004 Why Self-Awareness is the Most Important Thing in Your Relationship
What You’ll Learn Today:
- (You guessed it) The 4 reasons why self-awareness is the most important thing in your relationship
- What self awareness actually is (it’s not just meditating)
- Three easy-to-use tools to start being mindful today
The four reasons why self-awareness is the most important thing in your relationship:
Reason #1: Happiness with Yourself = Happiness with Others
You have to have a healthy relationship with yourself before you can have a healthy relationship with anyone else. Self-awareness is the key to realizing that you are responsible for your own happiness: Your partner is not. The more you feel the need to focus on your partner, the more you need to focus on yourself and your own actions and thoughts. You do this by learning to train your attention to be in the moment, and not in what’s happened in the past or what you think might happen in the future.
Reason #2: Distraction is the Cancer of Your Relationship
The obstacle to being and thinking in the “here and now” is distraction. Distraction is the termites eating at the foundation of your relationship.
Think of how many times a day you’re doing one thing, but thinking about another.
Many studies have shown a high correlation between some kind of attention training or “mindfulness practice” and an improved, more satisfying relationship. Couples report more closeness, better communication and a greater acceptance of one another when one or both of them are involved in some kind of attention training.
Do you ever notice that you often know the “right” or healthy thing to do or say but don’t do it consistently (or at all)? Do you then get frustrated wondering why you know what to do, but don’t do what you know?
One of the main reasons you don’t apply the healthy tools and knowledge you’ve learned is because you’re on autopilot. The problem isn’t that you’ve been intentionally making bad choices. The problem is that you haven’t even been aware you’ve been making choices! It’s like you’ve been sleepwalking. The mind is like a muscle in this way: the more you direct it, the easier it gets to stay mindful.
Now, picture talking to the people you love. Your partner comes home from work and you say, “How was your day?” (Hey, I know better and I still catch myself saying this). What a waste of time that question is! We get the same canned, disconnected response every day, yet we keep asking. In this case both you and your partner are both on autopilot. Instead, try this the next time your partner comes home.
Stop what you’re doing (really), approach him or her, make eye contact and say, “Hey, I’m so glad to see you” and give them a kiss hello. Be fully present – right there with them for that three seconds it takes. You’ll have a totally different response than you usually do. And, more importantly, you will feel differently than you usually do when your partner walks in the house. It’s a decision to connect, versus stay distracted and on autopilot.
Reason #3: You’ll Remember to Use Your Tools!
Is this the first thing you’ve ever learned about how to be in a happy relationship? I’ll bet the answer is “no.” My guess is you’ve already learned tools to stop fights, reignite passion or improve communication.
But, what’s happened when you’ve been in a fight or stressful situation with your partner? Did you remember to use any of the great tools you learned? Probably not.
That’s because you forget all the great stuff you’ve learned and react with the same old responses, words or actions. In the moments when you need those healthy tools the most, you forget to use them.
There’s one tool that’s key to creating consistent self-awareness. It goes by many names, but they all mean the same thing: Attention training, mindfulness and meditation are all words you can use to describe the practice of self-awareness.
Reason #4: You’ll be Happier in Your Relationship
Research has shown MANY benefits from meditating just a few minutes a day. These include things like increased immunity, lower blood pressure, better sleep, better mental health and feelings of increased well-being. But there’s another SUPER important thing it brings: happiness in your relationship!
Meditating regularly helps you notice more positive things in your life and relationship. Research by marriage expert, John Gottman, has shown that in a romantic relationship, five positive things have to happen for every one negative thing for the marriage to feel “good.” Crazy right? For every 1 crappy thing you do, you have to do five fabulous things just for your partner to think the relationship is “good.” Not great, but good.
Mindfulness practice helps bring that 5:1 ratio down to a less skewed level so we’re seeing more positives in the relationship.
Another reason this 5:1 ratio exists is what neuroscientist Evian Gordon of the University of Sydney calls: the “minimize danger and maximize reward” principle of the brain. The brain is all about getting to rewards and avoiding threats. But the brain is much more motivated to avoid threats than to go after good stuff. In the end, our brains respond way more strongly to negative experiences than to positive ones.
What exactly is Self-Awareness?
When negative thoughts come into your mind, they can run wild and trigger destructive emotions like resentment, fear, depression, hopelessness, hate and anxiety. Mental training of any kind allows you to identify and control your thoughts, which allows you to control your emotions. You feel the way you think. If you want to change your feelings, you’ve got to get a handle on your thoughts.
Being mindful allows you to see yourself and your emotions objectively. It creates something called response flexibility, which is basically the ability to pause before you act or respond. It’s the ability to act, and not react.
My favorite definition for mindfulness comes from author, researcher and well-known mindfulness guru, Jon Kabat-Zinn, he defines it as “Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
How Do You Do it?
There are many roads to Rome when it comes to attention training. I know a lot of you are turned off to the idea because you think you’ll need to meditate for an hour a day or something. You actually don’t need to meditate at all (although that’s a great technique too). There are lots of other tools to learn to stay focused in the here and now. Here are three to get you started:
- Try the Alarm Exercise, twice this week;
- Stop and bring yourself to the present every time you eat something; or
- Set intention before you walk in the house every day for one week
Resources and Links:
Setting Intention blog post & video
Great research on how mindfulness helps control your behavior
Can Mindfulness Make Romantic Conflict Less Stressful?