The Next Time You Find Yourself Fighting With Your Partner, use Mindfulness in Marital Conflict:
Accept What You are Feeling and Notice Where it Dwells
Notice your breath. Sit with whatever it is. Sadness, anger, grief, shame, etc.
Allow your noticing self to see.
Once aware of high emotions, notice where it seems to move to in your body. You might feel it as a tightness in the stomach, or the throat. Perhaps your heart will pound. It is essential that the emotion flows freely. Stuffing feelings down will only percolate them in the acid of resentment, complicating an emotional shutdown with a physical burden. Listen to the hard stuff. It’s trying to tell you something.
Mindfulness in Marital Conflict invites you to Name the Feeling… But Not Be Submerged by It
I feel “X” is a description of a fact. But while screaming and yelling manifest negative emotions, it does little to process those feelings. And it is never mindful.
Accept your Partner. Accept Yourself
My wife is fond of saying “we are all bozos on this bus.” Mindfulness in Marital Conflict remembers compassion.
When you are feeling an unflattering emotion, don’t dodge it. Be curious instead. Trust each other enough to admit where you tend to make things worse. Bad feelings can flow and change like the weather.
Mindfulness in Marital Conflict Means Allowing the Flow of Fluctuating and Fleeting Feelings
Our feelings flee. Always replaced by something new. But when they overwhelm us they may seem monolithic.
Cultivate an “observing self.” Notice your feelings, and greet them like visitors. And be curious enough to ask questions about them with each other. What are the feelings trying to tell you?
Have an “Aftermath of a Fight” Conversation
Why not have a conversation about how you fight… when you are not fighting?
Create a detailed diagram for the dashboard of your triggers. Understand what triggers you and why. “What am I upset about? What triggered my partner? What is causing him to stonewall? Why do I feel so self-righteous right now?” Ask “what are my assumptions or expectations here? What critical thoughts are preoccupying me right now?”
Remember that your automatic reactions might be furthest away from your deeper, finer instincts. Learn to ask a different question.
Control Your Noticing. Not Your Feelings
Feelings come and go. Problems sometimes defy solutions but invite us to become more intimately connected in how we collaborate to manage them. Learn to have a “Mulligan Marriage” by cultivating the discipline of not going on automatic pilot…. and asking your partner not to do so either. Be interested enough to objectively know your own triggers and your partner’s as well.
Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.