First of all, what exactly is a conscious relationship? Couples who enter into conscious relationships are committed to growth and learning through wholehearted living.
What is wholehearted living?
Dr. Brené Brown defines it as: "... about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It's going to bed at night thinking, Yes I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn't change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging."
Each person in the relationship is on a journey of taking responsibility for themselves emotionally, spiritually, and physically. They practice authenticity and vulnerability and are willing to allow themselves to be truly seen by their partner; both the positive, as well as the less flattering aspects of themselves.
By committing to practicing conscious vulnerability and curiosity of themselves, each other, and of life, they enter into deeper and unlimited realms of love, life, and experience. One that becomes a journey of continued expansion and evolution above and beyond what would be possible by themselves.
To quote Aristotle: 'A whole is greater than the sum of its parts'
For most couples that's the original heart intention whenever couples commit to the long haul. But you don't have to be a genius or analyse statistics to see how many couples actually separate or divorce, often only a few years after committing. Just look around at our families, our friends, our work colleagues. We know the story and sadly it's become almost a cliche... boy meets girl, girl meets girl, boy meets boy. They're inseparable and 'complete each other' and it's big love, big wedding, big honeymoon and all goes wonderfully for the first couple of years. Maybe they have some kids, get promoted, buy a bigger home, more stuff and then the cracks start to show.
Before long, everyone is playing the blame game where nobody wins. Arguments ensue, resentments set in and hurt hardens to a point where couples are either unable to find their way back to honest and vulnerable communication or most likely, never had it in the first place.
Homes become places of humans doing and not being. The relationship ends in separation or divorce with everyone asking themselves: 'What happened and how did we get here?' So what is it that conscious couples do?
1. Practice Self Love & Respect
Conscious partners love and respect themselves first. Developing a whole, loving and kind relationship with themselves first is number one. It means practising loving, kindness and self-acceptance no matter what they have done, where they have come from or what is going on for them today. If you love and respect yourself, others will love and respect you too.
2. Practice Taking Responsibility
Accept that we all have emotional wounds, behavioural and thinking patterns, triggers, and sometimes trauma. Conscious partners are able to look within at what's going on inside themselves; is there an old story or belief at play? Perhaps a reaction to something that has nothing to do with the other person. This allows them to see their own part in a situation and take responsibility, instead of projecting outwards and blaming others.
Understanding that the past can impact the present. If necessary, be willing to explore in a safe and appropriate way. Taking personal responsibility for what's theirs is important in relationships because it can open the door for forgiveness.
Authenticity is paramount in conscious relationships. Conscious partners are able to be themselves because they know they are enough, just as they are.
4. Vulnerability and open heart
The thought of being honest, opening up, and letting our partner know what we are truly feeling or how we are hurting can feel scary. Perhaps we're afraid of the possibility of being judged, criticised, or rejected. In order to 'stay safe' and not feel pain and the uncomfortability of our own feelings and emotions, our guard goes up and we build a wall around our heart to protect ourselves. And on we go, hiding our true selves.
Conscious couples do the opposite. Instead of closing up, they open up, reveal themselves, and if necessary, fall apart. They understand our minds are the greatest cause of our suffering. Conscious couples learn to recognise fear and shame when they show up and how to move past them. They dare to be vulnerable because they know ultimately, the risk is worth it. It leads to endless possibilities of deeper understanding and love. Vulnerability is where the heart is.
Partners in conscious relationships learn to trust. They learn how to trust themselves first. In trusting themselves first they learn to trust others and know they will be guided to do what they need to do and when they need to do it. They trust that getting it wrong and making mistakes sometimes is part of healthy living, both for themselves and others.
Conscious couples practice acceptance, including acceptance of their non-acceptance at times! It is fundamental in living a more conscious life. Think of it as practising accepting things as they are at the present moment. Without judgement or criticism, without deciding whether things are good or bad, they just are as they are right now.
Feelings can change, situations can change. Life is not happening to you, it's happening for you. It offers you numerous opportunities for growth and limitless possibilities. Conscious couples already know there are going to be bumps in the road and they are not under the illusion of a happy ever after fairytale. Moreover, it is the journey itself and the bumps that often propel the relationship to the next level.
They practice loving-kindness and compassion by giving each other the space to be themselves. They understand they have different views, opinions, and make different choices. They don't try to change others because they know the only person they can change is themselves.
No matter what happens conscious couples respect each other.
8. Positive Communication
Lack of communication and poor communication is the major cause of why relationships fail. Yet so often couples expect their partner to be a mind reader. It's impossible to guess what someone else is thinking. Conscious couples are direct with each other and openly express their feelings and thoughts. There's no guessing; if they have something to say, they say it... If they have something to ask, they ask.
Conscious couples avoid blame and finger-pointing: 'You did this' or 'If you'd only done that, then this wouldn't have happened.' They stick to keeping the focus on themselves using 'I' statements. 'I feel hurt that you didn't take the time to discuss this with me first.' Positive communication also involves conscious appreciation; saying thank you and letting them know what pleases you and how you appreciate them.
9. Listening and acknowledging
How you listen can have a major impact on your relationship. Conscious couples practice listening which requires being wholly present and paying attention to what is being said. They listen not only to the words being spoken, but the whole message being communicated and wait until the other person has finished.
Acknowledgement is very powerful and builds intimacy. For instance, saying something like: 'I can see you're feeling very upset right now' can help diffuse intensity.
Conscious relationships have an abundance of gratitude. Current research shows that couples who practice gratitude feel more satisfied in their relationships and are more likely to go the distance. Conscious couples don't just thank their partners; they regularly practice deeply connecting to who their partner is as a person, what they are attracted to, and why they got involved with them in the first place.
It also means appreciating everything from their best traits to their quirks and even their faults; things that make you laugh and things that make you want to scream. Conscious couples look for the many small sweetness in life, both as individuals and as a couple, that occurs daily. Cultivating the awareness of such sweetnesses means paying attention and gently noticing what is happening around you: watching birds play and hearing their song, he changes the lightbulb without you having to ask or she brings you coffee in bed.. a snuggle, a sweet kiss...
Finding gratitude in sharing the seemingly mundane, everyday things such as doing chores together and perceiving them as an opportunity to connect with each other. Developing an attitude of gratitude pays big dividends in relationships.