Love in the Present Moment: Mindfulness for CouplesJan 31, 2023 06:30AM ● By Marlaina Donato
Jam-packed schedules and answering the demands of everyday life can trip us up and break the spell of even the most solid intimate partnership. With dulled senses, it is easy and all too common to go on autopilot. Like abandoned gardens, heart-unions can become casualties of neglect and the absence of joy.
Mindfulness—awareness and cultivation of the present moment—has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression and deepen our appreciation of what we have. Relationships can expand and strengthen when couples practice the art of being in the “now”. A 2021 study involving 1,360 heterosexual couples published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy indicates that gratitude and forgiveness also contribute to satisfaction, both relational and sexual.
“Mindfulness practice comes in many forms: journaling, meditation, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, tai chi or breathwork, to name just a few. By routinely practicing mindfulness, we are able to deepen our own awareness of what we are feeling and how we want to respond to someone we care about,” explains Moraya Seeger DeGeare, in-house relationship expert for Paired, an app for couples.
Maci Daye, the author of Passion and Presence: A Couple’s Guide to Awakened Intimacy and Mindful Sex says, “Even a few minutes a day of mindfulness practice can rewire the brain, build new habits and help us dis-identify from our limiting beliefs, stories and intense emotions.” This is a critical factor in transcending personal triggers and promoting conflict resolution. She emphasizes that couples often go into fight-or-flight mode because they feel threatened by their partner's non-verbal behavior or are triggered by old, painful wounds.
Daye, a licensed professional counselor and certified sex therapist, notes, “Mindful couples are less attached to being ‘right’ and explore their own sensitivities instead of blaming their partners.” Once “awakened intimacy” is put into practice, couples become interested in each other's perspectives and team up to heal and grow. In addition to formal training, she suggests bringing presence to all aspects of life. “Couples can engage their senses when they hug, touch or hold hands,” Daye explains. “They can pause to look at each other when they say hello and goodbye. They can slow down and taste their food, savoring every bite. These behaviors also make sexual experiences more sensual, intimate and connecting.”
Taking a few moments for eye contact, the brush of a hand or compassionate interaction can strengthen bonds. DeGeare, who is also a couple’s therapist at BFF Therapy, in Beacon, New York, recommends slowing down together to get in sync. “This could be going for a walk, cooking or listening to the same podcast and talking about it later. It helps the body tune into your partner a bit and connect. The time you spend doing this outside of the bedroom will deepen your connection in the bedroom.” She suggests bringing movement like a shared dance or yoga class into the mix to foster connection, as well as setting “dedicated times to check in through the week or month, uninterrupted.”
A Deeper Dive
Daily verbal exchanges beyond the mundane can amplify resonance between two people. “Asking questions is vitally important, as it cultivates curiosity—but not the day-to-day questions, such as, ‘What are you doing today’ or ‘What do you want for dinner?’” says Debbie Lambert, co-author of The Mindful Couple. The Del Mar, California, couples counselor and life coach encourages people to ask, “What scares you today? What is the most important thing that you would like to create today? What was one thing that made you grateful today, and what is one thing that disappointed or frustrated you today? What is one thing I can do for you today? These types of questions scrape the surface of knowing and create intimacy and connection.”
Lambert compares the practice of mindfulness to a beautiful dance—flowing, loving and creative—that can change future generations. “The energy from such a dance extends far beyond the couple,” she says. “It can be felt intimately by anyone in its presence. When parents dance this dance, their children are bathed in a high-vibrating energy. They feel safe and loved. Most importantly, they learn a model for how to be in a loving relationship.”
Marlaina Donato is an author, visionary painter and recording artist. Connect at WildflowerLady.com.