By: Carla Swiryn, Three Day Rule Matchmaker
As a professional Matchmaker, one of the questions I ask in daily interviews with single people is what has or hasn’t worked in previous relationships. I’ve noticed one major theme for why relationships break down: the inability to handle stress effectively. It’s easy for busy, hard-driving professionals today to get task-obsessed. When that happens, we’re stuck in our head, rather than a healthy balance between our head and heart. We put so much pressure on ourselves that we sacrifice our success for lasting relationships.
If I could give a “one-size-fits-all” piece of relationship advice, it would be to chill out. There’s no “chill pill” on the market, but there is one simple action you can take: meditation. When you meditate (rest in inner silence), you’re getting in touch with your whole self, unifying your equally important analytical and emotional sides. Meditation allows you to access your feelings and clearly articulate them.
Mindfulness is defined as “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment.” Now apply the concept of mindfulness to dating – so “mindful dating”. Not in terms of finding a like-minded individual (for that there’s MeetMindful – “the first online dating site to serve the mindful lifestyle.”). I call dating with the concepts of meditation in mind “MediDating.” (This is not to be confused with masterdating, where you go on a date with yourself).
Here are ten MediDating concepts that can help your love and sex life:
1. Being present.
Meditation encourages us to recognize the sounds and space around us as well as what’s within us. The goal is to live in the now, rather than dwell on the past or obsess about the future. Through meditation we practice the feeling of being alive.
Take this into your dating life. Being truly present on dates and in our relationships directly contributes to our connection. We appear happier and thus more attractive. We are able to more easily have interesting conversations because we’re focusing on the current environment, which is a shared experience. And by not checking the text message you just got or watching the football game out of the corner of your eye, you’ll make the person feel more appreciated.
By focusing on the present, you will also appear more relaxed and focused. You remain attentive and open, a better listener, actually interested, and responsive – all attributes of a desirable partner.
2. Seeing the big picture.
One of the primary advantages of meditation is that it allows you to step out of your own ego, and experience a sense of connectedness with others. The aim is to simply observe your thoughts and let them pass, without trying to catch or attach to them. The same should work with relationships. Make sure you’re not attaching to your ideas – it’s important in disagreements to sincerely consider the other person’s point of view.
3. Going with the flow.
Without breath we have no life, so the focus on breath in meditation taps into the element of fully living. One meditation strategy is to count breaths from 1-10, then start over, and keep going. You avoid metering your breath, and follow your natural rhythm of breathing deeply and gently. The idea is to not force it. Think about that idea in the context of dating. No one ever asks me for someone who is stuck in their ways. People appreciate spontaneity and flexibility. Be open to changes in the plan. I find that my more easygoing clients tend to be the ones who are successfully and happily matched in the end.
4. Taking time for yourself.
Through meditation, you create “breathing room” between you and your immediate thoughts. With more mental space, you’re able to assess issues, prioritize, and develop effective solutions to problems. Similarly, relationships also need breathing room. Relationships are often intense early on, tempting you to spend all your time together. Even if that feeling is mutual, it’s healthy to maintain time apart. This benefits you by continuing to experience all the activities you enjoy and people who enrich your life. My clients often request someone who “has their own life.” When you’re pursuing your own interests, it provides the guy or girl a chance to miss you. Almost counterintuitively, maintaining some level of distance leads to better attachment and desire for intimacy.
5. Training the mind.
Meditation takes time and practice. Especially when you’re new to it, you might fidget, plan out the tasks for the day, hunch over, and practice inconsistently. Trained epidemiologist, trained yoga and meditation teacher, Ritu Riyat, says, “Meditation is like mental weightlifting. The more consistently you do it, the stronger the brain gets and the better focus you have. Five minutes a day is better than one hour a week.”
Similarly, a solid and lasting relationship takes consistent work. The book The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm presents love as a choice you make every day, rather than something you fall into. Love is an action more than a noun. Over time and with practice, being loved and being loving gets easier.
