Tips for Conscious Coupling
If you’re tired of the same patterns playing out in your current relationship or feel like you always have the same experience from partner to partner, this is for you. Relationships are a major part of life, and yes, that even applies to those who avoid them! They’re also often our greatest teachers; nothing else brings us to our edges quite like love and relating. Successful, loving relationships take heaps of vulnerability, courage, and compassion.
Enter conscious relationships. In some spheres, this has become a buzzy phrase. The rise of figures like Esther Perel speaks to the demand and increase in consciousness around relationships. There are coaches and therapists who specialize entirely in relationships, and more and more couples are discovering what it is to relate consciously and healthily rather than via the old paradigm of simply trying to be with the person who you feel the most chemistry with.
Despite the popularity of conscious relationships, what does it actually mean? Do you know how to relate consciously in a healthy way? Let’s take a closer look. For the sake of this article, we’re referring more to couples conjoined romantically or in life partnerships, but you may find these tips also help with your other relationships. Below are a few tips and insights to make your current or future relationship more conscious and, hopefully, successful.
Fill your own cup first.
What is your intention for getting into a relationship? Remember this: it all starts with you, so you want to make sure you are able to tend to yourself first and foremost. We cannot be reliant upon others (romantic, platonic, or familial) to keep us fully regulated and happy. Now, this does not mean that you must reach some perfect level of “healed” to be ready for a relationship: there is no finish line ever. But what it does mean is that you’re mindful that you don’t get into a relationship to fix yourself and/or fill a void. If this is your reason, it’s unlikely the relationship will ever be healthy. Yes, it’s human to need others and desire physical intimacy (more on that below), but you should also never enter a relationship under the assumption that it will fix whatever is wrong with your life.
We are sensitive creatures, highly affected by others’ behaviors and emotions. Naturally, it follows that the behavior and emotions of our patterns affect us in a major way. In any interaction, you’re “co-regulating” whether you realize it or not, and our mirror neurons cause us to often respond and emulate others’ behavior. What is co-regulation, then? Firstly, we look at self-regulation, the process by which we manage and soothe ourselves. Co-regulation happens between two people and is the process where one person’s nervous system calms the other, thereby leading to emotional ease and relief for both. Where am I going with this? Being in a more conscious relationship doesn’t mean you don’t let yourself get upset or have a bad, moody day from time to time. What it does mean is that armed with the knowledge of co-regulation and our tendency to mirror one another, you bring awareness to your behavior when you’re around your partner. Again, we can’t be perfect or feel good all the time, but we can do our best to remember that our behaviors and overall nervous systems affect one another. We can also better notice how we feel around another. Your mind may think you’re with the perfect partner for a number of reasons, but if you notice unease, your body may hold more insight. Click here to read more about co-regulation techniques.
Know when to take space.
In the early stages of a relationship, you may relish doing everything together. While this is certainly a dopamine-drip of fun, know that it’s neither sustainable nor the healthiest way to go about things if your goal is longevity. As with alcohol, food, tv, shopping, etc, relationships can also become something of a drug. It takes a lot of awareness to know your patterns and realize when you’re becoming attached to an unhealthy degree, and this will also vary by relationship. Taking space is critical for your own health, as well as the longevity of your relationship. My tip: have at least 1-2 nights a week (maybe more!) blocked off to do things without your partner. It’ll help you cultivate that relationship with yourself, arguably the most important one of all, as well as give each other space to exist as individuals. If you find that you have a tendency to lose yourself in relationships, cannot stand being alone, or even exhibit signs of codependence, all is not lost! It’s just time to book a call with a coach or therapist to help you break those habits.
Express your sexual desires.
Firstly, if you don’t feel comfortable expressing your sexual desires to your partner, take some time to be with that. Is it because they deride you, or are you simply afraid to be vulnerable? If you don’t feel safe expressing your physical needs in your relationship, it may be time to look elsewhere or at least work with someone who can help you and your partner better communicate those to one another. Chemistry is known to fade throughout time, and there are many people whose entire bodies of work are dedicated to this. What can help ignite a spark is speaking up for what you want sexually rather than falling into the same habits or complacency. See also: take initiative sexually, and if you don’t feel safe to do that, run!
Don’t avoid conflict, but do handle it consciously.
Avoiding conflict is never the answer, and knowing when and how to speak up for our needs is paramount to a healthy relationship and overall emotional state. Learning to handle conflict is part of any relationship. How you handle conflict may differ from your partner, and we are all so informed by how our parents or caregivers handled conflict during childhood. This can be one of the stickiest areas of a relationship. To begin, remember mindfulness and awareness: without these, it’ll be hard to handle any conflict well, period. If you notice that you avoid conflict, your work may be to speak up for your needs. If you notice that you have a tendency to blow up, your work may be to step away from arguments when you notice yourself feeling angry, and perhaps even putting thoughts to paper. Above all, this reminds us that relationship work starts within.
If you’re interested in doing deeper work around relationships, I recommend the following Impact Coaches with a wealth of information: Galia, Sandi, Ashley, and Bina.
Our Topanga, California retreat – which is very lowkey – is another amazing option for couples looking to heal around relationships.