What is Couple Mindedness and Why is it Important for a Healthy Couple Relationship?

Apr 26, 2021
A happy couple smiling sweetly at each other.

We all want our couple relationship to be healthy and happy. The problem is we don’t always know or understand why it isn’t, which means we also don’t know how to create a healthy relationship with our partner.

There is something partners need that is often not well enough developed to solve this problem and it's called couple mindedness.


What is Couple Mindedness?

couples inlove with each other

Put simply, couple mindedness is having the ability and skills to think deeply about the three entities that make up a couple relationship – these include the two individual partners, as well as their relationship that they both created.

It's critical to the health of a couple relationship to be able to reflect on how these three entities are doing at different times. People come to see me as a therapist because this is what I do.

I help them think about what is going on in their minds and also to think about their relationship, and how and why different dynamics play out between each person. Through this process, they learn to do this for themselves. It’s about developing minds that can think about their own couple relationship.

This is couple mindedness. Without this, partners often have fights, blame each other, say hurtful things, try to control each other, feel insecure or unsafe, or walk on eggshells without knowing why.


Couple Mindedness is About Knowing Why

And there are two parts to it:

The first part of couple mindedness is from the work of Professor Dan Siegel, who came up with the term ‘mindsight’ (seeing the mind) to describe the ability to see inside our own mind and other people’s minds.

Mindsight is an important aspect of couple mindedness. Imagine dropping a microphone in your own mind or your partner’s mind to amplify what's really going on in there - and then asking why is that going on in there? When we or our partner react to something or use words or a tone of voice, we can think about why that reaction, why those words or tone of voice? For example, mindsight is about questioning “Why does he suddenly look upset?”, “Why am I feeling lonely?” or “Why am I anxious” or “What did she just respond to, have I been too dismissive?”

Can you see that by asking these questions and thinking deeply it's not simplistically labelling or judging ourselves or someone else as “cruel”, “sulky” or “selfish”? These labels often are applied to partners in couple relationships, and this can cause upset or even fights.

It's about looking beneath the surface, and not simply making assumptions or judgments about yourself or your partner. It's deeper and more caring than that and having this ability typically decreases couple fights and makes a relationship significantly happier.

The second essential part of couple mindedness is having minds that think about the quality and wellbeing of the couple relationship.

How do we do this?

It's the partners who need to do this. At certain times we need to assess whether the relationship feels good or not, whether we need a bit more fun together, whether we need more sex, whether we're spending enough time with our partner, whether we're feeling a bit distant from our partner or them from us, whether we need to put a regular date night in, whether we need a couple break away from the kids, or even whether we may need to get some therapy to help the relationship.

Without this part of couple mindedness, we can't make changes when needed, and this ability is vital for a healthy relationship.


Couple Mindedness Helps get us Through the Hard Times

couple going through hard times together.

It's inevitable in life that there will be difficult periods. Everybody responds differently in times of stress or distress, and with differing needs and support from their loved ones.

This is where couple mindedness can be one of the best tools in your emotional toolkit to get you through these times. If your partner is struggling, couple mindedness allows you to tailor your support based on your unique and specific couple dynamic. For example, if you know that your partner prefers to have some space to process difficult circumstances, then you may decide to give them the space rather than constantly offering affection and asking them for updates. You would understand that they're not being rude, but rather that they need time to gather their thoughts and work out what they need.

Couple mindedness also makes it easier to convey your needs. It fosters a safe environment for open communication and allows each partner to get though the difficult times in their own way, whilst still keeping each other's needs in mind. This is where being an 'us' can be a powerful support dynamic during difficult periods of life.


Feel Safe Communicating More Serious Issues

couples communicating freely with each other

Couple mindedness fosters a safe environment between people, leaving room for both parties to communicate and feel comfortable expressing their feelings and needs. If you're able to express your wants and needs and have these respectfully heard by your partner, this is a good sign and suggests a healthy level of respect and communication.

It suggests a capacity to drop ego based defence mechanisms and make the choice to accept what each other is saying for the sake of the relationship, even if the message is not what you/they want to hear.


Past Relationships can Shape your Present Capacity for Couple Mindedness

Past relationships have a BIG impact on your present capacity for couple mindedness. This includes relationships with friends and family members, and bonds formed in early youth, as these have a large impact in shaping your relational template. These early experiences impact your capacity to form a healthy relationship.