6. Avoiding the tendency to be critical.
Meditation is a powerful tool to minimize criticism about people as we date them. Some matchmaking clients make the mistake of pre-judging a potential match based on their job title, an interest, etc.. They’re missing the opportunity to be in a state of discovery and appreciate a person’s uniqueness and complexity. Or they discount someone because of one action. Give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t take a single instance and extrapolate. This is partly why personal matchmaking has an advantage over “organic” dating. We’re generally good at advising others but not ourselves. As a Matchmaker, I assess deep-level, long-term compatibility through an extensive questionnaire. I also gauge chemistry based on an individual’s energy and personality. A client may have overlooked someone who I think would be a great fit for them overall. There are a number of clients I’ve matched successfully who originally thought the person presented wasn’t exactly what they had in mind.
7. Not ignoring the physical body.
The ultimate expression of being present in your body – a major tenant of meditation – is sex. Life coach, yoga instructor and experienced meditator, Amina Zamani, believes that regular meditation encourages you to let people in, which leads to a better sex life. “It allows you to have intimacy with yourself first and then with others,” she explains.
Sex is a major source of contention in relationships. Sexual appetite within couples often differs. When children are involved, the woman’s attention shifts to them, often to the detriment of the couple. Like meditation’s attention on the physical, don’t ignore the physical part of your relationship. Is there enough frequency with sex? Are you giving your partner what they actually need? Do they want more physical touch in general? If they’re a man, they probably do! In my personal interviews with singles, I ask about the Five Love Languages. Sixty-eight percent of men (in a wide variety of ages) say physical touch is the primary or secondary way they want to receive love.
8. Striving for self-improvement.
Meditation is a form of self-improvement. It’s about being conscious of a better version of yourself. We are imperfect beings, and while we can never get to the point of 100% self-actualization, it’s the effort one puts forth that matters. Establishing self-improvement goals not only benefits yourself but your relationship, as you become more well-adjusted and encourage your partner to mirror your behavior.
Sometimes guided meditation will instruct to abandon all effort for a short period and let your mind do whatever it wants to do. So even in meditation, we strive for improvement but never expect perfection. We should allow ourselves and others to be flawed. Part of being a better person is having understanding and compassion for yourself and others.
9. Appreciating what you have.
Being mindful isn’t just about letting go of the negative – it’s also embracing the positive. You can’t expect all aspects of your life to go phenomenally in career, health, family, friends and love. Having gratitude for which aspects are going well will minimize stress and give you a stronger sense of control. Meditating reminds us to appreciate the simple parts of our day that we often take for granted. That includes being appreciative of our partner, whether verbally or non-verbally.
10. Letting go of the little things.
Nearly everyone can relate to the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff” from the #1 bestselling book in 1996. If something is simply annoying, rather than a real problem, chances are you can let it go. If he forgot to put the toilet seat down or put the cap on the toothpaste again, it’s probably not worth getting into an argument over. After all, didn’t he just make you the most amazing stir-fry?
To be clear, I do not believe that people have to meditate to be in a successful relationship. I don’t even broach the topic with clients. However, I do think that being adaptable matters greatly, and meditation is a peaceful reminder.
The practice of meditation has grown in popularity worldwide for a reason — the benefits are powerful, including reduced stress, increased self-awareness, empathy, acceptance of others, physical health, weight management, memory, and life satisfaction.
If you’re sold on the idea of meditation and mindfulness and could use some help in getting started, sign up for Ritu Riyat’s newsletter Press Pause at rituriyat.com. Also check out the Headspace app. It offers the first ten guided lessons free, with each one lasting a very manageable 10 minutes. If you’re no longer using the app, a tip is to leave your phone in a different room and put it on airplane mode so you don’t get distracted. Find a position where you’re comfortable, be still, and turn inward.
When you practice MediDating, I truly believe you’ll find that you can better prioritize, feel more adaptable to challenges, discern the difference between “must have” and “nice to have”, appear more attractive, and experience greater happiness. Managing stress makes you a better dater, a better partner, and a better person.