Mindful Intimate Relationships


Mindful intimate relationships involve being present, aware, and paying attention to the individuals in our relationships in a kind, gentle, accepting, nonjudgmental way. They involve an open attitude toward thoughts and feelings that arise in the most personal relationships in our lives. Through compassionate, mindful practice, we can integrate intimacy into our lives and cultivate powerful, meaningful relationship with ourselves, our significant others, partners, families, communities, and society. The origin of the word intimacy is the Latin intimus, which means “innermost” and “close friend,” and most modern definitions refer to a sense of closeness and familiarity.


One of the most important things that defines the quality of any relationship, whether with ourselves or others, is intimacy. True intimacy must begin with oneself. To be intimate in a relationship, we must be able to be intimate with our body, mind, and spirit. Intimacy can then spread to our partner, children, other loved ones, and then to work colleagues, communities, and society as a whole. Intimacy is the ability to be in touch with inner experiences—both ours and others. It is the capacity to directly experience our thoughts and emotions, and to hold these in a space of mindful, loving presence.


Mindfulness can result in specific benefits to relationships with others, especially in intimate relationships. Couples who are more mindful report greater relationship health and stability. They experience increased satisfaction with each other and more affectionate behavior between each other, as well as great intrapersonal and interpersonal harmony.


Couples who practice mindfulness see improvements in their relationship happiness. Even in healthy relationships, conflict is inevitable. However, how a person copes with conflict is what really matters—especially in relationships. Cultivating nonjudgmental, moment-to-moment awareness helps people feel less stress when conflicts arise with their significant other and they are better able to resolve differences in a more compassionate way. Fewer conflicts, and more positively resolved conflicts, result in happier relationships.


Couples in mindful intimate relationships take time to reflect, notice their feelings, and then consciously choose a compassionate way to deal with them. They can choose to take actions that support their own well-being and do not result in escalating behaviors or actions that can damage the relationship. Once one or both partners have centered themselves and calmed down, they can communicate clearly and from the heart.


Mindful intimate relationships do not mean that emotions of either partner must be denied or unexpressed. Instead, it means that the partners observe their thoughts and feelings and allow them to flow through them like waves. As a result, more heartfelt feelings are revealed and expressed.


One of the first steps in creating a healthy, intimate relationship is for each person to take the time to become healthy. A good place to start is by determining important personal wellness goals (such as achieving a healthy weight, obtaining positive social support, eating nutritious food, effectively managing stress, etc.). The goals should be specific, realistic, and challenging.


Setting Goals Helps with Intimacy in Relationships


Another way to achieve a healthy intrapersonal relationship is to maintain a balanced life. But what is “balance?” In the Western view, balance often involves physical, mental, and emotional harmony—with a strong emphasis on the physical and mental elements. However, a broader perspective proposes that balance involves a spiritual aspect as well. The ability to balance one’s life, family, social needs, work, activity levels, etc. is often challenging, if not impossible to achieve. It is even more difficult with the pervasiveness of mindless activities (such as eating while driving or watching television), being “busy” instead of engaging in healthy focused activities (such as walking in nature). Balance is something that is always evolving, and it is impossible to attain all the time. One might feel balanced one day and then find they are out of balance on another day. It is a state that requires mindfulness and attention to support and achieve.


Common signs that someone is out of balance are varied and can include insomnia, headaches, depression, anxiety, muscle tension, decreased libido, gastrointestinal difficulties, fatigue, cardiac problems (including heart attacks), decreased immune function, and increased risk of infection. Individuals know they are in balance when they experience a constellation of characteristics, including the following:


  • A congruity between intention, communication, and behavior
  • An ability to maintain integrity (e.g., honesty, courage, and discernment)
  • An ability to solve problems effectively through confidence in knowing that solutions exist and then acting on that knowledge
  • A sense of humor
  • The ability to be authentic and in the moment
  • A sense of hopefulness
  • An openness to the spiritual, religious, or mystical


Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool for enhancing relationships. It improves responses to relationship stress, increases empathy, enhances one’s acceptance of one’s partner, and promotes attachment to that partner. Teaching mindfulness meditation to one partner can enhance the quality of the relationship and satisfaction within the relationship for both partners, even when one partner is not working on being more mindful.

 Meditation and Mindfulness Help with Intimacy in Relationships

These major elements of mindfulness, when used in conjunction with mindfulness meditation, improve relationship satisfaction:

  • Observing experience—The ability to notice internal and external experiences
  • Describing with words—The ability to clearly articulate one’s experiences with well-chosen words
  • Acting with awareness—The ability to do things with intention and attention
  • Nonjudging of inner experience—The ability to not label events or persons as good or bad
  • Nonreactivity to inner experience—The ability to let feelings and thoughts come and go


Mindful intimate relationships start with the relationship we have with ourselves, and it expands to all the relationships in our lives. Intimate relationships can present some of the most difficult challenges in human existence. They also provide some of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. Whether they involve a relationship with oneself or a relationship with others, conflicts in relationships can cause us stress and unhappiness. Cultivating mindfulness provides us with the ability to live in the present, pay attention, and act with awareness. The result is more compassion, peace, kindness, intimacy, and love in all areas of our lives. When this practice is extended to the relationships we have in our lives, the result can be rewarding.