Do You Know That Your Partner Is A Reflection Of You
Many couples talk about their partners as less than them in some core way. That is the primary reason the divorce rate is so high, since only unequals split apart. In support of this unequal perspective, many people present a picture of their relationships as being essentially an accident, like their coming together was a total mystery to them and everyone else. Within this perspective, some claim that they are the essence of intimacy and just happened to end up with an intimacy cripple. Others are very preoccupied with the differences between the sexes, as described by John Gray in Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, in which women are seen as being into intimate relationships and men are only into tasks and sports.
How many of you have ever verbalized to yourselves in looking at a couple, “Why are they together? They seem so different “. Well you probably got caught up in viewing some superficial quality and missed seeing that they are together because they are the same. The differences were just a facade.
In my work, I consider all of these conclusions about couples being so different to be myths that distort a true understanding of intimate relationships. Despite all the variations in personality styles among couples, I want to share with you even if you don’t want to hear it, that you can only be with your match. The partner that you are looking at across the table is merely a reflection of your relationship nature, no more, no less, or you wouldn’t have the energy to sustain any involvement. If you are only open to experiencing fear to a moderate degree, than you will only match with people who are at that level. It will be the same with brief relationships, unavailable people, or high drama individuals. Eckhart Tolle, the author of the Power Of Now states “Ultimately there is no other, as you are always meeting yourself.”
As a result, if you keep having relationships with alcoholics who need rescuing, it is because you are not ready for more than a little boy, since you are in truth just a little girl who wears a caretaker disguise. Also, if you keep having relationships with narcissistic little girls who dump on you, it is because you are a little boy who doesn’t think he deserves anyone better. All these relationships are not wrong or even unsuccessful; they are merely statements of who you are and who you are open to meeting.
In addition to your matching reflections, any partner who has an interest in you, especially if you have been together for several years, has the same capacity for intimacy and shares the same level of emotional development as you. In my opinion, if you were truly different in your emotional capacity you wouldn’t be together, and would display what I call loving disinterest. There would be no fighting, debating or arguing; just no interest.
Now, without a doubt, this view is difficult for many of you to accept, because the alternative of seeing your own limits is so exposing and revealing. Very few people are willing to be that transparent. The more typical path is to make up some story about yourself and your partners, so you can feel impressed with yourself. After all, who doesn’t like being right and looking good to the world about your selection of partners. It sounds good for our friends to hear that we could have had great relationship if it weren’t for the behavior of our date, wife, or companion. But you need to ask yourself, if you are so convinced that you are better than your partner, then why are you with them? Do you have nothing else to do? Are you just feeling charitable? Or why are they hanging out with you since you devalue them or don’t love them? I have seen numerous couples in my practice repeat this same egotistical game year after year rather than acknowledge and being honest about their real intent; I am just using my mate to glorify me.
Rather than accept the humbleness of seeing that you are no better than your partner and that they are merely a reflection of who you really are, we prefer to spend enormous amounts of time and energy proving that we are better or less than our partners. I call this verbal and emotional preoccupation THE DIFFERENCE GAME, in my book entitled, We’d Have a Great Relationship If It Weren’t For You. In playing the difference game, there is no task, perspective, or activity that cannot be used to prove that we are better or less than our partners, such as, “I love you more, I am more sensitive and open, I am brighter, I have better judgment, or I am more successful”.
Imagine if you dropped this ego attachment and no longer participated in this game within your relationship. You would then have time to listen, love, share, and be sexual to a much greater extent than you have known in your relationship. Of course, you would no longer be able to use your partner to inflate or deflate yourself, and you would be on very unfamiliar territory.
To see if you are ready for this, imagine saying
- She loves me as much as I do her.
- He is just as open as I am.
- He is just as vulnerable as I am.
- She is just as interested in me as I am in her.
If you can say comments like this without hedging in any way, then you are ready for an equal and mutual, intimate relationship with your partner. However, if you hedge or justify in any way, then there is still room for you to continue playing the difference game and maintaining a non-mutual attitude. Being accountable for your relationship and giving up being a victim and clinging to justifications, such as “I am with him because there is no one better”, or “I am still here because of the children” all of which takes courage to admit.
There are two major characteristics of a mutual relationship.
1. Real agreements – Couples who can support mutuality tend to make real agreements, not sloppy ones in addressing the thousands of situations that they encounter. A real agreement involves saying “YES” on all four levels; mental, emotional, physica, and spiritual .While it requires a greater commitment, these agreements stand up over time and don’t need to be gone over repeatedly.
2. The WE. A mutual relationship consists of three parts, in contrast to the presence of only two parts in unequal relationships. The three parts are your needs, your partner’s need, and the needs of the relationship itself. Allowing for the relationship to have its own integrity called The WE, helps couples to be grounded, open, and respectful. From this perspective the couple continuously makes reference in every conflict in asking what the relationship says, suggests, and mentions would best serve the couple’s love and needs. An indication that The WE is present is that the statements shared are brief, inclusive, and never contain put- downs.
The benefit of appreciating and integrating the mutuality approach into your relationship is that the two of you will be experiencing a softening of your respective armors, as you leave behind your proving and defensive postures. From this place you will regard the other as your equal at the core. Couples who learn to be with their partner with a mutual attitude have considerably less desire to fight, put the other down, or be distant. When you realize that your partner is an equal reflection of you, there is no need to protect yourself and the doors of true intimacy are wide open.
Another benefit of developing an attitude of mutuality is that you will no longer be emotionally reactive to your partner, and go through a constant shifting of moving closer and moving away from each other. In this common dance one of you moves toward the other and then automatically the other moves back and away. Then at a certain point when the distancer starts to feel anxious and insecure, the distancer starts to moves forward until they can feel secure again about their partner’s interest and then the game shifts again. The sad part of this repetitive dance is that the couple is never able to achieve any lasting closeness, since both partners see the other as a threat. All this movement reactivity dissipates when the couple sees their sameness in being equally afraid, as well as similar in their desire in wanting to be close to the other. When they can achieve that awareness they no longer need to protect themselves in this circular chase and can enjoy the stillness of being close to their partner.
Another consideration to think about is that only people who view their partners as unequal at a core level divorce. Couples with a mutual perspective hardly ever divorce. Have you ever heard anyone say, “He’s just as emotionally available and loving as me and I want to divorce him? I think not.
Finally, in recognizing their mutual equality, a couple no longer needs to use their differences to elevate or deflate themselves, and can now accept and integrate all their differences into the rich tapestry of their intimate relationship. The reflection they once feared is transformed into a powerful picture of their love.
Author: Bruce Derman Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and author of his best-selling books about relationships. He specializes in working with people in all stages of relationships. You may reach Dr. Derman by calling (818) 375-7194.