If in your childhood you had experiences of people not listening to you, or people not wanting to know you, it will likely cause distress in your adult relationships if people don't show curiosity about you.

It also works the other way - if people didn't listen to you as a child, you may not be a good listener and may lack curiosity about your partner. This is an unconsciously wired lack of curiosity, developed as a survival instinct based on the relational template developed in youth.

Even without malicious intent, this can lead to fights and an overall lower level of couple mindedness.

Noticing these things is the first step to developing increased couple mindedness. It's part of the process of asking why with curiosity and understanding your own mind better.

You might need to put in more work to understand how your mind and the mind of your partner interact, however this initial questioning can create a better sense of understanding yourself and a better understanding of the differences between you and your partner's relational templates.

This increased understanding demonstrates movement towards increased couple mindedness.


Couple Mindedness Creates Healthy Relationships

couples talking happily

Couple mindedness gives couples a few assets that are valuable to the relationship. It helps partners develop healthy behaviors such as the capacity to express their own needs AND acknowledge and make room for the needs of their partner. It helps get both individuals on the same page and create compromise during conflict resolution.

It also promotes self-love, as it equips individuals with a better understanding of themselves and the unique relationship dynamic created between them and their significant other.


Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship With a Lack of Couple Mindedness

There are a few warning signs to look out for in your relationship that may signal a need for increased couple mindedness. However there is no need to prematurely panic or end your relationship. These signals serve as an invitation to invest time and effort into improving your connection.

Let's explore these red flags that call for greater attention and enhanced communication in your relationship:


Communication Breakdown

couples arguing with each other

Effective communication is essential to any healthy relationship. An indicator of a relationship in trouble is when communication breaks down. Instead of listening to each other, partners become overly defensive, leading to frequent conflicts or, conversely, the avoidance of discussing crucial topics together.

This breakdown can serve as a warning sign, showing a lack of couple mindedness.


Disrespectful Behaviours

couples yelling at each other

Disrespect within a relationship can manifest in various forms, from blaming and showing contempt to using cruel language or resorting to eye-rolling.

These behaviours are highly damaging to the emotional well being of both partners and can erode the trust and respect that underpin a once healthy relationship. They spur conflict and undermine the wellbeing of the relationship.


Decreased Intimacy

Intimacy is a vital component of a healthy partnership. This includes emotional, physical, and sexual intimacy. If there is a noticeable decline in affection and intimacy between partners, persisting over a significant period, it's a sign that the relationship requires some extra attention.

By increasing the ability to develop couple mindedness, couples can address this shift and explore ways to rekindle their emotional and physical bonds.


Living Parallel Lives

Partners in a healthy relationship are collaborators in life, sharing not only a living space but a connected existence.

However, when a couple begins to drift apart, they can begin to lead separate lives reminiscent of roommates or siblings rather than romantic partners.

Even if there is no increase in conflict, this is an indicator that their connection needs to be rekindled.


Avoiding Home

Another red flag is the persistent desire to avoid being at home. When one, or both, partners actively seek reasons to stay away, it suggests underlying dissatisfaction within the relationship.

Developing couple mindedness allows partners to initiate conversation around these changes in the relationship, and to understand how to meet one another's needs to make the relationship more connected and fulfilling.


Recurrent negative thoughts

Resentment, grudges, feelings of victimhood, or an air of superiority can become common ways of thinking in an unhealthy relationship. These recurring negative thoughts not only impact one's own mental wellness but also erode the quality of the partnership.

These destructive patterns need to be addressed and worked on collaboratively to create meaningful change. This change is a part of the process of increasing couple mindedness.


Frequent thoughts of separation

Fantasising about a life outside of the relationship is a common occurrence when feeling unhappy or dissatisfied at home.

These recurrent thoughts of separation are a warning that must not be ignored - they signify a lack within the once healthy relationship, and an opportunity to bring this up with your partner and create meaningful change.


Having an Affair

Emotional or physical affairs, or the desire to engage in an emotional or physical affair is often a symptom of a partner's dissatisfaction within the relationship. When one person has an affair (whether in-person or through digital communication) or contemplates an affair, they may be seeking to fill a void within the relationship or themselves - using someone outside the relationship.


