Mindful Couples Stay Together – Part II

Learn what’s needed for a healthy relationship:

To have a mindful conversation with your partner, you only have to be willing to bring your heart. (Mind-full-ness is really heart-full-ness after all). And a willingness to listen. I encourage you to have a mindful/heartful conversation with your partner, keeping in mind the following tips:

One person should begin by talking about one thing important to them, and the other person’s job is to listen and to ask clarifying questions to help with understanding. After 10 or 15 minutes, you can switch who is the talker and who is the listener. Both roles are important and each has skills that can be learned that will enhance the experience and grow your relationship. Set up a mutually agreeable time during your week to talk. Start with 20 minutes or so. Take five slow deep breaths in (to the count of four) and slower breaths out (to the count of eight) – at the beginning of your time together. I’ve outlined here are some important things to remember in each role:

As the Talker you will:

  • Communicate with respect
  • Focus on one issue of concern; stay on track; describe feelings; use “I” statements
  • Express your own thoughts and feelings in a way that reveals a deeper part of yourself and is about self discovery – not about partner correction
  • Avoid blaming, name-calling, insulting, lecturing, shaming, laundry listing
  • Attempt to be honest and not hurtful
  • Remember that your own body language, tone of your voice, eye contact, communicates a lot.
  • Give your partner the benefit of the doubt that he/she is trying to listen and wants to understand your perspective
  • Clearly speak about your own perspective, point of view
  • Recognize when you feel triggered and try to breathe gently into that hurt place, rather than overreact
  • Acknowledge something positive about your partner and this situation
  • Remember you can’t control how your partner hears you or reacts to you, but you can control how you express yourself
  • Do your best to notice when your partner is speaking respectfully to you
  • Understand that when you speak disrespectfully to your partner, you are inviting his/her disrespect toward you
  • Trust the present moment and try not to keep bringing up the past or make threats about the future
  • Help your partner to understand you
  • Have the intention to be the best partner you can be
  • Help your partner to be the best partner he/she can be to you.

As the Listener you will:

  • Listen, calmly and with openness
  • Avoid interrupting, defending yourself, arguing, cross complaining, fixing, grilling, criticizing
  • Not take things personally
  • Ask questions with curious kindness for the purpose of understanding more of your partner’s feelings and perspective
  • Be in charge of your own reactions
  • Notice your own feelings as they come up and wait for your turn later to express how you feel
  • Trust that your partner wants to help you be the best partner you can be
  • Respond with empathy – put yourself in your partner’s shoes and know that that doesn’t mean giving up yourself
  • Repeat back to your partner as accurately as you can, what you understand
  • Check in with your partner to see if you got it right
  • Remember that your partner is a separate person with his or her own feelings, thoughts, personality, and family history
  • Remember your partner’s distress or anger is an indicator of underlying pain
  • Remember your intention is to simply listen and better understand your partner. You don’t have to like or agree with what he/she is saying. Just listen and reflect.

If you find things are getting too heated, notice and acknowledge your own discomfort and ask for a time out so you can calm your system. Say something like “I’m having a hard time listening to you right now. I feel defensive, but really do want to be able to hear what you’re saying. Can we try again in fifteen minutes?” Use that time to take a few deep breaths, and maybe a walk around the block. And come back to your discussion with more mindfulness.

You might try this acronym to help remember the attitude you want to bring to your mindful discussions:

L ~ linger in your listening
I ~ inquire with intimacy and interest
S ~ savor, sense partner’s experience; stop scattering your attention
T ~ talk with kindness; take a moment; touch; tend to and tune in
E ~ engage, embrace, enrich
N ~ nurture, nourish, notice with compassion

Listen with heart!

If you are curious about how to have “More Calm and Less Overwhelm in Your Busy Life”, click here to sign up for my free E-course. You’ll receive a nine part series right into your inbox that includes lessons about how you can effectively bring more mindfulness into your daily life, and relationship. You don’t want to miss this.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT

Marriage, Family Therapist
[email protected]
(510) 482-4445


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