Dating and Relationship Advice

Spending quality time as a couple can be challenging, especially when both parties have careers, passion projects, or opposite schedules.

A few years ago, my husband and I struggled with this problem. I was finishing my degree and working long hours, and he was coaching youth and veteran hockey programs in his free time after work. During the lowest points, it felt like our together time was a quick kiss before bed or passing hellos as we got our morning coffee. Sometimes at the end of the day we were both so drained that we couldn’t have many in-depth or meaningful conversations.

Because we spent less time together, I felt so much pressure to always be doing or talking about something fun and enjoyable. That I needed to find the “perfect" thing for us to do or talk about. I felt suffocated by what I thought we “should" be doing in our relationship. I didn't focus on what we actually wanted.

Through marriage, I’ve finally learned to do what helps me and my husband feel good. After all, it's our relationship — and it doesn’t involve anyone else.

We figured out that talking to each other would work some of the time, but not as our sole source of connection. And we wanted to stop putting pressure on ourselves to always be “doing” something. So we searched for another solution. It took a few years, but we eventually pivoted towards an activity that served multiple functions. It allowed us to spend quality time together, to relax, and to improve our health and well-being.

We began practicing mindfulness.

Why practice mindfulness with your partner?

As a therapist, I spend a lot of time correcting common misconceptions of mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present moment with purpose, and without judgment. It’s not really about clearing your mind or meditating—just paying attention on purpose, and noticing internal states as they arise, without trying to control them or make them go away.

Mindfulness has incredible health benefits. It improves sleep, well-being, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Some studies have even shown that mindfulness influences physiology, like reducing breath rate and lowering blood pressure/cortisol levels. And mindfulness is associated with greater relationship satisfaction.

Mindfulness is often presented as a solo activity. But mindfulness with your partner can be a way to de-stress together, which benefits both parties. It can take the pressure off finding things to talk about or feeling like you have to "do" something together. Mindfulness shows us that we can just “be” —  together.

I haven’t always loved the rain. I have old injuries that become aggravated when the pressure changes, I don’t like feeling wet or damp, and I don’t like the gray gloomy skies that make me feel down and tired. But at the same time, there is also something soothing about snuggling up on the couch with your favorite blanket and listening to the sound of rainfall.

My husband and I have tried mindfulness meditation together before. Most of the time it went something like this — I say I want to do mindfulness, I ask my husband if he will join me, and halfway through he gets up and starts doing other things. This was an interruption, and not to mention a disappointment for me after realizing he wasn’t as excited about mindfulness as I was. Furthermore, it wasn’t really allowing us to connect because it wasn’t appealing for both of us.

I talk regularly with my clients about integrating mindfulness into their daily lives. rather than meditating, I encourage them to do daily tasks mindfully, like brushing their teeth or doing the dishes. One day it clicked that I could be doing this with my husband in a way that allowed us to decompress from our hectic days and take the pressure off conversing or “doing” something together. In our first house, we mindfully watched our first thunderstorm together.

The first time

The first time we watched a thunderstorm, we didn’t really think about doing it mindfully.

It was raining and I was really enjoying listening to the pitter-patter of the rain on my windowsill, curled up in my blanket. My husband and I were both in “zone out mode,” looking at our phones and playing games, and weren’t really spending any quality time together. I suggested going to the garage, sans technology, and just watching and listening to the thunderstorm. He agreed.

Fortunately, we had a garage and could set up a sitting space without getting rained on. We set up our cheap beach chairs in the garage, brought out a bottle of whiskey, and hunkered down. We intentionally left our dog inside so we could spend time just the two of us.

I remember having so much fun. There was no pressure to talk or to “do” anything since we both had the mentality that we were just listening to the rain. We watched the lightning. We listened to the thunder and joked about how close or far away it was to our house. We laughed and drank, and eventually, other topics just flowed out. When the pressure was off and we just relaxed, everything was easier.

The takeaway

Every couple has their thing. We have thunderstorms. And now we do it mindfully. We sit on our front porch, bring some items for comfort (blankets, tea), and just hang out together. Sometimes we watch in silence, other times we have conversations about whatever comes to mind. Regardless, both of us are present. We aren’t thinking about or doing anything else, we are just participating fully together. There is no pressure, just us.

Meditation isn’t for everyone. But mindfulness can be a low-pressure activity to try with your partner. Don’t listen to the stories about what makes a strong relationship — sometimes what strengthens a relationship the most is your ability to just be there with each other.

Now, whenever we hear a thunderstorm coming, we break out the beach chairs.

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