk about relationships with workmates, our family members, our parents, and a lot of the things that you teach couples I guess could be applied to other relationships that we have.

Melissa:    Yeah, including even relationships with children as well. There are so many things that I do teach couples that they take home and try with their kids, and they find that it has a profound effect on their behaviour.

Jenny:    What do we do that is wrong?  What are the biggest mistakes that we do make in relationships?

Melissa:    Well, basically what I think, to sort of stay with the outline of this subject is that I think with our partners, we do forget how to be mindful, and how to take care of each other in a way that really says to the other person, "You mean a lot to me. You count in my life, and you are number one for me." What I think often happens ... An example of having lack of mindfulness would be the type of person or people that you can see out in restaurants, and sitting with their partner, and they're consistently on their phone, and not talking to their partner at all. Now, having said that, I know of many people that can go to dinner and be on their phone, but they're still able to have a conversation with each other about what they're viewing. They might be Googling something together, and all of that. I'm talking more about that place where people nowadays do seem to be very addicted to their telephones, and my often concern, and what I hear, is what message you're giving your partner.

Jenny:    In a relationship, you have your good moments and your bad moments. In your bad moments, things are said to each other that can't be taken back, and we all know that. When you start them to try and communicate with your partner, I think it's at the back of your head all the time that those things were said that were hurtful. Being able to forgive is a very difficult thing for some people.

Melissa:    It is. Forgiveness is so complex, because what you're talking about there is your mind doesn't forget, and your mind and your brain remembers things through experience. When something does keep repeatedly happening that you find that it's something that's difficult to forget or forgive, you really have to work at interrupting that process, because if it keeps happening ... It's actually the brain that's responding to it and saying this no longer feels good to me. Couples need to learn how to interrupt that process, and interrupting that process can have a profound effect on the outcome of the relationship.

Jenny:    It would, because by holding grudges of course it just festers everything, and it goes on and on. You got a couple, right, that is sort of pulling back from each other because of things that are being said, or the relationship's not going well for some reason. Who breaks the ice? Do they both have to sit down and discuss this? Say we need to acknowledge what's happened, and perhaps prevent it again?

Melissa:    It's interesting because it can be done through discussion of course. If you've had the kind of relationship where you actually can stick together and talk about we have a real disruption here that needs to have some attention, and we need to fix it, or you can be the one partner in the relationship that really decides I'm going to do something different. You can start to be the partner that starts to become a little more mindful in the relationship. What that means is, you actually do things my action, rather than just talking. That can be something like when you are out, putting the phone down, and consciously looking at your partner. Even trying to look into your partner's eyes. When we look into each other's eyes, they say you see someone's soul, and there's all those cliché words that are used, but genuinely we do come into the world wired to be seen for who we are, so when there's consistent distraction, it creates an interruption, and it does start to feel like I don't matter to that person anymore. I often tell couples, "If you can, you don't even have to tell your partner that you're doing it, just hold that gaze with them just that little bit longer. The kind of gaze that says I really see who you are."

 

    
    

In this interview I spoke to Jenny Seaton from  CurtinFM Radio 100.1 about how to be mindful in your relationships and to bring some awareness to the messages we may send our partner when we don't practice the important elements of mindfulness at least some of the time.

Melissa:    It's interesting because it can be done through discussion of course. If you've had the kind of relationship where you actually can stick together and talk about we have a real disruption here that needs to have some attention, and we need to fix it, or you can be the one partner in the relationship that really decides I'm going to do something different. You can start to be the partner that starts to become a little more mindful in the relationship. What that means is, you actually do things my action, rather than just talking. That can be something like when you are out, putting the phone down, and consciously looking at your partner. Even trying to look into your partner's eyes. When we look into each other's eyes, they say you see someone's soul, and there's all those cliché words that are used, but genuinely we do come into the world wired to be seen for who we are, so when there's consistent distraction, it creates an interruption, and it does start to feel like I don't matter to that person anymore. I often tell couples, "If you can, you don't even have to tell your partner that you're doing it, just hold that gaze with them just that little bit longer. The kind of gaze that says I really see who you are."

