If reactivity takes over, all the skills and knowledge in the world won't help you. The practice of mindfulness, gently and consistently turning your attention to the experience of your body, heart, and mind, gives you an opportunity to work with reactivity before it takes over.
Bringing this mindfulness practice to intimate relationships requires another level of dedication and intention. Intimate relationships can push your buttons with a frequency and intensity that other relationships don't. Thus, staying centered requires extra mindfulness muscle as well as support for mindfulness. Here are a few ways you can strengthen your mindfulness muscle in this context and get the support you need.
1) Set your intention and say it aloud before any potentially difficult dialogue and at the beginning of every day.
2) After every dialogue in which reactivity took over, reflect on the interaction and answer the following questions:
Did I set my intention before that interaction or at least at the beginning of my day?
What was the very first sign of reactivity in me that I might have used as a cue to re-center myself?
What feelings were present?
What needs were present?
What request did I have in mind either conscious or unconscious?
3) Create a mantra or action that reconnects you to your intention. A mantra might be something like: "Connection matters more than being right" or "Love instead of lawyering". Actions might include putting your hand on your heart, closing your eyes and taking a long slow breath, or shifting your focus to a beautiful image or nature outside your window.
4) Make an agreement with your partner that either of you can pause the conversation any time for a few minutes of centering. Come up with a signal to pause like closing your eyes, putting your hand on your heart or head, or simply saying pause.
5) For difficult conversations, choose an environment and time that supports mindfulness. A time when you have ample energy and a place that is quiet and peaceful where you won't be disturbed.
Creating mindful dialogue also requires a certain humility. Habit energy and reactivity are powerful forces, being humble in the face of them means you let go of ideas that you are perfectly skillful and competent, that you are "the one who knows", that you are right and you can fix things. A lack of humility makes it very difficult to call a pause in a conversation, yet this ability to slow down and center over and over in the midst of dialogue is the very thing that gives rise to the wisdom and compassion you are seeking.
PracticeThis week set up one mindful dialogue with someone close to you using the suggestions given above.