What does it mean to be in a healthy loving relationship with another person or persons? How has your idea of love put a lot of strain on your relationships? And how can mindfulness for relationships help?
Forming deeper connections
People who thrive are surrounded by supportive people. They have someone to learn from or teach them or rather they have someone to learn and grow alongside. Healthy relationships whether romantic or not provide encouragement, guidance, and support.
When we look at the different pillars in our lives that give us holistic wellbeing (emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing) relationships and community form one of these pillars.
There are so many different kinds of relationships that can relate to romantic, platonic, friendships, family relations, intimate relationships, or even the relationship you have with yourself (which we will later learn is the root for all other successful relationships – SELF-LOVE IS POWERFUL).
We are not self-made and in a world where most people are striving towards ultra-independence, we still need reliable people to lean on and experience the entirety of what it is like to be human through connection.
Don’t get me wrong being independent and comfortable with being by yourself is super important too. In fact, it is vital. As with most things, however, balance…
Disclaimer: When I refer to relationships I do not only mean in the conventional sense of a romantic, monogamous, exclusive, committed long-term relationship that society deems ‘normal’ but this includes all other types of relationships too. There are many different relationship styles that people choose and no one is right or correct it is simply just different and different ideas or dynamics work for different people.
Whether you have a partner, multiple partners, or not we all have connections we can nurture more – especially the relationship we have with ourselves.
So this article is for all of the above.
The importance of a community and shared community values
Human beings are innately social creatures. We need social interaction and connection in order to be our best selves. Being in isolation does not serve our minds (as I am sure everyone can relate to since COVID-19 became a thing).
Being part of a community is extremely beneficial because it allows us to share experiences with others who feel the same way as we do. This is especially true when you have negative experiences, like depression or anxiety. A sense of connection with other people makes us feel better about ourselves. As a result, we become less depressed or anxious because we realise that we are not the only ones experiencing it. Anxiety and depression are both mental conditions that thrive in isolation.
Connections with people are essential for our well-being.
We need communities to help us not only survive but also thrive. We all need a support system to be happy, healthy, and successful. Communities provide opportunities to learn from each other’s knowledge and experiences. They also offer a sense of belonging and purpose.
Positive relationships can help you succeed, grow, and be a better person. We can use our relationship with our partner, friend, family, etc. as an opportunity to learn about ourselves and improve ourselves. Fostering meaningful relationships can propel us on our self-development and self-discovery journey.
Important, not all relationships are the same and it can be very easy to get caught in an unhealthy relationship due to past experiences or undealt trauma for either or all parties involved. Distinguishing between what is healthy and unhealthy is vital.
With that being said no relationship is flawless either and there will always be something to work and expand on.
Relationships Healthy vs. unhealthy – mindful relationships tips
Fundamentally a relationship is deemed as unhealthy or healthy based on three key elements; respect, equality, and trust. These then further expand into communication and responsibility/accountability. These main parameters set us up for a successful relationship.
Do you value yourself?
Do you value the other person?
Do you feel valued, seen, and heard by the other person?
Do you feel you have to compromise your values and beliefs to make the other person more comfortable or happy?
Might you be compromising the other’s values or beliefs?
Do you feel you can be vulnerable without being judged or shamed?
Are you creating that safe space for someone else too?
Respect relates to treating another human being without judgment, shame, or guilt towards their unique qualities and characteristics. It is realising these differences and although we don’t have to agree or adopt these differences as our own it is about respecting the person’s values and dignity.
It is about being open enough and comfortable enough with each other that you feel valued, seen, and heard and then reciprocating that. If you are feeling like you are ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ then respect has been lost. It is not about needing to fully understand this person but trying to understand this person’s perspectives.
Respect and equality are almost always directly related.
Do you feel controlled?
Do you feel you tend to become submissive around this person?
Do you feel there are certain things you can’t share?
Do you feel misunderstood?