If you are experiencing one or many of these, don't panic

Recognising these signs of an unhealthy relationship is the first step towards fostering couple mindedness and rekindling a new and improved connection between individuals. Relationship red flags can serve as a powerful indicator of changes that are needed, and are not always a signifier of the end of a relationship.

Rather than viewing these signs as insurmountable obstacles, they can also be opportunities for growth and positive change within your relationship - they are a chance to create a healthy relationship.

By dedicating time to improving your dynamic and communication, you can pave the way for a healthier and happier partnership in the long term.

Note: This does not apply to situations of domestic violence. If you are unsafe in a relationship, seek help.


Let's Unpack Some Common Questions About Couple Mindedness...

Who can benefit from increased couple mindedness?

couples checking in with one another

So many of us would benefit from an increase in couple mindedness. It acts as a protective measure for our relationships, helping both parties to feel safe.

A healthy relationship does not simply achieve a state of couple mindedness and coast there. It is something that needs to be worked on at all stages of a relationship as relationships change across time - even in healthy relationships.

Being in a healthy relationship means checking in with one another frequently, and re-evaluating your dynamic as you handle various life challenges.

Every relationship can benefit from increased couple mindedness, even healthy relationships.


Can couple mindedness be learned?

Couple mindedness can certainly be developed by individuals who wish to improve their relationship. This can be done with the assistance of professional help, or by couples on their own.

If partners are unable to improve their capacity for couple mindedness, a mental health professional is a fantastic option to assist with this process.


What does couple mindedness look like in a healthy relationship?

couples spending time together

Having a strong and healthy relationship with a high degree of safety and a sense of stability is a good signifier that you and another person have good couple mindedness.

If you like to spend time together, have good communication and are able to offer support to one another, these are all signs of good couple mindedness. These are couples who are typically able to talk about their feelings, support one another through tough times, and aren't fearful about envisioning the future. This is a sign of a strong relationship.

Other signifiers include a desire to spend quality time together and a good balance of healthy affection and sense of commitment to each other.

Lastly, if your relationship gives you happiness and excitement about the future, these are highly important signifiers. Enjoying the relationship and having good physical intimacy and an emotional connection makes the dynamic easier to maintain. These are all signs of a healthy relationship with your partner.


What are some tips that use couple mindedness to make a relationship healthy?

  1. Talk: Whether in a new relationship or a long term relationship, your partner is not a mind reader. Talking with your partner is essential in order to communicate your relational differences. Talk frequently to convey your personal needs and create a sense of safety within the dynamic.

  2. Explore yourself: In order to understand what you bring into the relationship dynamic when combined with another person, spend time exploring yourself.

    Having a healthy relationship with yourself or at a minimum beginning to unpack the different behavior that you exhibit and the life experiences that have shaped you in a specific way will make it easier to communicate with a partner and understand the differences in your communication styles.

  3. Be open and curious: Maintain curiosity around your partner's world. Ask them questions and make sure to quit activities (e.g. scrolling Instagram) to show respect and attentive listening.

    Use body language such as eye contact to demonstrate to your partner that they have your full attention.

    Maintain healthy communication in your current relationship by keeping open to their relationship issues. Being receptive to hearing these will greatly reduce conflict and distress in the future.


Create Healthy Relationships

happy couples laughing together

Whilst unhealthy relationships are very common, and for many of us it feels impossible to find the right person, healthy relationships are both achievable and have great potential to increase our happiness and support us through life.

Finding a partner and developing couple mindedness is a great way to cultivate healthy relationships. It makes the commitment to your partner easier and increases the likelihood of developing healthy relationships.

In a relationship, healthy physical intimacy and emotional security with a partner are signs that together you're capable of creating healthy relationships.

Whilst some compromise is always necessary when dealing with the needs of two different partners, developing couple mindedness increases the chances of success, stability and happiness.

Remember, you can have a healthy relationship - developing couple mindedness is the key.

If you're ready to transform your relationship into a healthier and happier one, explore our online program, Fight Less, Love More. This course focuses on enhancing couple mindedness, helping you navigate challenges and build a stronger connection with your partner.

Commit to developing couple mindedness, the ability to deeply understand individual partners and the dynamics of your relationship. This skill is crucial for resolving conflicts, fostering intimacy, and creating a lasting connection. Sign up today and empower yourself with the insights and skills needed to build a strong, couple-minded foundation.

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