Dear Conscious Girlfriend,
I meditate for 30 minutes almost every day, but my girlfriend and I get into arguments all the time. I don’t understand why all that time I spend sitting doesn’t really make a difference when things get rough. I know that I should be able to be present, and open to my feelings when we talk, but sometimes I just feel shut down, and I say horrible things I don’t mean, and I know are not “right speech.” I don’t know what to do! — G.B. Berkeley, CA
Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield has a joke that goes something like this: “If you think you’re enlightened, visit your parents.” I can appreciate that sentiment! The relationships that are closest to us are the ones that trigger us the most. And our relationship with our significant other can be full of triggers, and responding from that triggered place, as we’ve talked about a lot, is not a great way to deal with conflict!
But sometimes, it’s easier said than done to remain conscious. So my suggestion is to start out really slowly. Don’t expect to be able to be totally present right away. Celebrate your efforts in your commitment to sit almost every day, and commit to cultivating that awareness during the day, after you get up from sitting. Especially commit to cultivating that awareness with your partner.
One thing you can do when you can sense an argument starting, is STOP. Just stop. Close your mouth, and take three long breaths. In, and out… in and out… in and out. Slow down those voices shouting in your head about who’s right this time, and just breathe. Maybe you won’t yet be able to go through the SCORE process the very first time, but if you commit to stopping and taking three breaths each time an argument looms, you’ll be well on your way to being able to go through the SCORE process when you are triggered.