Strong Relationships Through Mindful Self-Compassion
I'm grateful that, despite the addition of our two little people nearly 10 years ago now, my husband and I have survived two seven-year itches. As I wrote in my recent Holistic Parent print article, "The Love of Mindful Mates," I feel incredibly blessed by how the love between us continues to deepen thanks to my daily mindfulness practice and what I have learned from studying couples experts Dr. John M. Gottman and Dr. Sue Johnson about creating a culture of appreciation and turning towards one another.
But it wasn't always that way. Early on, I have to confess, I was a bit of a mess, wondering what the heck my then-boyfriend saw in me and fearful of when he was going to hit the road. I couldn't wait for his weekend visits when I was away at university. Our passion burned bright but as I reflect back on it now, it was in an insecure "I need you to feel good enough" way. Of course, this led to me being clingy, even teary when it was time for him to go. Luckily, my hubby doesn't remember it being as bad as is etched in my hall of shame.
It didn't help that both of our parents were divorced and so part of me felt doomed—and thus determined—not to have a broken family. My strategy was to look for (and try to fix) things before they became major problems, like fearing that he would want to continue to live the messy bachelor lifestyle he had become accustomed to with his brother. Thankfully my groom has domesticated quite well and these, like so many other fears, were merely illusions that held a tight grip on me for a long.
Fortunately during our nearly two decades together, I've been on a mission both personally and professionally to learn everything I could about the secrets of healthy, happy relationships. And learn I did, soaking up books and webinars and working in group programs with men and women. I even had the opportunity to complete the training for a special research-based and tested program for couples during the transition to parenthood when I was off with our first. All of this and doing my own therapy and journaling helped us heal the wounds of a miscarriage and our love grow stronger as our family grew.
But our world got rocked with the transition from one to two passionate little people as well as unexpected job changes and parenting challenges. Thankfully reaching out to each other and learning mindful self-compassion helped us to connect more deeply and weather these storms. Slowly I've learned to trust he's decided I'm a keeper and feel so grateful for his support as I step more fully into my dream of becoming a published writer. We have supported one another in continuing our studies and share equally in our co-parenting and household responsibilities.
We all have fears, and some are real. Perhaps you've begun to feel the connection slipping away as you juggle work and family life. It is easy for couples to get into a "new normal" of feeling more like roommates than lovers. Or perhaps you find yourself in conflict a lot and it has become easier to avoid than be around one another. Sadly reading books or blogs like this isn't enough to create lasting change and most couples wait too late to seek help.
But what if you didn't wait? What if you chose not to feel the dull ache of a growing lack of intimacy? What if instead of being poisoned by resentment you could reignite your passion and shared purpose?
I believe we learn best by doing and that mindfulness should be mandatory training for all. I had to first see myself with eyes of love and unconditional acceptance before I could fully feel worthy of my husband's unconditional love.
Love truly is a verb. It takes work. I had to first work hard at creating inner peace before I could maintain a peaceful environment. But I believe we are worth the investment.
We all have the same 24 hours in the day. If it is important enough, we can make the time. Having a loving, supportive, equal relationship provides a soft place to land amidst the stress of daily life and ultimately is, as Dr. Gottman says, the foundation for our family.
We are not just mothers. We are women and we deserve to feel sexy and desired. We deserve to have unconditional love and acceptance and to honour our needs just as much as our families. We deserve to not just feel like we are surviving but that we are thriving.