Wright Foundation | July 9, 2019

Conscious Coupling: How to Engage with Your Partner


Do you ever feel like you and your partner are two ships passing in the night?

We’ve heard of conscious uncoupling, but what about conscious coupling? How do you become more mindful of the connection you’re building with your partner?

When life gets busy, it’s hard to stay mindful of our partner’s needs, to connect and engage with them. Being aware and deliberate in our communication—conscious coupling—is essential to building intimacy and keeping our connection strong.

So, how do you become more conscious of your partner? How do you bring this consciousness into your relationship so you can relish a more profound, stronger bond?

Becoming More Conscious on Your Own

Before conscious coupling, we must become more deliberate, mindful, and conscious on our own. This means making more conscious choices.

Part of becoming “conscious” is simply waking up. Frankly, most of us aren’t very conscious and aware, especially when we’re stuck in a busy routine or pattern. We live life on autopilot.

Think back over the last few weeks. Can you remember significant moments? Are there deliberate, intentional, focused moments where you connected with yourself? What about connecting with your partner?

If the answer is no, you’re in good company. Most people are merely going through the motions of life. We go to work, do our job, we come home, we watch television, we go to bed, we do it again the next day.

Think back to your last vacation. Chances are, you remember details like what you ate, what you wore, or exciting new experiences you had. Maybe you saw a beautiful piece of artwork or a historical artifact. Perhaps you interacted with nature in a new way.

One of the reasons we remember vacation so clearly (and time seems to slow down when we’re on vacation) is the feeling of novelty.

When we go through new experiences, our brains start to fire up and wake up. We become more conscious and aware of our surroundings.

As children, we’re constantly confronted by new experiences. Time seems to pass slowly. Every moment feels significant because it’s new and exciting. We’re awake, alert, excited, and stimulated. When we reach adulthood, the novelty wanes. Suddenly, we may follow the same patterns, eating the same meals, watching the same television programs, and life becomes automatic.

If you want to become more conscious, you must make a choice. Choose to wake yourself up and put yourself in new situations. Give your engagement muscles a chance to flex and grow stronger by using them. Many of us have become quite flabby when it comes to engagement.

This carries over to our relationship as well. We may go along and carry on the same conversations, discuss the day-to-day logistics, yet not engage with our partners. When was the last time you and your significant other talked about something truly meaningful? If it’s been a while, it may be time to re-engage.

Become a More Conscious Couple

One thing Bob and I do often is spending time talking about our vision for the future. We get into in-depth, nitty-gritty discussions where we really dive into topics, even the difficult ones.

If we set time aside together, we don’t want to talk about the same topics we always cover (what did you do today? How did your meeting go? What’s new?) It may sound strange, but until you get used to deeper engagement, you can even go in with an agenda!

I’ll ask myself, what do I really want to discuss? What am I dissatisfied with that I really want to talk to him about? Now, I don’t always create a paper agenda, per se, but in my mind, if there’s a discussion that needs to happen, I’ll go in with a plan rather than waiting to see where it goes. We both set the intention for the time we spend together.

Setting an agenda doesn’t mean only addressing the rough areas or “issues” either. It simply means setting your intention to make the time you spend together more meaningful. What is the intention for the evening or the date? What matters to you both?

Is the purpose of your date together to escape? Is it to get to know each other better? To have a certain shared experience? By setting your intention, you’ll create a more conscious direction for your time together, especially if, thanks to busy schedules, your time is limited.

When I coach couples, I often ask them to schedule deliberate time together each day. Set a date at any time that works for you. It might mean sipping coffee together over breakfast, meeting somewhere for lunch, or scheduling time right before bed together. Spend at least five minutes per day of non-logistical talking. That means no discussions about the laundry, who needs to schedule the vet appointment for the dog, or who’s driving to soccer practice this weekend. Stay disciplined enough to hold these five minutes sacred. Go in with an awareness of what you’re thinking and feeling, and approach with a willingness to share with each other.

For Bob and I, I’ve held to my One Decision to become more aware and conscious of our relationship. I’m certainly not perfect at it. There are days when I spend time with Bob, and I feel like being a blob, sitting around watching a movie or something. And somedays, we do just that, but I still try to approach it with awareness. What do I want to hear his opinion on? What do I notice the experience is bringing up for me? What am I dissatisfied with from the day I want to discuss?

When we set our intention for our time together, even our downtime, it becomes an opportunity to connect and be aware of each other. It strengthens our relationship because we’re consistently acknowledging we love and care for each other. We have an interest in each other and want to express it by being attentive and tuned in to the yearnings of the other person.

Waking Up to Consciousness

I was at the Graduate University this past weekend, and several of our newer students were really starting to light up. They were like, “Oh my God, I’m finally getting it! It’s about becoming more conscious, more aware, more tuned in! I had no idea how much time I had fiddle-farted away.”

Part of it is like waking up. Most of us aren’t awake. We’re going through automatic motions, but we’re not really engaged, living life vibrantly, consciously, and mindfully.

Ellen J. Langer, a mindfulness researcher from Harvard University, says, “When you’re not there, you’re not there to know you’re not there.” I love that because it says it all. If you’re going through the motions, ruts, and routines, you’re not even aware of how UN-aware you are.

Part of becoming more conscious in our relationship is intertwined with becoming more mindful in our every day. We have to wake up to the idea that we can become even more aware. We can even become conscious of the times we’re walking around unconscious.

Consciousness and mindfulness come from living with more intention. What is your intention for this day at work? What is your intention for this evening? What is your intention for this time with your spouse? What would you like to happen that really matters to you?

When we explore our intentions, it changes the focus of our interaction, our conversation, and our engagement as a whole. It changes what we’re doing. If you set a date night, is it to escape, to have an adventure, to add more novelty to the relationship? Go in knowing what you want to get out of it, and what you plan to put into it as well.

Now, does every interaction go perfectly? No, of course not. There will be bad days, times when the kids are sick with the flu, a deadline comes up at work, or someone’s simply in a bad mood. Those are the times when you may simply need to hold space for each other and be there to support one another until you have room to dig in and explore.

Still, approaching your time together with intention and consciousness gives you a stronger connection. It offers you a direction to follow and helps you both become aware of what you’re thinking, feeling, and willing to share.

For more ways to strengthen your relationship, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming More Life Training weekend, where we’ll explore new ways to connect and engage with all the important people in your life. Go forth with mindfulness and intention as you explore your world.

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.