Mastering Your Intimate Relationships

03.07.2024 |

Episode #2 of the course Mastering your relationships by John Robin


Welcome back to the course!

In yesterday’s lesson, we talked about the relationship interaction. Perhaps you’ve considered just how something as small as a deliberate breath in and a smile and eye contact with a stranger can have huge ripple effects in your life.

To start, we will see how this applies to the most cherished relationships you have: those of intimate partners.


Intimate Relationships: Going Beyond the Obvious

Intimate relationships are the type of relationships that have the most advice written about them, so today’s lesson will focus not so much on how to engineer the perfect intimate relationship but rather on what you can contribute towards a rewarding relationship regardless of circumstances you can’t control.

The main concept we will work with in this lesson will be that of other-orientation. Other-orientation is a practice where you deliberately concentrate on the needs of the other person.

Other-orientation is actually very hard to do authentically. There’s a danger you might seem phony in your attempt at this. The trick is to try and be subtle about it. Make this an internal shift—a secret intention you want to remain unnoticed—and let this guide you to try and be more thoughtful of your partner and their needs.

Here are some natural ways to practice other-orientation in your intimate relationship:

• Think about something you remember them telling you, and ask how that’s going.

• Notice something they often do and do it for them.

• Catch yourself in the next argument and try to understand what information from your partner you’re missing.

Here’s how that looks in practice:

You might recall your partner was struggling with something tough at work, which he mentioned in passing. When it’s time to catch up, rather than leading the conversation or sharing what you were up to, ask about this work issue and lead in with a conversation on that instead.

Or you might notice your partner always does the dishes before bed. Let’s say you have a spare moment and they’re catching up on some other chores. Instead of scrolling social media or other time-fillers, why not do the dishes for them?

Lastly, for the argument example, let’s say you’re arguing over a movie you watched and you loved it, but your partner did not. It’s turned into an argument and you notice you have been hammering away at your opinion, refuting everything they say. Practicing other-orientation here requires taking stock of your thoughts and the situation, and coming at it from a fresh angle.

Instead of continuing on why the movie is good, what if you start asking more questions about why they thought it was bad? In that way, you can become more interested in your partner’s opinion, and you may or may not find they are making some point you hadn’t considered. In the end, having listened fully to their side, know that it’s okay to disagree on the movie and you’ll likely find the argument will end as both of you have said your opinions and have been listened to.

These are three examples of how you can practice putting your intimate partner first.

This doesn’t mean you ignore yourself entirely. Rather, this is a practice of deliberately taking time to ensure you are balanced in this most important relationship.

The importance of other-orientation cannot be underestimated. Everyone wants to be valued in their relationship and this is a key way to provide that. One of the most frequent reasons I’ve heard for why people break up after only a few dates—or even from long-term relationships—is that the other person was just too into themselves, too opinionated, or generally too selfish. All these are symptoms of self-orientation rather than other-orientation. It’s difficult to be in a relationship where one person is always demanding their way or shows no genuine interest in your well-being.

Sadly, it is extremely rare to find someone who mindfully practices other-orientation. So, if you can work on this, you will not just be a desirable partner but will foster a lot of gratitude from the person you want to spend your life with.


Tip of the Day: A Quick Way to Switch to Other-Orientation Mode

Again, the breath is your gateway to this lesson’s pro tip.

When you catch yourself being self-focused in your relationship, notice that and pay attention to your breath. Take a breath in and exhale.

We tend to have our most anxious, self-focused thoughts after we have exhaled. If we have been talking a lot, our attention is mostly on breathing out.

Start with trying to notice your in-breath more, particularly when you are with your intimate partner—especially when you catch yourself being self-focused and want to practice other-orientation instead.

You can’t talk when you’re breathing in. Take this in-breath moment to collect your thoughts and refocus on your other-orientation practice. When you get good at this, you might notice how the space of just one breath is all it takes to turn things around.

That’s a wrap for today. Stay tuned for tomorrow where we’ll turn to the other type of close relationships: family.


Recommended book

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman


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