Most mornings, the feeling of my partner’s warm, sleepy body curled next to mine is enough to fill me with an indescribable sense of peace and gratitude. There are, of course, exceptions. Sometimes, I wake up cranky and grumble my way out the door without giving him so much as a peck on the cheek. Other times, when we’ve fought the night before, I painstakingly avoid touching him (not even a toe is allowed to break rank), thinking to prove my point. Never mind that he is sleeping blissfully beside me, having already put the whole thing behind him.
In the past year, the experiences of people close to me have been a poignant reminder of the importance of treasuring these quiet, beautiful moments. Their experiences have reinforced the necessity of strengthening our relationships each and every day. It’s easy to get caught up in the motion of the days and weeks, without ever stopping to be mindful about the people who make our lives worthwhile. Career-building, work travel, bills, family, children, social obligations, digital distractions – they all take their toll.
I’m reminded of Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. Chapman’s theory is that humans “speak” five love languages – words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch – and that among these, we each have a “primary” language. When our partners “speak” our primary love languages, we feel content and our “love tank” is full, but when they don’t, we are more likely to feel unhappy. It’s a simple but useful lens for promoting mindfulness in relationships.
Skeptical? I would be too, especially since we know that relationships are never simple. Humor me, though, and push that skepticism aside. Take a moment to reflect: what’s your primary love language? What are the things that make you/your partner/family feel most loved? Think you’ve figured it out? Try a little experiment. If you think your partner thrives off of words of affirmation, write them a series of love notes. If you think they prefer physical touch, take Gretchen Rubin’s advice and give them “a kiss in the morning, a kiss at night.”
There’s no guarantee, of course, that this experiment will succeed. If it works, it’ll take time to fine-tune and will require concerted effort from the both of you. Even if it fails, however, you’ll have accomplished three things. First, you’ll have done something special for someone else. Consider it your good deed of the week. Secondly, and perhaps unexpectedly, you’ll have learned more about your own needs, as well those of your partner. Finally, you’ll have cultivated mindfulness in your relationships, which if sustained over time, will bring positive dividends of its own.