It was one of those mornings - our alarm didn't go off, I had a throbbing headache, the dog had an accident on the new carpet, and the apartment was a mess. Snapping at each other was almost an inevitability when my fiancé suggested that we sit down and do a five-minute meditation together - something we had been talking about doing for seven months. It was as good a time as any.
The first joint meditation session wasn't as calming as I expected, though. Our dog didn't stop barking just because our eyes were closed, and I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that I needed to relax instead of just letting myself get there - five minutes felt like an eternity, but at least we tried.
The next day, I suggested we give it another shot, make it a part of our morning routine or just something we turn to when stress is getting the best of us. So, we sat down on the couch for another five minutes, which thankfully went smoother than our initial try (there was way less peeking at the clock!).
It's been a few weeks of practicing now, and while I always feel significantly better after just a few minutes of deep breathing, I also swear the daily ritual is helping me to be a better partner.
Sitting down and listening to a guided meditation has given me the opportunity to calm myself down and more thoughtfully express myself, instead of just marathon venting. I also find that I'm a more patient listener. Additionally, there's something cool about the act of meditating at the same exact time. I feel more connected to my partner because we're working through this stressful time in life and searching for solutions silently, yet together. Neither of us feel exactly well versed in meditation, but after each session, we've chatted organically about the instructor's soothing voice, what we liked about each practice, and how it made us feel.
Curious for an expert's opinion on meditation for relationships, I reached out Mia Rusev, a licensed clinical social worker at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.
"Certainly, any stress-reducing activity is good for relationships," Rusev said. "Meditation, in particular, helps us reset our nervous systems, which allows us to respond from a more centered place, or kind heart or wise mind, rather than reacting to whatever is emotionally triggering us at that moment or what can be referred to as the racing mind. Meditation allows for a widening of our window of tolerance and this can be helpful in navigating relationships."
Rusev also added that practicing meditation together is an opportunity to motivate one another and keep each other accountable - which is something I've also personally experienced.
"As you both learn to take a deep breath before an important conversation, for example, the recipient now knows this is a sign to pay special attention with an open heart and without defensiveness."
At first go, meditating was just something I hoped would turn a bad morning around - and it did. But now, it's also a simple activity that's teaching me the patience I need to be a more supportive and loving partner, and that's certainly worth way more than five minutes of my day.