When we talk about mindful relationships, it’s usually in the context of being more aware and respectful of your partner’s thoughts and feelings. To some people, being more mindful is simply about making someone’s eggs the way they like them or remembering to put the toilet seat down.
But when I speak about a mindful relationship—a truly conscious relationship—I’m talking about one in which shared awareness has been crafted and cultivated over time and spiritual growth is interwoven throughout. These are the sorts of relationships that can grow beyond the stage of "us" and become a union with the "one." Here are three essential elements of a deeply mindful relationship:
1. Commit to the relationship.
It happens all the time: People come together with the greatest intention of love, but then they get caught in their needs and their frustrations and they separate. One of the problems is that we tend to place relationships on the back burner of life a bit. We enter a relationship, and before long we give all of our energy to a job or other duties.
Even if you are fully committed to your partner, you still need to assess how committed you are to the relationship itself. A mindful relationship is not only about a commitment to your partner; it’s a commitment to the union. It’s a commitment to growing the shared awareness. It’s about putting all your chips in the middle of the table and saying, "I’m all in."
Committing to your relationship means treating it like a practice. It’s a full-time operation, and the energy you have to invest in staying clear with your partner is profound.
2. Embrace truth.
Thriving alongside another human being means embracing truth. And truth is scary. Truth has bad breath at times. Truth is boring. Truth burns the food. Truth has anger. Truth has all of it. And you stay in it, and you keep working with it, and keep opening to it, and keep deepening it.
If the foundation of your relationship is romance, you may find yourself in trouble when the flames of passion begin to dim. To enter into a mindful relationship is to instead enter into a contract to share the truth at all times. There’s no room for "harmless" white lies in this type of union, so it’s a good idea to understand how much truth your relationship can handle. Maybe it’s no big deal to tell your partner you didn’t like their cooking, but what about a truth that cuts a little bit deeper and might trigger your partner? If you shortcut speaking your truth, you may find yourself "asleep" in your relationship.
3. Embrace vulnerability.
Your ego is so vulnerable when you start to open up to another human being. You feel so tender. And before that one place gets going strong enough, you get frightened, and you pull back.
No one likes feeling vulnerable. It’s such a sticky, uncomfortable place to be. But in a mindful relationship, it’s your vulnerability that leads you to the truths that will be discovered, as you embrace the feelings that arise and let them go.
So how does one get comfortable with the feeling of being vulnerable? Practice, of course. Here’s a quick exercise to try:
Sit across from your partner and look into each other’s eyes. Silently repeat these phrases:
"My partner is open to all truth, just like me."
"My partner deserves the truth, just like me."
"My partner is vulnerable, just like me."
"My partner wants love, just like me."
"My partner wants kindness, just like me."
Try your best to maintain eye contact during this exercise. Take note of the thoughts and feelings that arise as you share this space with your partner. Open to the truths you discover about your feelings about the relationship. And, of course, about yourself.
Ultimately, mindful relationships are about creating an environment in which both people can grow. You become each other’s garden—soft and receptive—so each of you can flourish in your own way.
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