Are you having problems in your relationship? Do you seem to be disagreeing on almost everything at the moment? Are you often left wondering where the heck it all went wrong and questioning whether you’re with the right person?
If the answer is yes to any of the above do not despair. Mindfulness may help, according to chartered psychologist Dr Audrey Tang.
Ahead of Valentine’s Day, Dr Tang (pictured below) who is also the author behind The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness, shares some helpful advice.
“Derived from Buddhism, living mindfully is the ability to live in the present; to be aware of what our mind and body are telling us, and to actively choose our behaviours with recognition of how they may impact on others. Then we can use that knowledge to improve our emotional, physical and mental health, as well as our relationships,” Dr Tang says.
6 ways to help improve your relationship
TRY A RELATIONSHIP AUDIT
Ask yourself TWO questions.
A) Am I happy right here right now? First, think about what being happy means to you. Is it feelings of contentment? Is it laughing a lot? Is it comfort? Forget all the ‘expert advice’ – what makes you happy is unique to you. Once you know what that is, ask yourself if you are feeling that within your relationship. If you are, then move on to the next question. If not what can you do to make the change you need?
B) Are we both heading in the direction we both want? Have an open discussion about how you hope the relationship will progress. While this may mean the unpleasant realisation that you are not on the same page, it is always better to reveal that early so you can perhaps find a means of converging, rather than allowing expectation and disappointment sour the good and breaking up on unpleasant terms.
Talking helps because you need that awareness that there is something that needs to be worked on. However, just saying ‘X is wrong’ is more likely to lead to frustration and upset. Having an idea of what you would like as the solution then allows you to offer a means of moving forward. Of course, be flexible and prepared to listen and perhaps work with suggestions from your partner too.
LEARN TO EXPRESS LOVE IN A WAY WHICH IS MEANINGFUL TO YOUR PARTNER
Dr Gary Chapman identified the “5 languages of love” :
– Acts of service
– Words of affirmation
– Quality time
…there may be others unique to your relationship too.
Often we will enjoy giving and receiving love in all these ways, but we often have a preference for one or two in particular. If you enjoy being told you are loved, but your partner prefers to give gifts, then it may feel like they do not ‘love’ you. All that may be happening is that you are expressing your feelings differently. Perhaps your partner does not really enjoy the expensive meals you want to give (gifting), but really appreciates it when you take the time to cook beans on toast instead (acts of service). Maybe you want to spend time together, but they like to be told you love them and then be able to have some time alone. Discuss your preferences with your partner and see how you can both work with your preferred means of expression.
Happiness can be practised. Laughter releases endorphins which reduce feelings of stress and may also promote a sense of bonding and belonging. Watch a comedy show together or perhaps funny animal videos on YouTube. If it makes you both smile, it assists with connection. Plus, when you are feeling down reflect on those moments of laughter and make that image as bright and vibrant as possible.
LEARN TO FORGIVE (ALTHOUGH YOU DO NOT NEED TO FORGET)
According to Buddhist scholars, holding resentment is like “… carrying a hot coal waiting to throw it at someone”. Practising forgiveness is about acknowledging you were hurt by the behaviour, reflecting on what you have learned about yourself from it, and recognising that the event occurred often because of a skewed belief or choice of reaction from yourself and/or the other person – both of which have reasons. It is not emotion that will help understanding, but listening, talking, and then finding a way forward where you both feel you can collaborate. I use the word ‘collaborate’ rather than ‘compromise’ – in the latter both of you lose a little, in the former, both of you stand to gain.
Being in a relationship means being part of a team. Being mindful of your language can be helpful here. Rather than seeing someone as ‘your other half’ and so completing what was not ‘whole’ before, see yourself as a perfectly fully functioning ‘whole’ and your partner as bringing something extra. Then with your two whole two hearts and two whole minds, it may be possible to achieve greater things that you might have alone. Take a moment to recognise and thank your partner for a thoughtful act – that includes making dinner (a ‘whole’ person would make it themselves!)
The practice of gratitude reminds us that we are affected by – and in turn affect – the world around us. It also helps us focus on the present in a positive frame rather than on what could/should/might be or have been.
Dr Audrey Tang is a Chartered Psychologist and the author of The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness, published by FT Publishing, priced £14.99.
Looking to learn more about mindfulness? You might like the following reads:
What really happens in a group meditation class
The surprising thing I discovered when I tried flotation therapy
Wellness Retreat Chilston Park Hotel
If you’re single and have a chronic illness, you might like to read this.
The one time it sucks to be single
If you’d like future posts delivered straight to your inbox simply subscribe here.
Thanks for reading x