There’s nothing quite like that feeling you get when you experience a moment of true intimacy with your partner – your eyes meet across the room and you share the quiet declaration of your love. It’s a secret that strengthens your faith in each other, and besides making you feel incredible, it also contributes to good health and longevity (Reis and Franks, 1994).
But over time, these feelings of intimacy can decrease as you realise you can’t spend all day (every day) lying in bed with this perfect person. Life gets in the way. As priorities shift and you become accustomed to one another’s presence, the moments of real, I-can-feel-it-in-my-bones intimacy seem to be fewer and farther between.
When we start out with such good intentions – that we’ll work harder and it will be different this time – why do we so often fail to keep the spark of intimacy alive?
Meditation for Intimacy
Did you know that a regular meditation practice could be the answer to your long-term intimacy goals? There are several important ways in which meditation can address some of the key relationship problems we face and help us to overcome the hurdles that can threaten intimacy.
1) Meditation can increase compassion.
Pruitt & Mccollum (2010) determined that the practice of meditation increases feelings of compassion for oneself and others, in their case study of long-term meditators.
Meditation helps to dissolve the boundaries between the self and others by bringing to light the universality of suffering.
If you’re able to recognize the suffering of your partner, you’ll be more likely to remain connected and composed in the face of disagreements. Through meditation, you can learn to react with empathy and understanding in situations that would previously trigger negative reactions.
2) Meditation can help you live in the present.
Meditation is a very simple technique for helping you stay engaged in the present moment. This means that when your partner is telling you about their awful interaction with the parking officer or the new project they’ve been assigned at work, you will be engaged in what they are saying rather than thinking about what you’ll be making for dinner. This is especially important when quality time is scarce. Your partner needs to know that you care about the things that matter to them.
Acknowledging emotional content in communication – no matter how inconsequential it may seem – is critical for maintaining intimacy in the long term.
3) Meditation teaches you to let go of unrealistic expectations.
Another feat of meditation is that it allows us to see things as they are rather than how we would like them to be. When we meditate, we practice becoming aware of sensations in the body and, importantly, accepting whatever our experience may be regardless of whether it is positive, negative, or neutral.
In a relationship context, learning to see your partner for who he or she is, instead of who you would like him or her to be, is critical for intimacy. Rusbult (2004) explains this as a process whereby
we no longer interact with our mental construct of our partner, but with the other’s subjective inner experience of reality – that is, the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
This can lead to increased intimacy over time as you get to know your partner and are able to offer them validation and acceptance of who they are.
4) Meditation shows you how to be vulnerable.
As much-talked-about scholar and researcher Brene Brown points out, vulnerability – or the ability to be open, exposed, and without defences – is one of the most healing and connecting experiences we can have. Often, fear gets in the way of our ability to express our true feelings. The first step is recognizing these feelings. Through meditation, we learn to get in touch with our deepest realities, which can often be veiled by more dominant emotions and behaviours. Secondly, meditation increases the acceptance we have of ourselves, thereby lessening feelings of shame and fear and allowing us to express ourselves openly to our partners.
Through this act of vulnerability, we give our partners the opportunity to come in to our private space and facilitate healing through support, acceptance, and love.
If we never dare to let our partner see us for who we are, then we can never gain intimacy and meaningful connection.
Check out Brene’s amazing TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” to learn more about the importance of being vulnerable.
5) Meditation can teach you to be less reactive.
The practice of meditation involves training yourself to be less reactive to both internal and external events.
One long-term meditator explained this as the ability to “explore thoughts and emotions, and to be curious about them, rather than being driven or defined by them.”
By looking at thoughts, feelings, and emotions objectively – that is, as an observer rather than a subject of those processes – you give yourself the space to see them as separate from you, rather than a representation of who you are.
When we are involved in a disagreement with a loved one, emotions can escalate quickly. Have you ever said something you regretted later on? By practicing mindfulness meditation, you can bring your awareness to your emotions in time to catch yourself before you react out of anger or fear. You are essentially learning to respond consciously rather than with automatic patterns of reaction. By taking the time to reflect upon your emotions and intentions, you can build intimacy with your partner instead of letting the little things get in the way.
6) Meditation allows you to acknowledge your own role.
Finally, the most important thing you can do for your relationship is to change your own behaviour. This is something that is made abundantly clear through meditation. With increased awareness of physical states, you will also increase your awareness of emotional states, thus allowing you to recognize your own habitual patterns of reaction.
As the major function of meditation is to increase self-awareness, you will come to learn about your own patterns and behaviours that impede intimacy, and with this awareness you will derive the ability to choose a different path.
Get to know your own triggers so that you can act more lovingly toward your partner, and watch your intimacy levels flourish.