Do you feel you have to play a certain role within the relationship that makes you unhappy or unfulfilled?
Do you feel patronised at times?
You and the other person(s) should be treating each other as equals. Gender, race, and sexuality play a huge role here within social norms and social conditioning because some are already deemed more ‘superior’ than others. Relationship dynamics are complicated and under a patriarchal society, it is of utmost importance that everyone involved is felt like they are treated as equals.
With equality comes equal responsibility for the relationship too.
Are all your actions always questioned?
Maybe you are the one always questioning?
Do you feel you always have to justify what you do or say?
Do you feel that you need to know everything about this person all the time?
Being able to trust others is key to a healthy relationship. Trust is established over the course of a relationship through showing consistency in words and actions.
Trust can be hugely affected by past experiences (of either yourself or the other person). For eg. trust issues can stem from childhood traumas or even building distrust within ourselves that we project onto others.
Trust, or rather, distrust is also linked to obsession and possessive behaviours. When we feel we are either losing someone’s trust or vice versa it strikes a nerve because it feels like we are losing control in the situation. We need to release control in order to fully trust. Relationships without trust won’t result in a very positive relationship.
Feeling comfortable to express what you are feeling, especially in moments where you might feel extra vulnerable and have not made sense of your feelings yourself, is vital.
Creating channels of open communication between people can solve a lot of other perceived issues.
For eg. communicating that you might not feel totally respected by the other person can bring to light actions and behaviors of this person that they weren’t even aware of and it can be resolved in a less reactive manner.
Not speaking up creates a lot of room for assumptions and projected realities. When we don’t fully know what is going on with someone else we create all sorts of realities in our heads – most of which are untrue. We jump to too many conclusions and we can actually blow the scenario right out of proportion.
Healthy communication should always be seen in a non-violent context. Non-violent communication is mostly about listening, respecting, and then responding rather than immediately reacting to what someone has said.
It is a practice and something that does not come easily to most. Non-violent communication is a form of mindfulness practice as you are being mindful and intentional towards your response.
This type of communication only works when there is a safe space created – one cannot have rational conversations in a volatile and emotionally charged space. Practicing open, mindful communication consistently however can make those emotionally charged moments occur less.
Everybody has a responsibility and this comes down to practicing empathy and compassion towards yourself and others. One person cannot take the responsibility (whether that be in an emotional, mental or physical state) for all parties. This ties into the dynamic of co-dependency or complete dependency. You cannot put pressure on someone to take responsibility for your actions and you should not have to deal with that from someone else either.
Just because you might be in a partnership whether friendly or romantic does not mean you live their life for them. Every individual has their own responsibilities and their own consequences to deal with.
Support and guiding yes for sure! Taking on or burdening – no.
This is where boundaries* also come into play and again… communication.
What might this look like?
Not placing blame, guilt, or shame on each other.
Owning up to your own mistakes.
Thinking for yourself and not always having to check-in, report to, or validate your actions.
*A quick one on boundaries:
Boundaries in any relationship are healthy and necessary – it is a form of self-respect.
Boundaries should be respected at all times.
Establishing what you are comfortable and uncomfortable with.
Includes personal/physical boundaries and being able to say no.
Includes giving consent (emotional and physical) at whatever stage of the act or the relationship, partnership, or friendship.
Maintaining your own friends and separate interests can be a form of having boundaries.
So how can we cultivate better, healthier relationships with ourselves and others?
Well, the first step is to be mindful because through mindfulness we start to improve not only our self-awareness but our general awareness, and noticing toxic traits can become easier.
There are common things that people do within relationships and love and it might be really helpful to know how to overcome this.
10 Mistakes in love and relationships – 10 ways to cultivate mindful relationships:
I am going to say this again… because I can’t stress it enough love comes in so many different forms and this would be applicable to all of the ways we can show and experience love (there is so much more beyond a romantic relationship).
So although general, it can be applied to all areas of love.
