Improve Romantic Relationship Satisfaction with Mindfulness
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“mindfulness is indeed linked with more satisfying relationships. . . Overall, mindfulness was shown to have a reliable effect on relationship satisfaction. . . Mindfulness makes us more compassionate and better able to stop destructive impulsive behavior. It can help us resolve conflict, rather than exacerbating it and be less reactive to relationship and life stressors.” – Melanie Greenberg
Relationships can be difficult as two individuals can and do frequently disagree or misunderstand one another. This is amplified in marriage where the couple interacts daily and frequently have to resolve difficult issues. These conflicts can produce strong emotions and it is important to be able to regulate these emotions in order to keep them from interfering with rational solutions to the conflict. The success of marriage can often depend upon how well the couple handles these conflicts. In fact, it has been asserted that the inability to resolve conflicts underlies the majority of divorces.
Mindfulness may be helpful in navigating marital disputes, as it has been shown to improve the emotion regulation and decrease anger and anxiety. It may be a prerequisite for deep listening and consequently to resolving conflict. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to improve relationships. So, mindfulness may be a key to successful relationships. One way that mindfulness may work to improve relationships is by reducing judgement and improving the acceptance of the romantic partner, including their imperfections. But, little is known about this, So, there is a need to investigate just how mindfulness effects couples partner acceptance and its effects on romantic relationship satisfaction.
In today’s Research News article “On the Association Between Mindfulness and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: the Role of Partner Acceptance.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6153889/ ), Kappen and colleagues recruited adults on-line who were involved in a romantic relationship and had them complete measures of trait mindfulness, partner acceptance and relationship satisfaction. They found that mindfulness was associated with greater relationship satisfaction both directly and as a result of mindfulness being associated with greater partner acceptance which was, in turn, associated with greater relationship satisfaction.
In another study they recruited adult mindfulness trainees who were involved in a romantic relationship and their partners. They measured trait mindfulness, partner acceptance and relationship satisfaction in the primary participant and trait mindfulness, perceived acceptance by their partner, and relationship satisfaction in their romantic partner. They found similar relationships as in the first study but also found additionally that the mindfulness associated improvement in partner acceptance was associated with increased perception by their romantic partner of acceptance. This, in turn, was associated by improved relationship satisfaction in the romantic partner.
These findings are correlational, so causation cannot be determined. But, they suggest that the individual’s level of mindfulness plays an important role in promoting a satisfying relationship. It appears to do so both directly and indirectly through partner acceptance. As an additional benefit, that partner acceptance appears to be affect the partner by being associated with the perception that their partner accepts them with all their imperfections and this promotes better satisfaction with the relationship. Hence, mindfulness appears to be associated with better romantic relationships in both the individual and their partner.
So, improve romantic relationship satisfaction with mindfulness.
“In applying mindfulness to our intimate relationships, we find a greater relationship satisfaction, better communication, more skillful responses to relationship stress, increased empathy, greater acceptance of our partners, and increased sensuality within physical intimacy.“ – Sean Courey-Pickering
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Kappen, G., Karremans, J. C., Burk, W. J., & Buyukcan-Tetik, A. (2018). On the Association Between Mindfulness and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: the Role of Partner Acceptance. Mindfulness, 9(5), 1543–1556. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0902-7
In three studies, it was investigated whether trait mindfulness is positively associated with partner acceptance, defined as the ability and willingness to accept the partner’s imperfections, and whether partner acceptance explains the association between trait mindfulness and relationship satisfaction. Trait mindfulness, partner acceptance and relationship satisfaction were assessed in two MTurk samples (n1 = 190; n2 = 140) and a sample of participants of a mindfulness-based stress reduction course (n3 = 118) and their partners (53 complete couples), using self-report measures. In all three samples, trait mindfulness was related to partner acceptance and in two out of three studies trait mindfulness was directly positively related to relationship satisfaction. Also, the results provided initial support for the mediating role of partner acceptance in the association between mindfulness and relationship satisfaction. Dyadic data further suggested that the benefits of mindfulness and partner acceptance on relationship satisfaction extend from the individual to the partner through increased partner acceptance. Together, the results provide initial support for the hypothesis that partner acceptance may be an important mechanism through which mindfulness promotes relationship satisfaction in both partners of a romantic couple.