In addition to trust issues and miscommunication, feeling disconnected from your significant other can be one of the worst things to encounter in a relationship. Been there? You can’t quite put your finger on what this disconnection stems from, but you are longing for something more. This happens often when a relationship matures and the infatuation phase is over. It’s not that you're no longer physically, emotionally, or mentally attracted to your partner. This disconnect is deeper than anything on the surface. In fact, it occurs at a spiritual level.
What does a spiritual connection mean in a relationship? According to Elizabeth Winkler, LMFT and certified meditation teacher, a spiritual connection refers to feeling joined and aligned with your partner on a level that surpasses the ego. This bond is created in the here and now. “I see couples overwhelmed by the stressors of schedules, work, finances, children, and feeling they don’t have enough time to nurture their relationship," says Winkler. "This often leads them to be more reactive which makes matters worse. Freedom from this hamster wheel is available when we have more access to presence."
While therapy and intentional alone time are all worthy options to help deepen and repair bonds between couples, there’s another surprising suggested method that’s rising in the ranks among therapists: meditation. You’ve probably heard of or practiced the stillness art form on your own, focusing on our own needs. But, many experts are saying meditating as a couple can be a very selfless and vulnerable experience that can help make your relationship stronger. In fact, a research study at Max Plank Institute in Germany looked at the practice of dyadic (two-person) meditation. The study found that it decreased loneliness, fostered social closeness, and increased communication with others.
Couples Meditation: The Importance
“When couples meditate together they are reflecting back to their partner the importance of taking time to retreat, get still, and honor inner silence and compassion, which is an inherent part of meditation practice,” says explains Lauren Eckstrom, a meditation teacher and co-founder of InnerDimensionTV.com to The Zoe Report. “Rather than choosing to slip into unconscious habits, the couple is consciously choosing to set time aside to clarify intentions, inwardly reflect, and establish mindful awareness as living tenets for each day. As a result of ongoing practice, they have a higher likelihood of navigating the inevitable challenges and difficulties of being in a relationship with more skill, grace, and loving awareness.”
Beyond creating a deeper connection, meditating together can help heal untouched wounds or hurts that may be affecting the relationship indirectly. “In relationships, we tend to have habits that stem from our past, that can lead to a depth of trouble and pain,” Winkler says. “If you have patterned behaviors, meditating and breathing techniques can help break these automatic tendencies and allow you to create something new, and more productive.”
Winkler adds that, in accessing this “unconditioned self in presence, and sharing that in a couples meditation will foster deeper respect, better communication, less reactivity, and improve your ability to resolve conflicts in healthy ways. Many of my clients report on how it creates an added dimension to their relationship that also supports them when they are apart.”
Couples Meditation: How To Do It
But what if you or your partner have never meditated before? According to Winkler, it is critical for each person to find what practice works for them. There are so many apps, yoga classes, and centers where you can drop in to learn various ways to meditate, but If meditation does not resonate with you, you are less likely to maintain a daily practice. If meditating isn’t the right fit for you, she says simply noticing nature or going for a walk outside together can help you access presence and recalibrate.
Winkler suggests beginning with a Sunday side-by-side meditation practice, once a week to start, keeping a journal to write how you feel before and after each session. Some duos prefer to meditate in separate spaces at the same time, with a shared guided meditation. Either way, meditating at the same time keeps you connected to one another in the field of presence, regardless of your location.
As far as breathing work, Winkler explains the 16-second breathing meditation, which starts with closing your eyes and bringing your focus to your breath as you both breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four, and hold for four. Repeat this 16-second process four times, totaling a one-minute meditation. You can also mix it up by taking turns guiding one another through this practice. “A unique aspect to couples’ meditation is the ability to synchronize your breath, which is a benefit that cannot be experienced when meditating alone," says Winkler. "As a couple, you can do this by listening to a guided mindfulness meditation practice where you follow the cues to follow your breath and synch your breathing."
If this isn't your and/or your partner's speed, another option can be going on mindful walks together, adding in meditations during a hike, and afterward, sharing your experiences with one another. As you both move back into the daily grind of life, when challenged by stress, you can implement the simple 16-second breathing practice as a way to interrupt the stress response and create new neutral pathways in the brain along with a new way to approach life’s obstacles,” explains Winkler.
Camilla Sacre-Dallerup is a certified hypnotherapist and meditation teacher at the popular Unplug meditation studio in LA. She has worked with countless couples on integrating the practice into their daily lives. “A lot of the couples I work with make it part of their date night, before heading out for a romantic dinner, couples massage, or a night in chatting on the couch," says Sacre-Dallerup. "Usually, we spend a bit of time at the beginning of the session narrowing down what they would like to release or work on in the meditation and what they would like to focus on bringing more of into their lives. They are in a safe, relaxed, and neutral space, so often things come forward that would have otherwise been pushed aside. I have seen couples come in feeling so stressed and even frustrated with each other at the beginning and then having the most beautiful conversation at the end, hugging and feeling really close — it’s so amazing to witness.”
If you or your partner are traveling apart or are in a long-distance relationship, Winkler advises maintaining your connection by simultaneously listening to a guided meditation. This puts forth an effort to share an experience that reminds you that presence is power. It is essential to allow each person to find what works for them, and to remain open to having very different experiences.
Couples Meditation: What To Avoid
As the practice of dual meditation is meant to be about the discovery of oneself and each other it is crucial to avoid judgment, comparisons, and expectations. The number one thing you should avoid is expecting your partner to have the same meditation style as yours or having an unrealistic image of what meditating as a couple looks like. “Expecting your partner to meditate in a particular way would create further conflict," says Winkler. "Often, clients hesitate or do not continue their meditation practice because of their own self-judgment or assumption that they are doing it wrong, or that the desired results are not felt. Stay focused on your original intention to share a nurturing activity that has the potential to lessen stress, increase calm and deepen your heart connection."
Couples Meditation: How To Make It A Habit
Like most self-care rituals, for meditating to work you need to make it a habit. “When we ritualize our meditation, we are more likely to maintain the practice,” says Winkler. “Davidji created two acronyms, RPM (rise, pee, meditate) and RAW (right after work), in order to help individuals ground their practice by starting and ending their day with a meditation.” Winkler suggests creating a unique ritual together, such as reading an inspirational quote or making a sacred place in your home to sit and meditate. “By doing so, you can not only share a new interest, but you can hold one another accountable with gentleness and simple reminders to keep the practice going as you both begin to experience a more loving and kind relationship.”
So next time you are feeling disconnected with your significant other, add meditation to your date night or morning routine. Your relationship will thank you.