Jenny:    That is so very true. It's like you're actually listening to somebody for the first time.

Melissa:    That is a craving and an experience that we all carry through life. We always want to feel that way, but sometimes it's just hard to really acknowledge it. To be the mindful partner that decides, "I'm going to really do some different kind of things." Another one would be like a hug. When you do give someone a hug, a real body to body hug, what we call stomach to stomach, or ventral to ventral. You just hold that for just that little bit longer. I'm talking maybe 15 seconds or more. I'm not talking endless amounts of minutes. Just holding that hug a little bit longer, because it's actually ... Our bodies feel that. Your nervous system feels that. It's actually changing how your brain is operating, and it creates a better experience between the two of you in the relationship.

Jenny:    I can understand that. You only have to look at how effective hugging is really, when you look at children who love to be hugged, you're animals that come up to you to be hugged and touched. That is an instinct that is just in everybody that's got a heart.

Melissa:    Exactly, Jenny, and that's right. They have a heart, and we also have very similar brains. The brain is what registers what feels good. Love is about feeling good, so when you are able to register something in the brain, it actually can shift things profoundly. As a couples therapist, we're studying neuroscience now, and understanding this stuff so much more.

Jenny:    What about a relationship that has been a long relationship and things have become more like friends, which can happen. A friendship sort of develops, which is not a bad thing. It's comfortable, you get on well together, that's fine. Maybe one of the partners would like to have it a little bit more romantic. How do you get the other person to feel that way? What do you suggest?

Melissa:    It's interesting, because I do work with older couples who are ... They've really gotten to a stage in their life where they're looking for safety, security, longevity, someone that will be there for them forever, get older, and sick, and all that kind of stuff. That relationship can really suite many, but sometimes there can be one that is looking for a little bit more, which is what you're describing. That does take a little bit more effort, and it really means voicing to your partner, "I remember how things used to be, and I want to bring it back to that." Possibly thought that conversation or by trying some of the things that I'm suggesting here, the more mindful kind of things like when you look at your partner, just have a very pleasant face. I know that sounds like something quite ordinary, but when they look at each other, and a face that looks back at us that says, "I really like you," you know the corner of the mouth is pointed up rather than down. It really says to that person, "I love who you are, and I remember who you are." You can start to ignite things just through some of these suggestions that I'm saying today. Now, it can take some time, but it's that brain that we're talking to that actually picks things up, that creates more change.

Melissa:    It's interesting, because I do work with older couples who are ... They've really gotten to a stage in their life where they're looking for safety, security, longevity, someone that will be there for them forever, get older, and sick, and all that kind of stuff. That relationship can really suite many, but sometimes there can be one that is looking for a little bit more, which is what you're describing. That does take a little bit more effort, and it really means voicing to your partner, "I remember how things used to be, and I want to bring it back to that." Possibly thought that conversation or by trying some of the things that I'm suggesting here, the more mindful kind of things like when you look at your partner, just have a very pleasant face. I know that sounds like something quite ordinary, but when they look at each other, and a face that looks back at us that says, "I really like you," you know the corner of the mouth is pointed up rather than down. It really says to that person, "I love who you are, and I remember who you are." You can start to ignite things just through some of these suggestions that I'm saying today. Now, it can take some time, but it's that brain that we're talking to that actually picks things up, that creates more change.

Jenny:    Good advice, as always. We thank you very much indeed for joining us today. I know you're going to catch up with us in the near future, Melissa.

Melissa:    I am, Jenny. I look forward to it. I always love speaking to you.

Jenny:    Thank you so much. We look forward to it as well. Thanks, Melissa.

Melissa:    Thanks. Bye.

Jenny:    Relationships aren't always easy at the best of times, so a little bit of advice from time to time does help, doesn't it.

I thank all those who follow my blog, the incredibly courageous couples I work with and the many of you who follow my social media pages. 

For more tips and information about love, relationships and happiness visit my Facebook page Key To Love  for those looking to find a life partner and are looking for some coaching or Love, Life, Relationships & Transformation for parents and those in relationships already who like some daily inspiration.