How to keep your Monkey Mind from wreaking havoc on your relationship


Monkeys in a plum tree by Mori Sosen (1747–1821)
Monkeys in a plum tree by Mori Sosen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are your relationship problems due to your Monkey Mind?

Our Monkey Mind wrecks havoc on our ability to have a satisfying life and relationships. 

How to keep a Monkey-Mind from wreaking havoc on your relationship.

First thing first, know what you’re up against. Here are some common ways Monkey-Mind will distract you from the present moment:

Future Tripping

Being preoccupied with the future:

  • To-do list items
  • Plans
  • Uncertainty and apprehension about some future things like how a project or conversation will go.
  • Rehearsing conversations in your head that you may or may not ever have.

Advice: Notice that you’re future tripping, name it, and get it out of your head and either on to some paper or into your digital planner. If you need to make dinner reservations for your out-of-town guests, schedule some time to do it, set a reminder, or stop scrolling through twitter and do it now. The idea here is your monkey mind is working to remember to make the reservation, your mind is going through a lot of effort to bring it to the foreground so you don’t forget about it completely. Let your handy device do the remembering for you so you can take a deep breath, get present, and give your partner a nice smooch.  

Worrying About the Past

To live our best lives, we must stay in the present… and that means chasing Monkey Mind away. Here’s a guide to addressing this invisible troublemaker.

  • Obsessing about the past
  • Replaying convos in your head
  • Worrying that you didn’t show up as your best self
  • Wishing you had spoken up.
  • Beating yourself up for how you handled things.

Advice: This is guilt, shame, and regret territory. And it’s a huge waste of your precious presence if you’re stuck in the past worrying about a bunch of stuff that already happened—you’re missing out on so much that’s happening NOW. You’re going to need to stop the self-criticism and abuse and learn to drop the story about how you handled things, if you can learn anything from the past event, certainly take stock and apply your life nugget. But that doesn’t mean keep beating yourself up about it over and over. Take note and move on, clearing the internal clutter so there’s more space for presence in your life. Get out of the past, get back in your body, and feel your breath come in and out for a few minutes.

If you think about it your mind is a lot like a crazy monkey, it’s always running off, following this thought or that thought. You have no idea how you strayed from the path or when but you definitely did and now you’re caught in a thicket of thoughts, stressing out over this future event or that deadline. And just like that! You’re off on a whole mental detour, away from the present.

Monkey Mind (we all have one by the way) wreaks havoc on your ability to have a satisfying life—when you get carried off in a stream of thoughts, and you end up thinking about life as opposed to actually living it and enjoying it as it happens. And that’s a real problem for your relationships because you lose connection to not just your own physical and emotional experience but also to everything that’s going on between you and your partner.

Imagine: you’re together with your partner hanging out, having fun, or running errands and you get caught up in mentally composing that work email to your team; it means you’re missing out on your lady’s beautiful smile or that witty joke she cracked while you were only half-listening. It means you didn’t even notice that she lovingly put her hand on your knee while driving and kept it there the whole way home or that she always plants a kiss on your cheek when you hold the door open for her.

Opportunities for authenticity and intimacy show up all the time, but you’ll miss them if you succumb to your monkey-mind tendencies. Listen, when you consistently fail to seize those opportunities for connection, you’ll both end up feeling the distance and disconnection in your relationship, which I know isn’t what you ultimately want at all.

When presence is lacking, both parties can end up feeling alone, dissatisfied, confused, and blame themselves or each other for the disconnect. No fun.

Here’s how to stop your Monkey Mind

Stop Avoiding Difficult Emotions:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Resentment
  • Disappointment
  • Sadness
  • Loneliness
  • Feeling left out
  • Confusion
  • Overwhelm
  • Stress
  • Grief

: Let’s face it, none of these emotions are easy to be with and how to handle our emotional upsets is something we simply aren’t taught in our culture. So we avoid them and try to either stuff them down or blame them on somebody or something. Both avoidance and blame require a lot of mental gymnastics to manage, which of course takes you right out of the here-and-now. So the trick is to learn how to feel and skillfully be with whatever’s happening for you. Emotions are what add the richness to our lives. Emotions, even the difficult ones, can serve as a compass to guide us. Sharing your emotional world with your partner is the doorway to a deeper connection and more intimacy. This means avoiding them and pretending you aren’t feeling the way you’re feeling is actually counterproductive. But it’s important to become adequate at understanding and supporting our emotional selves first. You have to feel it to heal it, and Meditation is a great tool for recognizing and understanding these difficult emotions.

Here Are 5 Steps to Mindfully Be with Difficult Emotions:

  • Name the emotion and feel it in your body. For example: ‘Anxiety is present and my belly feels tight.’
  • Notice the storyline about the emotion, this often includes blaming how you feel on circumstances or other people; ‘I wouldn’t have been in such a foul mood if I wasn’t late and I wouldn’t have been late if it wasn’t raining’. Drop the storyline and drop the blame.
  • Don’t stuff it down and try to avoid how you’re feeling, own it, and feel it. ‘You have to feel it to heal it’, as the adage goes.
  • Have compassion for the part of you that’s upset, no criticizing, or self-judgment here. Practice being a good friend to the part of you that’s feeling bad. You can use the breath to slowly breathe into the area you feel the emotion.
  • Practice sharing what’s happening for you with your partner without needing/wanting them to change or fix anything.

Tip: Taming the Monkey-Mind is a lifelong process and one of the best ways to start this worthwhile undertaking is to take up a regular meditation practice, keep it short to start, three to five minutes maximum. 

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