Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only day you celebrate your love. Yet for many, once the holiday has ended, romance and commitment fall by the wayside and people get lost in their daily routines and personal concerns. Loving relationships cannot be neglected, though.
Valentine's Day shouldn't be the only day you celebrate your love. Yet for many, once the holiday has ended, romance and commitment fall by the wayside and people get lost in their daily routines and personal concerns. Loving relationships cannot be neglected, though. They require conscious effort to take root and continue to grow. You can plan evenings of romantic dinners, candlelight, violins and passion any night of the year. And while you might recognize the truth in that statement, perhaps you don't know how or where to start. To point you in the right direction, Anne B. Parker, wellness counselor at Miraval Arizona Resort and Spa, offers some of her tips on how to develop and maintain a mindful, loving relationship with the one you love.
1. Be Present
The best way to connect with those you love is by being present -- over and over and over again -- says wellness counselor Anne Parker. "Being present means fully engaging in what is being shared between you in that moment, truly paying attention to the thoughts, feelings and actions you're experiencing together." Keep the television off as the two of you share dinner. Switch off your tablet or smartphone in the evening so you can spend time fully participating with your partner -- listening, sharing and experiencing the time you're spending together. Parker adds that while this may sound obvious and straightforward, think about how often we let ourselves get distracted from truly paying attention. "Without engaged presence," she says, "relationships quickly wither."
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2. Acknowledge the Positive
While we might have fallen in love with our partners because of their positive traits and qualities, everyday stresses and anxieties can make it far too easy for us to focus only on the negative. "Make sure you acknowledge what's working," says wellness counselor Anne Parker, "and give credit for the things that go well even in the midst of conflict." Try to see that for every one negative feeling or interaction between the two of you, there are five positive ones. This five-to-one ratio, according to relationship researcher and author John Gottman, is typical of stable and happy couples. So instead of focusing on how you wish your partner were different, Parker says, "stay in touch with what you love about that person."
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3. Nurture Respect
"Respecting each other means remembering that you are two different people, with different perspectives, histories and ways of being," says wellness counselor Anne Parker. In a paper published in 2000 in the American Journal of Psychotherapy concerning romantic love and its barriers, the idea of respect is equated to each person taking their partner seriously as a person. The article theorizes that in order to love another in the fullest sense, it is vital to understand and appreciate that your partner, like you, is "the conscious center of her own world, a fellow maker of choices, an entitled holder of rights, values and life goals and an experiencer of joys and sufferings." Honoring those differences is just as important as valuing the similarities, Parker says. "We all want to be respected for who we are and what makes us unique."
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4. Be Curious
People want to feel that their significant other is interested in them and cares about what is important to them. Cultivate curiosity and interest in your partner. Don't presume you already know all of his answers, motives, thoughts and experiences. Making such a presumption distances yourself from who your partner truly is, denies him the opportunity for expression and diminishes intimacy. "Make sure that you regularly create focused time to just talk, ask questions and share the thoughts and feelings of everyday experiences," says wellness counselor Anne Parker. Curiosity breeds discovery, she explains, "and ongoing discovery about each other keeps the relationship vital and interesting."
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5. Truly Listen
It doesn't matter if the topic is a disagreement you're trying to resolve, deeply held thoughts and feelings or simply everyday logistics -- when talking with your partner, the key is to truly listen, says wellness counselor Anne Parker. "True listening doesn't mean just paying attention," she says, "but also taking in what the other person is saying without interpretation, without assumptions, without defensiveness." Concerned with creating stronger relationships, Purdue University Extension, Consumer and Family Sciences, produced a fact sheet on how to be a better listener. It advises, for example, to pay attention as your partner speaks, ask questions until you understand, let your partner know that you understand and show support by expressing affection both physically and verbally.
6. Don’t Get Attached to Being Right
When disagreements occur between you and your partner, don't commit yourself so fully to the idea that you're the one who's right that you lose sight of what's really important. "Getting attached to being right just creates barriers to resolution and productive action," says wellness counselor Anne Parker. Most of the time it doesn't even matter who's right, she says. "What matters is how you connect, listen, discuss and create the most productive result."
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7. Cultivate Caring Touch
"Touch is critical to our well-being," says wellness counselor Anne Parker. "Caring touch in all of its forms releases beneficial biochemicals in our bodies, including oxytocin." In the brain, oxytocin acts to lessen stress responses, including anxiety, and regulates social behaviors, such as maternal care, trust, pair bonding and sexual behavior. "It's the so-called love hormone," Parker says. "Oxytocin helps us feel connected and bonded to those we love. A little caring touch goes a long way."
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8. Have Fun Together
"Sharing fun and laughter is absolutely critical to keeping relationships alive," says wellness counselor Anne Parker. Research published in the International Journal of Aging and Human Development collected data from 100 couples who had been married 45 years or more to determine what factors might be involved in a stable and satisfying marriage. One of the four variables these couples identified as being most important to their marriage was a sense of humor. "There are many ways to share fun and laughter, and doing it on a regular basis is essential to support love and stability in any relationship," Parker says. "Make sure that creating space and time for fun is at the top of your priority list."
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9. Take Part in a Shared Purpose
Engage in shared purposes, interests or goals. According to the National Extension Relationship and Marriage Education Network, couples in strong, healthy relationships have goals and ideals that give their relationship purpose and meaning. Not only does this help establish common ground in your relationship, but it can also give the two of you a sense of working together on something larger than yourselves. You and your partner might choose to spend time together volunteering, participating in religious or spiritual activities, working to improve your community or simply taking time to reaffirm a mutual value system. Sharing such activities can work to deepen the friendship between the two of you, as well as providing motivation, direction and meaning as a couple.
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What Do YOU Think?
What are your tips for building mindful, loving relationships? Do you and your partner practice any of the ideas listed? Do you plan on trying any of them? What other ways do you and your loved one develop and maintain a mindful and loving relationship? Share your thoughts with the community in the comments below.