Get ready to get close.
All relationships go through their ups and downs, and sustaining the initial feelings of happiness you experienced as you were first falling in love isn’t easy for most of us.
That said, there are certainly strategies you can practice in order to maintain both your own feelings of satisfaction and deepen your intimacy as a couple.
What is intimacy? It’s a simple, yet complicated word to define.
In the most plain terms, intimacy means “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group,” or “a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc.”
Which is to saying that in order to experience meaningful intimacy in romantic relationships, you need to first gain detailed knowledge and a detailed understanding of both yourself and your significant other.
If common relationship issues such as fights, communication problems or anxiety are keeping you from having the kind of relationships you want, mindfulness exercises are a great way to find inner peace while also improving your emotional connection with your partner.
By doing some inner work and prioritizing self-care, you’ll better be able to identify what’s negatively affecting your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Set aside some time to try these five mindfulness exercises and experience for yourself how doing so deepens the intimacy and love you share with your partner.
1. Take a Moment to Pause.
This one is easy to say, but not always as easy to do. For example, if your boyfriend asks you question, you often think an immediate answer is required, but would you rather answer quickly or thoughtfully?
It is okay to ask for space, to say “Give me a moment to think about that,” or “Can I get back to you tomorrow with an answer? I want to really put some thought into this.”
Intense conversations are often like runaway trains, and many things can happen in the moment in unconscious ways. Slowing down your interaction with your partner will help you identify your triggers and bring more mindfulness and awareness to your responses.
Even if you already have a regular meditation practice, it may be time to delve into it on a deeper level. This has a wonderful spillover effect because of the neurological rewiring that can happen.
Research shows that our brains and neural networks can significantly change with meditation. This new neural programming can help calm down your limbic system (which governs our behavioral and emotional responses) and engage more of your own thought process, so you can respond to your partner more consciously.
3. Visualize Your Goals.
What would you like to see in your relationship? By visualizing ideal interactions, you can get deeper in touch with your own heart.
So ask yourself who you want to be in the relationship and how you can bring your best self to each of your interactions with your partner.
This exercise can help you get in touch with your own self and your loving intentions, akin to Michelle Obama’s statement, “When they go low, we go high.”
For a happier relationship, it’s important to define yourself, rather than being in a reactive mode and allowing someone else’s actions to dictate yours. Through visualization, you can creatively “rehearse” some possible responses you’d feel good about.
4. Journal Your Experiences.
How many times have you said, “I wish I would have…”
Journaling can be a productive exercise in reviewing and slowing down a past interaction in your relationship. Writing about what occurred allows you to review the scene, moment by moment, and ask yourself, “What was happening for me at that moment?”
Explore what it was you feeling and thinking, as well as what was going on in your body. These are all offer clues that can help you identify and release your triggers. And while it can take years for you to gain critical insight, slowing down an experience and journaling about it can help you identify the exact moment you shifted.
The more you journal, the more you increase your awareness. And with practice and review, you are much more likely to be aware in the present moment and stay centered, which can help you stay happy as you navigate hurdles in your relationship.
5. Learn to Recognize “Transference.”
Transference, according to Merriam-Webster.com, is “the redirection of feelings and desires and especially of those unconsciously retained from childhood toward a new object.”
Simply put, someone might unconsciously remind you of someone else, and when that happens your negative feelings are triggered. You’re not actually angry at this person, but you’re “transferring” your emotions onto them instead of the actual person who hurt you.
Transference can be subtle and difficult to detect. One hint that someone is experiencing this in relation to yourself is when, no matter what, nothing you do is ever right for the other person. You try to be nice, you try to avoid, you hold healthy boundaries, you get triggered and give as good as you get — it all just feels really messy and bad.
It takes a highly evolved person to be able to recognize it in the moment, so be aware that your partner may be acting from a place of hurt, shame, abuse, abandonment, scorn or rejection.
Likewise, to avoid transference toward your partner, try to stay conscious, hold your own center and stay in your heart.
As a supplement to these mindfulness exercises, seek out the guidance of a qualified professional as needed.
These people are trained to offer you the kind of support you need, and to help you slow down, recognize what is going on, identify any transference and avoid feeling like a victim.
Once you learn how to find your own happiness and inner peace, you’ll have less difficulty navigating problems with with your boyfriend or girlfriend, leading to a healthier and happier future together.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 5 Psychological ‘Mind Tricks’ That Deepen Love & Intimacy In Relationships.