When we reflect on our relationships, we realize that they are made up of a series of memories about the past and agreements, spoken and unspoken, of what we mean to each other and how we will treat each other.
Memories are sneaky, though. We all have them to varying degrees and, unfortunately, we often remember the very same things differently. Remembering some things can ruin our relationships, forgetting others can wreck havoc.
Extending your mindfulness practice to your memories will serve your creation, and re-creation of loving, harmonious relationships. May this serve as an invitation to practice memory mindfulness, particularly in these different capacities:
- Remembering important dates and events. Whether it is anniversaries, birthdays or even simply date commitments, arrangements or agreements, mindful attention to the days that are important in your relationships will serve you. While forgetting something here and there may not do your relationships in, it may indeed if you always forget about the important events of your shared life, or important accomplishments of the other person. Protect your relationships by putting reminders on your calendar, planning ahead and showing the people in your life that these events are important to you.
A friend of mine discovered that putting his wife’s wrapped birthday gift where she could see it, but couldn’t open it, a week in advance was far more beneficial to the relationship than bringing the gift out on her actual birthday. This gave her a week to be excited about it, and extended the sense of being thought about, cared for and important beyond just one day.
On the flip side, remembering dates does not equal love. So if your sweetheart forgets your birthday or anniversary, avoid the temptation to tell yourself the story that this lapse of awareness means they don’t love you. It simply doesn’t equate.
- Memories of what is said. Couples often tend to remember conversations and events differently, even from just minutes prior. This disconnect between loved ones can cause numerous challenges, especially when we put words into the other’s mouth. Of particular danger is when we allow our assumptions about what we think the other’s words meant to become our memories of what they actually said. It is helpful to pay careful attention to what the person is trying to convey when words get in the way and give them a second chance to say what they really want to say instead of holding them to the first, failed attempt at communication. People sometimes say things they don’t really mean. They say “I hate you” when they really love you. They say, “I want a divorce” when they really want a loving relationship again. If we forever remember the thing they say that they didn’t really mean, we inflict damage to the relationship far longer than the original words did.
- Memories of the other person’s situation. When someone near and dear to you is going through something painful, special, difficult, or exciting, remembering to ask about it, congratulate them, console them or get excited with them, this remembrance shows that you care.
- Memories of agreements. When you say you are going to do something, do it or at minimum, acknowledge the agreement and your inability to honor it. Not much is more hurtful than when we break our agreements with each other.
- Memories of what the other likes. When we take the time to bring home the ice cream our sweetheart likes, or turn on the song that they love, or wear the outfit that they appreciate, or touch them in a way that makes them swoon, we are showing that their happiness is a priority to us.
- Memories of things we’ve shared. There is something so romantic when your sweetheart fondly says, “Remember when we….” And proceeds to tell an important, fun or funny story of times shared. Take the time to tell stories of good times and happy memories together. Aim to also be mindful that the present moment has the potential to become a special memory with time and make the moment as memorable as possible.
- Remembering the future. Our memories extend to the future as well when serving our relationships. Remember what your goals are and what your intentions are for the relationship. Memories of things you are looking forward to and what you intend to create with each other become the target that can guide your behavior in the present moment.
- Remembering who you really are, how you want to be, and how you want to be remembered. A mindfulness practice is really about self-mastery of your words, thoughts and actions and aligning them in the present moment with your core values and what you want to create. This ability is what integrity is made of, and what will cause you to be remembered as a loving, kind and conscious person, while simultaneously building memorable relationships.