By Your Headspace Mindfulness & Meditation Experts
Meditation is a great way to connect with ourselves and to get to know our own minds better — to help us live in harmony with our thoughts and feelings. Among the benefits of a clearer, calmer mind are better connections with the people in our lives. For those of us in a relationship, meditation can help us feel more at one with our partner.
That’s because when we meditate, we’re training in awareness — self-awareness. We’re noticing how our mind works, what script our internal dialogue tends to follow, and what thoughts and emotions arise. So the more aware we are, and the more we surface whatever needs to surface, the less we will harbor pent-up feelings, anger, or resentment.
There’s no wrong way to do a couples meditation. We can simply meditate alone to create conditions in the mind that give us the optimal chance to relate to our partner in happy and healthy ways. Or we can meditate together. Some couples who do this experience a synergy that further unites them as a partnership. Sitting together, in tune with one another’s breath, can create an intimate connection. But if this prospect feels uncomfortable or might seem distracting, couples can consider meditating at the same time in different rooms and still experience a sense of togetherness.
However we choose to do it, the purpose of a couples meditation is to focus on the other person so that each partner can nurture and deepen their connection, as well as foster a kinder mind toward one another. View it as an opportunity to create the conditions for quality couple’s time.
We know that meditation has many mental and physical benefits, so it’s not surprising that it can have social benefits, too. After all, when we focus less on self-critical chatter and more on being present, we have more space and capacity to achieve greater harmony within ourselves, and ultimately, with the people closest to us. In fact, there’s a lot of research showing that meditation can improve relationship well-being in these ways:
Stress can drive a wedge into even the strongest of relationships. When people are stressed], they can become withdrawn, irritable, and less affectionate toward their partner. If not addressed, too much stress can be detrimental to our relationships.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to help reduce stress. A 2018 study found that using the Headspace app for 30 days reduced stress by a third. While this study was conducted with individuals, it might also be compelling evidence for why meditation can be so effective for couples. When we’re less preoccupied with stress, we’re calmer, more patient, and have more room to compromise and cooperate, which, in turn, means we’re more open to supporting and caring for each other.
Being kind to others can only happen if we are first kind to ourselves — and meditation can certainly help with that. When we’re more compassionate with ourselves, we are more forgiving of others and have the capacity to give them the space and understanding to let them be who they truly are.
Additionally, meditation has been proven to increase traits that can positively affect relationships, and decrease those that can have a negative effect. For example, one study found that just 3 weeks of Headspace increased compassion by 23%. Additionally, another study found that 10 days of Headspace reduced irritability by 27%.
Being kind and loving towards each other — and being able to effectively cope with the ups and downs we face in all partnerships — is foundational for a healthy, lasting relationship.
All relationships inevitably have elements of conflict and disagreements. But how couples resolve those disagreements can make all the difference between a healthy and an unhappy union.
Research shows that people who practice mindfulness can be less reactive. That’s because meditation teaches us to be calmer, more level-headed, and keep our cool — all skills which may help us enjoy more harmonious relationships.
If we meditate with the conscious intention to benefit our partner, we’re placing a deliberate focus on their well-being.
By nurturing the sense of connectedness between each other, we cultivate compassion and awareness that provides the ability to stand in the other person's shoes. This helps us to be more understanding and better listeners. Meditation also helps us cultivate an attitude of openness so that we can be less judgmental of our own thoughts and of the thoughts and actions of others.
As Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe puts it, “Empathy does not require that we have been through the same thing as another person, simply that we meet them where they are now.”
Sex and meditation may at first seem like unlikely partners, but research shows that meditators report better sexual desire, sexual arousal, sexual satisfaction, and overall sexual function than non-meditators.
This isn’t surprising. Meditation trains the mind to be fully present in the moment, at ease, and without distraction — all qualities that can help us feel more connected as a couple, which allows us to focus on our partner and develop and maintain intimacy during sex. The more connected we feel, the more intimate sex can be.
By meditating as a couple, we can each appreciate the many personal benefits of a mindfulness practice, while also enjoying the connectedness that comes with embarking on a journey together.
There are many techniques we can use when meditating with our partner, including visualization meditations, where we picture our partner as the beneficiary of our practice. One specific type of visualization meditation we could try is the loving-kindness meditation, where we direct goodwill to ourselves, and then to others.
Whatever technique we use, the key is to first practice self-compassion to be kinder and more forgiving of ourselves. This creates the space to next direct that compassion towards others.
“If a really close friend was having a tough time, there’s no way we’d speak to them the way we speak to ourselves in our mind,” says Andy. “If we can start approaching our own thoughts and feelings with that same soft and gentle approach, then all of a sudden meditation starts to flow and feel so much easier.”
It may seem a bit strange that a couples meditation should start by focusing on ourselves. But it makes sense when you think about it — by cultivating a sense of kindness and love in our own minds, we’re more likely to be able to share that with our partner.
Looking for more meditations for couples? The Headspace app offers subscribers several courses and single meditations that can benefit our relationships, including:
Foster feelings of compassion towards yourself.
Achieve greater harmony with others and yourself.
Practice treating yourself with unconditional kindness.
Find healthy ways to counter judgment toward yourself.
Move towards a calmer mindset before a tough talk.
Find peace in working to forgive yourself or others.
Explore ways to appreciate different relationships.
By being kinder to ourselves, we create the best environment to be kind to others. Meditation helps us to be more forgiving, less irritable, less stressed — all ingredients for better relationships. And if we meditate together as a couple, we learn healthy new skills to improve our relationship while also benefiting from the connectedness we feel from investing in our well-being together.