1. The person is not your world, your everything, or your existence – they are simply part of your human experience
Making a person your passion/your everything is a one-way ticket to disappointment. When we put others on a pedestal we lose sight of a realistic view of them. We then feel like we have lost ourselves when we lose them. Jay Shetty expressed this perfectly, “your everything is then dependent on an independent mind”.
When we have strong feelings towards someone our brain is flooded with dopamine and oxytocin and this can make rational thinking difficult. This experience of heightened emotions (happiness and elation) can lead us to feel very empty on the comedown especially if we depend on the person to make us feel like this all the time.
Emotions and feelings are fleeting and we cannot expect someone to be our everything because nobody can truly be everything to us. Nobody can fulfill all facets of your being.
Know that most of the time people are not asked to be regarded in this way, they did not force you to give up your being for them but instead, you gave it and made certain sacrifices, and therefore the disappointment is even greater.
Of course, they are important and loved by you (and hopefully vice versa too) but they have their own existence and so do you.
Keep actioning your individual passions, interests, and purpose – otherwise, it feels like they have taken everything from you once they exit your life.
2. Choose someone for who they are right now not the potential of them
We can see potential in someone but that does not mean we get to take on the responsibility to change them. People are multi-faceted and change all the time throughout their life’s journey.
The exciting part is when we pick a partner we get to change and grow with them!
If you are expecting someone to be a certain way in the future and then they aren’t well… you’ve set yourself up for disappointment and this could often stunt your own personal growth too.
This is not living presently in the moment with this person but rather being goal-driven and not being able to enjoy the process. People are not projects… they are people.
Be open and allow them to be wrong and make mistakes – we all have flaws. Just because you think a certain way about this person does not make them that… and that goes both ways.
3. Holding on to a relationship
Many people fear ending relationships because they don’t want to seem like a bad person for either rejecting, abandoning, or creating hurt in others.
Holding on for longer than you should, can create a lot of resentment for yourself and the other person.
Everybody that enters our lives whether for a short or a long time changed us in some sort of way.
Although difficult to accept – relationships and friendships are seasonal and there is a certain time when that season comes to an end. Instead of fighting this, we can be grateful for the time spent together and what we have learned from each other.
The next growing point might be in the parting of ways and how that is dealt with.
This is also true for those that end things but still stick around to check in. “Abandonment with access” can be worse than total abandonment of a relationship because we still rely on this person to support us emotionally.
In the context of the relationship you have with yourself, this could look like self-sabotage or not fully letting go of toxic behaviors that you know aren’t good for you but you hold on because it has formed part of your identity…But that’s a whole other article!
4. Trading time instead of creating new experiences
This is not a business transaction. We do not have to trade our likes and interests with each other in order to spend time together because since we all have different interests and hobbies one person will always feel unfulfilled and disinterested.
You can keep your own interests and so can they and then you can create a new set of values, activities, rituals, and routines that you can enjoy together.
5. Forcing other people to like what you like
Again we are all different we cannot expect someone to enjoy the things we like. Many people take this very personally and they feel that if the person does not show interest in their interests then they truly don’t love them.
That’s just not true and this ties into everything we have mentioned above.
It is very important to explore life separately – so be grateful for those interests that are yours – it is time that you can spend with yourself!
Also having different interests makes the interaction a whole lot more multi-dimensional. If we all liked the same things the journey of the connection would be rather boring don’t you think?
6. Understanding and compassion
Jumping to conclusions… we as humans love to do it.
This happens when we don’t take time to try and understand why the other person is the way that they are.
Practicing open communication, learning about someone’s past, and trying to understand their values is the key here. This gives us insight into why they act or react the way that they do in certain situations. it gives us a lot more context to base our own reactions on.
When we can understand someone’s perspective based on what they have experienced we have a better chance to respond appropriately rather than be reactive towards it. This is taking an empathetic, mindful, and compassionate approach – i.e practicing emotion regulation.
