Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How to Build a Mindful Relationship

by Dr. Rich Nicastro

Steve isn’t enthusiastic about his job and in fact, he does the bare minimum just to get through the day and avoid being fired. While at work he approaches tasks in a mindless way:

►He rarely changes his routines or his approach to the tasks at work;
►His expectations are set in stone: He anticipates that each day will basically be the same as the previous day and this leaves him uninspired—these expectations narrow Steve’s experiences and has a dramatic impact on how he relates to others;
►He gives little (if anything) of himself emotionally or intellectually while at work;
►He’s not committed to the success of the company and would simply find another job if the company failed.

To make matters even worse, Steve approaches his marriage the same way he does his job, so it’s no surprise that his marriage is in a major rut and that he’s talking about throwing in the relationship towel.

Mindlessness takes little effort on your part; You know that mindlessness has set in when life and/or your marriage/relationship take on an automated quality (it’s as if you’re carried through life by the mere repetition of your daily routines).

Many marriages/relationship fall prey to mindlessness. So what’s the solution?

Engaged/Mindful Relatedness

One of Steve’s coworkers, Andy, holds a similar job position as Steve, yet they are miles apart–Andy approaches his work and life in a mindful way:

►Andy deliberately changes his routines from time to time, which helps break the monotony of work;
►Andy isn’t a prisoner of rigid expectations that narrow his experiences—he’s open to and welcomes novelty, even the smallest changes that could easily go unnoticed if he didn’t remain open to them;
►Andy shows up to work each day ready to engage emotionally and intellectually with what the day might bring. This creates emotional richness in his relationships and when problems arise that need attention, he approaches them with zeal;
►Andy’s approach to work leads to a daily commitment to do his best; his effort is what he finds rewarding, whatever the task may be.

Andy’s work-life holds important lessons that can help us all build and maintain a stronger marriage or committed relationship.  In fact, Andy’s relationship with his wife of seventeen years has greatly benefited from his mindfulness.

Let’s review the four principles of a mindful relationship so you can think about how they apply to your own marriage or relationship.

4 Principles of Mindful Relating

1. Increasing awareness of your expectations—the expectations that can act as blinders and keep you seeing the same old things day in and day out;

2. Showing up each day fully present (emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) and ready to engage and share yourself with your spouse/partner;

3. Creating balance: including the familiar and routine with doses of novelty when necessary;

4. Celebrating the process (rather than being overly focused on the outcome): In other words, to be mindful that your best effort (independent of results) is what’s meaningful and this is an act of commitment to your marriage or relationship.

Utilizing these four mindfulness principles takes self-discipline, but the results to your relationship are well worth your effort. So as you read the above four points, think about how you can begin applying mindfulness to your marriage or relationship.

Here is a suggestion to help get you started: each morning ask yourself, “How can I show up today in my marriage/relationship as if I’m showing up for the first day of a new job?”  If you give this question serious attention, I think you’ll be surprised by what you come up with!

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