Is Meditation the Secret to a Happy Relationship?
To the general delight of chocolate manufacturers and restaurateurs everywhere, it’s Valentine’s Day! There’s so much love in the air that the police have to be sent out to shepherd all the pining lovers wandering the moors back to the safety of their own homes, and you can’t move for people serenading their paramours under moonlit balconies (violating many public nuisance laws).
But while it’s easy to be cynical about Valentine’s Day – yes, we all know it’s actually a commercial enterprise designed to get people to buy so many roses and tiny teddy bears that the sheer weight of merchandise tilts the earth off its axis, and sends us all spinning helplessly into space – really, it’s quite a nice thing, isn’t it?
Celebrating this most cherished human emotion gives us the chance to tell our loved ones that we appreciate them; and in a world where we increasingly encouraged to look inwards, and think mainly of ourselves, this is a rather lovely act. And when we consider long-term relationships – the ones that have lasted 5, 15 or even 30 years – these little moments of gratitude can make all the difference.
The cultural commentary around long-term relationships and commitments like marriage can be pretty downbeat. A few hours watching soaps and you’d be forgiven for thinking at least one half of every partnership is having an affair and/or a secret murderer, and there’s always someone happily reminding you how many marriages end in divorce.
Yet we humans do keep pairing off, sometimes having kids, and spending years together – so it can’t be all doom and gloom. Love is very much the thing that binds our species, and the love we find in our long-term romantic partnerships is often particularly profound. That first flush of romance and lust makes our partner’s sheer presence a joy, and as life together progresses, this can evolve into something extremely meaningful.
However, before we get too soppy, (we blame the general Valentine’s Day atmosphere – our brains have become clogged with heart-shaped chocolates) this isn’t to say everything is forever perfect once you’ve found the right person. Much like the other relationships in life – from the one with our mothers to that bloke down the road who wants us to join the neighbourhood watch – there will be issues at some time or another.
While they are undeniably times where these issues can seem insurmountable, and you have to make the sad decision to go your separate ways, many problems can be solved when both parties are willing to change. And one such change that can keep a relationship ticking along happily (and maybe even a little bit sexily) is meditation.
Meditation for a Happy Relationship
Meditation does so many things to improve a relationship that taking it up is less a chore and more a revolution – like the invention of the wheel, or chocolate waffles. The negative things that can affect a relationship over the long-term often have their roots in stress – something which meditation gets straight to the heart of. It also keeps our libido healthy, which doesn’t hurt. To explain further, here are some of the common issues that can take the shine off a once loved-up relationship:
- Taking our partners for granted (or vise versa)
One of the stumbling blocks so many of us encounter in our long-term relationships is that we forget to appreciate our partner as the full and separate human being they are, and instead begin to view them solely as an either an irritating or convenient appendage to our own lives. We stop thinking about our partners in the way we did when we first met them, and start seeing them purely in relation to ourselves – what they can do for us, or how they’ve annoyed us.
It’s when we no longer truly see or hear our partner (or they don’t see or hear us) that the mutual respect so vital to a healthy partnership can become eroded, and often leads to an awful lot of…
- Unresolved resentment
This can arise from so many situations, even fairly benign ones. Say you’ve got a great promotion that requires you to move cities. Your partner isn’t so keen and is invested in their own career, but is swayed by your enthusiasm and desire to move, and opts to compromise. But as you move forward in a dynamic career, make loads of friends and are often out enjoying yourself, they haven’t found a new job they like and are finding it extremely difficult to settle in.
It’s just one scenario, but one that can build to a point of resentment that either destroys the relationship or results in it limping along, with one very unhappy partner and a toxic atmosphere. This is especially dangerous if one of you is more used to getting your own way, and unconsciously steamrolls a more accommodating partner into a life they feel they have no real say in. And this can be hugely exacerbated by…
- Lack of communication and emotional neglect
When we come home from work and are stressed, tired and irritable, and our partner has left the laundry yet again for us to do, we are unlikely to look at them with the same starry eyes that the relationship began with. In fact, we’re probably going to be pissy with them, while they hopelessly try to work out what they’ve done wrong. These sorts of situations can play out within the relationship in all kinds of ways, with a constantly switching dynamic – and stress makes them a whole lot worse.
If we’re stressed, have started to forget the full separate humanity of our partner, and are harbouring resentment towards them, communication can very quickly break down. We can blame them for annoyances that they are completely unaware of, taking their unconscious or thoughtless poor behaviour as a direct attack, or a reflection of their bad character. It’s when we start believing that they are simply just selfish, or lazy, or irresponsible, rather than seeing these traits as part of a varied and full person with plenty of good qualities, that profound problems can arise.
This may sound a bit depressing, but all it takes is a little diligence and commitment to working things out as the relationship evolves to ensure that small problems (because 9 times out of 10, they are small) grow beyond all sense. And this is where meditation comes in!
Why Meditation will Strengthen your Bond
Meditation has been proven to:
- Increase your empathy and kindness
- Lower stress
- Improve your sex drive
- Increases our happiness.
All of which is pretty helpful in the context of long-term love. No relationship (romantic or not) can thrive without kindness and empathy, because we humans are a fairly complicated bunch who have to rely on each other to be nice – even if we’re being really irritating that day. Meditation makes us see the bigger picture, and become stressed far less easily. Instead of snapping at our partner when they decide to tell us everything that’s wrong with our driving when we’re giving them a lift to work, we feel able to let it go.
This avoids hurt feelings, and something silly escalating into a full-blown argument, or two days of the dreaded silent treatment. As our stress levels lower we become far less combative, and more able to see actions for what they are rather than a veiled attack. It also makes us better able to talk through anything that is a genuine issue in our relationship. We don’t instantly feel on the defensive, or feel the need to prove that we actually haven’t done anything wrong (even if our partner thinks very differently) and “win” the argument.
Rather than being apathetic, irritable and neglectful because our brains are wheeling and panicking over everyday life, we are able to become more present within our relationships, and less clouded by negativity. Our energy is no longer expended on stressing out, so doing nice things for one another doesn’t feel like a chore or inconvenience – it simply comes naturally.
Meditation can also become one of your “couple rituals” – the things you do together that strengthen your bond, like setting aside time to have coffee and catch-up each morning. By meditating together, we spend that bit more quality time in each other’s company, and demonstrate our commitment to becoming our best selves for our partners.
All in all, it’s a pretty great and easy way to bring all the brilliant things about ourselves – our love, desire to support each other, the happiness we derive from each others company – and bring it to the fore.
If you think you and your partner would like to learn more about meditation, come along to one of our free intro talks in London. We’d love to see you there!