We stop to take things personally because we know that their reaction has nothing to do with us – the way they are showing up at this moment might be a good indication of their past experiences. This can give us a different perception when a tough time shows up.
7. Getting too much external advice
Relationship advice – Talking to too many other people over the actual person can get problematic.
Challenges can be better solved with each other because there is a shared context and understanding. Remember this person might also be asking advice from others – meaning the situation then gets dealt with through unsolicited advice coming from external friends or family that might be taking it way out of context.
Your friends and family only have the subjective experience of this person that you have projected onto them. They have not experienced or felt what you felt.
Of course, chatting to your friends from time to time about something that is bothering you is needed.
It provides us with some perspective and a point of view that is not emotionally involved in the situation… but if you find yourself always asking advice from others it could be a big indication that you don’t trust your own intuition or judgment which might be something you would need to reflect on.
8. Resentment towards sacrifices and compromises
Relationships are about a give and a take so, of course, compromises are made… within reason, however.
If you are sacrificing something that you might’ve seen before as a non-negotiable then that is a choice you have made. There is a difference between wanting to compromise and feeling the need to compromise as a necessity for the relationship to work.
We need to practice self-respect and know how to love and value ourselves while still loving this other person too. Remember we are not giving ourselves up in exchange for this person’s love because now we are placing all our self-worth on this person’s feelings towards us.
if we have made a choice to sacrifice (eg. refusing a job in order to stay with someone) then we cannot have the idea in our heads that this person is now indebted to us. We need to take ownership of this choice and not expect a reciprocating action.
Don’t sacrifice if you feel the need for a repayment – that is a transaction, not a respected human connection.
9. You be you and I will be me
Approaching a connection with another person is actually really simple.
Two (or more) INDIVIDUAL people that have crossed paths on life’s journey and now choose to co-exist.
You be you and I will be me and they will be them and then with that foundation, we can build something together.
10. Be clear on intentions
This is a biggie … especially in our day and age where fewer and fewer people are subscribing to labels (which is great!).
Labels actually have nothing to do with it – labels are just another way for humans to categorize and make sense of something. We like structure and we like to know what’s what.
This can be done without labels … it is simply about being clear with intentions, wants, and desires (yup communication once again).
Do you find yourself in situationships often? This is especially for those of us!
Since people are steering clear of labels there has been a misconception that any type of involvement with someone should be uncomplicated, relaxed, and chilled (and usually this disappears when labels are added) and this perpetuates the idea that “seeing where things go” is the best way forward. All this really does is instill fear into people speaking up because they don’t want to be the complicated one that harbours strong emotions.
This in itself is a good indication of how warped society has become.
The opposite is true – being upfront is the best way to make things very simple. (again… mindful communication).
Being clear on what type of connection you are looking for or hope to have together and where you stand with each other is a conversation that should happen early on.
Everyone being on the same page minimizes the chances of someone being blindsided or confused later on.
We cannot base our perceptions on assumptions – and not being open and honest about intentions makes room for a whole lot of assumptions. From the outset, this diminishes the relationship satisfaction that should be felt because people start to compromise what they want out of fear that this person might not feel the same way.
Also, although it would be great to read someone’s mind that is not within our human framework so having this conversation is necessary not only in the beginning stages but also throughout …
Just like most things intentions can change along with feelings, emotions, and everything else that goes along with it.
Laying all your cards on the table is a courageous move but it makes it clear from the start whether this connection is meant to be or not. Being vulnerable early on can be perceived by many as coming on too strong or being “too much” but you know what… life is too short to be anything less.
Relationships are complex because emotions are involved and emotions are complex. We all process and deal with things differently. Like with all other things when we take a mindful approach we invite compassion and empathy to the party – practicing mindfulness helps every area of our lives.
It teaches us how to be open and share our energy with others who are on a similar yet different path – mindfulness is the best tool to form deeper connections and meaningful human interactions.
Want to build a deeper more emotionally intimate connection together? Why not try the partner meditation below.