Have you ever felt insecure and alone in your marriage, even if your spouse is sitting right next to you, affirming all of your wonderful qualities, trying to find ways to love and support you? Yet, it’s like you can’t see any of it. Well, I might be alone in this but this has repeatedly been my experience over the course of my marriage. I have felt deeply alone and abandoned with apparently no reasons for having this feeling. When I get to this place, I feel my protective walls go up, fortified with a moat, and several sharpshooters ready to aim at anyone who attempts to approach me. I go on the defensive, and I blame my spouse. In my futile attempts, I hide my vulnerabilities along with those areas of shame and guilt that haunt me from childhood and adolescence. As he affirms his love for me over and again, I have the realization that I’m not only hiding from him. I’m hiding from myself. Obscured within this automatic coping strategy of deflecting and making my issues about him and his vices, I see that it has absolutely nothing to do with him and everything to do with me.
I often tell my coaching clients that their partners are the best mirrors they could ever ask for. We are accustomed to mirrors in which we have a love-hate relationship. In those mirrors, we tend to be hypercritical of the image before us. However, your partner’s mirror reflects back to you an entirely different image. There is a reason why you aligned yourself with your past or present significant other, whether it was looks, personality, or shared passions. Regardless of the reason, you were brought together to receive the most experiential learning plan of your life. If we are open to the lessons, our mates can open the windows to our souls and shine light into our dark places. When our partners hold the mirror in front of us, there are two typical responses. One is to go on the attack which causes both of you to go on the defensive and become more isolated. The other is to pause, live in the present, and really ask yourself what the meaning of this moment is all about. The latter response allows for a more in-depth connection, as you permit yourself to become unguarded, unafraid, and utterly free of the need to fight against your authentic self. This is the beginning of real intimacy which is first created within the space of safety, compassion, and most of all love.
Here are a few suggestions for creating space to hold and experience the power of this beautiful reflection within yourself:
1. Make sure that you are looking in your mirror, not your partners.
In Loving What Is, Byron Katie teaches that the cause of emotional pain and distress occurs when we meddle in the affairs of others while ignoring our own business. As you feel yourself becoming upset by something that your mate has done to hurt, bother, or frustrate you, try turning those feelings within. Ask yourself these three questions:
Why are these feelings coming up now?
Is it really about your partner not being as attentive as you would like?
Or are you not giving yourself the attention that you need?
This place of introspection allows you to really gaze at the image your partner is holding before you and see the reality of your true feelings. It provides a window into your soul, and a new lens to see your partner with more clarity and grace.
2. When talking doesn’t work, try writing instead.
Have you ever had a moment where you just couldn’t get your thoughts across in a meaningful way? It’s even harder when you’re upset and frazzled. So if you find it difficult to communicate, it might be helpful to get in front of your computer or employ the old fashion method of pen and paper to reveal what’s in your heart. Writing provides detachment from the negative emotional charges and a cathartic experience of reflecting our true feelings on the page. Consequently, this method can provide another mirror to see your true reflection and the honest intentions of your partner as they can hold your words and take them in for as long as needed. There is a reason love letters were so popular; this was because they offered the couple an unending access to their soul mate. Take your time and express your true self by writing. It is well worth it.
3. Balance the good with the bad
Are the words ‘always’ and ‘never’ used pretty extensively when talking to your partner? When you find yourself using these sorts of gross generalizations, it could be beneficial to take a pause since always and never are a good indication that you’re looking in the wrong mirror. Instead, attempt to counter the negative with a positive. Instead of getting upset at him for not taking out the trash, think about the many times he has done it, or mowed the lawn, or cooked dinner because he knew you would have a late night at work. For every negative thought that enters your mind, try countering it with a thought that makes you smile. As your partner holds the mirror for you, an optimistic viewpoint will reflect back all the ways that he loves you.
The mirrors that are placed in front of us are not meant to intimidate us. They serve a sacred purpose, an invitation to reveal our true self, flaws and all, to the other person. There is an amazing sense of freedom in taking off your mask completely and being seen as if for the first time. This is true love in the making, and this is what forges the bond of lifelong relationships that can stand the test of time.