You’re out with your partner running errands. The day has been going fine but there’s a lot to do and your mind is consumed “with all the things.”
You’re now at Home Depot together picking out a security system for the house. You’ve talked about this some and you’re ready to just go with the one you’ve discussed. However, your partner is now having second thoughts and isn’t ready to commit and wants to go over the different systems again.
Your patience is waning as you see that this is taking way longer than you allotted time for and you’ve got about 10 other things you want to get done this morning that are way more important in your view (or at least as important and now you won’t have time for them).
This is starting to feel like a waste of time and it’s all your partner’s fault. You start thinking:
“He always does this. We decide on something and then we end up reexamining and wasting time. Why can’t he ever make a decision and just stick to it? Why does it always have to be such a big thing? All the talking and the research! Just decide already – I’ve got more important things to do!”
You’re feeling anxious, resentful and a little overwhelmed now as you think of the rest of your day.
You don’t say all these things (at first) and don’t even notice that you’re thinking all these thoughts or having these feelings. But soon your impatience grows and maybe you start with the heavy sigh or the helpful “I think the first one is great” or “That second one you like sounds perfect- let’s get that,” in your efforts to move things along.
Your partner doesn’t budge and continues to ask questions and is now trying to find “the guy” at Home Depot who can help (good luck there). You finally snap, “Just get the first one! We don’t have time for this! Why do you always make such a big production of everything? You always make these simple things hard!”
You can imagine what ensues after that – a lovely fight that lingers for most of the day.
Let’s take a moment to dissect what really happened.
Future Tripping and Past Tripping is Killing Your Relationship
What really happened is that you weren’t in your moment. You were “future tripping” as you thought about all the things you had to get done today. You started imagining what wouldn’t happen and what you’d need to rearrange. You were predicting more stress for yourself later due to the current outing taking longer than you anticipated.
What was also happening, is that you were “past tripping.” Whenever you use words like “always” or “never” you’re thinking about your partner’s past behaviors. If you’ve been reading this blog long enough you know not to use words like “always or never” because they’re not true. However, in the moment, it’s easy to go there.
The big problem with this whole scenario is that you were allowing your mind to wander to the future or to the past. You start thinking of these things and these thoughts evoke certain feelings because you feel the way you think.
These types of thinking patterns and ensuing fights are SUPER common, but they don’t have to be. There’s a simple answer to stop all this and that’s to be in your moment with what’s currently happening, as much as possible, instead of future or past tripping.
The Answer is to Be Mindful
When you’re in your moment, otherwise known as being mindful, you’re aware when these thoughts and feelings arise, and you can stop them! You get off of autopilot and into what’s real in the here and now. When you’re mindful, you’re aware of what you’re thinking so you don’t let your thoughts and feelings blindly drive your actions and behaviors.
Mindfulness is seriously a super power. It helps you stay in the moment so you can avoid conflicts and misunderstandings, create more happiness and contentment in your life in general and create more intimate and connected relationships.
When you’re being mindful, you’ll be able to act, not react. You’re going to notice that you’re having negative or unhealthy thoughts and becoming impatient. You can then tell yourself something different about the situation. You can step back and see what’s happening from a new stance.
If we think about the trip to Home Depot I talked about earlier, maybe this is something your partner does a lot – maybe you often discuss things and make decisions and then they backtrack and want to rehash.
A New Way of Thinking
A new way of thinking of this could be, “I know my partner well and this comes up whenever they’re anxious. I wonder what they’re really anxious about? I love this person and want to be supportive.”
Going into the conversation with an intention of love and support and not of controlling a particular outcome will yield very different results!
Now you can say something now like, “Hey Hon – let’s stop for a minute. We discussed all this earlier and decided on X security camera. What’s happening now that you’re changing your mind and not trusting our earlier decision?” If your partner’s answer still seems muddled or confused about a decision you can ask more questions to help problem-solve: “Tell me more about…”
You’re asking questions and, because you’re being mindful, your tone is patient and curious instead of accusatory, impatient and annoyed! The conversation will go completely differently, and the rest of your day will progress differently too.
These kinds of questions make our partner’s feel heard, important and appreciated; all the things that add up to a happy partner and relationship.
Maybe the most important thing that comes from being mindful, however, is how you’ll feel about yourself.
It feels SO good to be in charge of you! Instead of saying things like, “I can’t help how I feel” or “I can’t stop being angry/sad/insert sucky feeling here” you can get in front and stop the automatic responses.
Let me ask you something, if you there was a tall hill with a car at the top and it started to roll, would it be easier to stop the car if you were right there at the top next to it, or if you waited at the bottom?
You’re usually caught in some negative momentum and that’s why you feel like you “just can’t stop” acting or thinking a certain way.
When you start thinking the same thing over and over all day long, it gains momentum! Soon, it’s all you can see, think or feel – that car just crushes you with its momentum and you feel helpless to stop it!
Being mindful means you stop the car at the top of the hill!
Why Mindfulness Will Make Your Life Awesome!
There have been lots of studies(See link at bottom) about all the wonderful things mindfulness will bring to your life if you practice it consistently, but I want to quickly mention four important ones here to keep you motivated to really do this mindfulness thing:
- Mindfulness decreases emotional reactivity. Basically, you’re able to act, not react which is HUGE for being a better partner and person in the world. It allows you that “pause” button between some stimulus and your response.
- Mindfulness increases cognitive flexibility. This means that, in addition to being less reactive, you’re able to think better, problem-solve and come up with better solutions. The research shows that it “neurologically disengages the automatic pathways that were created by prior learning and enables present-moment input to be integrated in a new way.” That’s a fancy way of saying you’ll be able to come up with new thoughts about things.
- Mindfulness creates greater relationship satisfaction. Empirical evidence shows that mindfulness protects against the emotionally stressful effects of conflicts in your relationship and helps you respond better to relationship stress overall as it helps you communicate your emotions to your partner in a healthy way.
- When your mindful, you’ll remember to use all the great tools you learned! In those moments of stress and conflict, instead of going into autopilot, you’ll be able to stop and access what you learned to help your relationship.
Making Mindfulness a Habit
There’s one sure-fire way to make mindfulness a habit and it’s pretty easy to do.
- Set a reminder on your phone to alert you 3x per day. I don’t care what the times are, but try to spread them out (maybe 9:00, 1:00 and 6:00).
- When you hear the alert, simply notice where your mind was. What were you thinking about?
- Gently bring your focus back to the present (as non-judgmentally as possible). Be kind to yourself and just bring your awareness back to the present moment.
- Set an intention for how you want to be moving forward in your day
Do this for one week and you’ll start training your brain to look to be in your moments and mindful. It’s an excellent tool to do again any time you notice that you’re being reactive or having consistent negative thoughts or emotions.
Empirical Research on Benefits of Mindfulness