Non-Striving In Relationships


This series of blog posts focuses on some of my reflections on the nine foundational attitudes of mindfulness and how they relate to interpersonal relationships. This week is an exploration of non-striving.


Non-striving is a reminder that when we try too hard we often create tension and our focus becomes blinkered. When we strive we get overly focused on a particular outcome and a particular goal and become future-focused to the detriment of the present moment. We might strive with our partner to buy a particular house together or go on a particular holiday. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that but if we become so focused on working towards these future goals, we neglect the present; we overlook those precious little moments in our everyday lives. When we strive for the future we are often striving for something that may not ever happen.

Too much planning, not enough being

I am a chronic planner. I would love to say that I am the kind of person that goes with the flow and allows things to emerge in their own good time but this does not come naturally to me. This can be very frustrating for people around me. When having friends round for dinner, I have the full menu planned out in my head months in advance, leaving little room for my co-host to suggest anything at all. When Friday night comes around I find myself wanting to plan out the weekend, to know exactly what is going to happen when. This can feel like quite a pressure to those around me who are often far more adept than me at doing one thing at a time. In learning to work on this kind of striving I need to really listen to my own body and notice the discomfort when I don’t know what’s coming, or the physical feeling of the urge to over-plan. I need to be kind to myself and remind myself of the wonderful things I can experience when I stop striving.

The urge to fix

Linked to striving in relationships is the urge to be a fixer. This can be disastrous for a relationship. How often do you come home from work after a horrible day and simply want to tell your partner about it and get a hug in return? Only to find that your partner is trying to problem solve for you? Unfortunately that quite often is me! I have to really hold back from trying to come up with solutions when my friends and loved ones are in difficulty. Yes it is lovely that I care, but actually it is none of my business. My friends and loved ones are adults and can come up with their own solutions. Mindfulness can remind us to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment. So, rather than ‘fixing’ other people’s problems for them, mindfulness reminds us to be fully present for the other person, paying attention to what they are saying and how they are saying it. The more I am able to do this, the more I am able to genuinely connect with the people most important to me. This is easier said than done!

The next post of the series will look at letting go.