• Pair hides behind inflated balloons.

    Slow romance – Deceleration in your relationship.

    How becoming more mindful can help couples protect themselves against stress and maintain a harmonious relationship.

    Text: Claudio Rimmele

Communication is key.

One of the oldest exchanges of love letters in the world took place in ancient Egypt: over a period of weeks, a Pharaoh had messages chiselled on stone tablets and sent across the Nile so that he could stay in touch with his sweetheart. More than just a historic example of the language of love, this is also a reminder of how much time and effort couples invested in communication in the past.

Young man writes at the desk.
Young man connects balloons.

The digital revolution.

The digital revolution that has been taking place for almost twenty years now has introduced new ways of communicating into our romantic relationships. E-mails, messenger services and dating apps all make communication easier, but they also accelerate the process to a tempo previously unimaginable. Within seconds people can get in touch and arrange to meet. It’s equally easy to cancel a meeting, block a contact or pick a quarrel with someone – and all without ever having to look anyone in the eye.

Learning mindfulness.

Not only does this type of rapid communication lead to misunderstandings, it also results in the loss of a certain amount of mindfulness and empathy. Ultimately, more effort and thought go into a handwritten love letter than a quick text message. This does not necessarily make the content of the letter more substantial but the act of writing it is at least more thoughtful. Even though it’s equally possible to misunderstand a letter or a text message, the very frequency of digital messages is such that misunderstandings are more or less inevitable. The new forms of communication therefore demand new levels of mindfulness and consideration, which is a challenge for many couples.

Man stands with balloons on the balcony and looks into the distance.
Man presents balloons to a woman near a river.

Main area of conflict: Shared time.

According to surveys, one of the things couples argue about the most is how much time to spend together. Time isn’t the only factor involved, though. Couples often complain that the quality and intensity of the time they spend together breaks down during the course of the relationship, with serious consequences – lack of shared time is one of the most common grounds for divorce. So how can couples enjoy more quality time together in spite of the stresses of careers and family, and what issues should they be aware of?

  • Man presents balloons to a woman near a river.

Kindness – essential in a relationship.

Psychologist John Gottman and his wife Julie Gottman wanted to find out what made a happy long-term relationship. In tests conducted at intervals spanning several years, they asked couples about their lives and their level of satisfaction with their relationship, recording a number of physiological parameters at the same time. It emerged that the couples who had unhappy love lives displayed physical characteristics consistent with people in high-stress situations: blood pressure, heart rate and sweat production were all raised.

The Gottmans concluded that couples who experienced their relationship as if in a constant state of battle-readiness, were suffering on a physical level without being aware of it. In a relationship based on a fundamental degree of trust and intimacy, both partners were able to remain physically relaxed. Gottman describes the key factor in this as “kindness”. He uses the word to mean a degree of mutual mindfulness and attentiveness, explaining that real attentiveness can only exist where one partner is genuinely aware of the needs of the other – easier said than done, especially for couples who find it hard to cope with the pressures both of work and their private lives.

Discovering partnership.

Being content with life together with your partner on a day-to-day level is a source of mental stability and health. But in a world of sensory overload, in which we are constantly being distracted, it can be difficult to give your partner the level of care and attention they deserve. It is therefore worthwhile asking yourself regularly how your relationship is working: how do I spend the time I have together with my partner? In relaxation or squeezed in between meetings and chores? Do I appreciate our relationship enough on a day-to-day basis? Do I communicate attentively with my partner or do I spend the whole time staring at my phone? What is the relative importance of my career compared with my family plans? These questions are based on the mental concept of deceleration and can help to shed new light on your own relationship. A healthy relationship lived in a spirit of mindfulness is an oasis of inner peace. This doesn’t mean you have to give everything up and just spend your time meditating together. Open communication, enough time together and regular gestures of affection help to build up a stable relationship, regardless of whether it’s a long-term experience or a rocket trip to cloud nine.

Woman and man look laughing at the camera.