Patience 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 patience.

I feel that I am learning a lot about patience at the moment and it is not an attitude that comes particularly naturally to me. For me, patience is the opposite of boredom. And I can find boredom quite terrifying. When I sit with boredom I realise that it comes from a sense of anxiety that I should be doing something ‘better’ or more ‘productive’. I would often prefer to be stressed and busy than bored.

This fear of boredom often prevents me from being really present and taking an interest in my present moment experience. And in doing so, I miss out on life.

Practicing patience

My current partner is teaching me about patience in two ways:

Firstly, we are very different in the pace at which we like to do things, particularly at weekends. I am an early riser, particularly in the summer, and my partner is usually able to sleep a good two hours longer than me – which can make me quite jealous. Generally, once he is up, he has a couple of cups of coffee before facing the day. At first I found this incredibly frustrating. It tapped into my boredom anxiety.

Ironically, considering my own mindfulness practice, my partner is more naturally able to ‘just be’ than I am. However, once I began to let go of the need to be constantly ‘productive’, I have begun to learn to have a proper weekend, which is more present and more mindful. I get up early and I read novels, I meditate, I stare out of the window. I am starting to learn from his example and am able to just be.

Secondly, I have learned by his example. One of the areas in life where we may potentially become impatient, is when unexpected things happen in our environment that impinge on our plans – the traffic jam, the long queue. Recently I was out for a drive with my partner and we got a flat tyre. This doubled the length of our journey home. He completely took it in his stride. He was so relaxed about it that his patience was infectious and we found ourselves chatting and laughing as we took the long drive back, punctuated by stops to pump up the tyre. My partner is also very patient with me – when I am disorganised or scatty or not quite ready when I said I would be. Being on the receiving end of patience is a reminder that patience is always an option.

Patience for ourselves

In our groups at Mindful Therapies, we have been discussing patience.

Several people have said to me that they find it easier to be patient with others than with themselves. As is so often the case, we are our own worst critic. Why should we give so much leeway to others and be so harsh with ourselves? I have had several discussions recently about whether we are in fact too patient with others.

As with acceptance, it is important to be able to decide when we need to develop patience towards another person and when we need to be more assertive. There is a difference between being patient with someone and allowing them to take advantage. When somebody is consistently late when we have arranged to meet, do we need to be patient, or do we have a right to be annoyed because the person we are meeting is simply being rude? We need to be compassionate enough with ourselves to have boundaries with others. Sometimes we need to be patient with both ourselves and others whilst simultaneously stating that certain behaviours are not acceptable. This requires courage and is often a lifelong process.

The next and final post of the series will look at trust.