Can you tolerate being questioned by your mate? What happens in your relationship when your spouse dares to speak up and confront you about something? Can you accept being challenged or do you view that as a sign of disrespect? Do you believe that if your spouse loves you they will never raise any issue that makes you feel uncomfortable?
Is truth as well as grace welcome in your relationship?
Every thriving couple that we have ever met believes that each other’s truth is important to their relationship and needs to be brought up even if it is difficult for the other to hear.
Is your mate’s truth so important to you that you are willing to tolerate the anxiety of hearing disappointment, confusion, hurt and even disapproval from them?
If we are going to develop as Conscious Lovers, we need to train ourselves to hear our mate’s truth.
Sometimes their expression of truth temporarily shatters our sense of being a “good” spouse. Do we carry a misbelief that our mate must always make us happy by highlighting only our good attributes?
There is no question that something magical happens to each of us when we see a reflection of love, respect, and enjoyment being mirrored back by our mate. We feel alive, cherished, and competent. We believe we’re succeeding in the husband or wife department.
However what happens when the same mate reflects back to us disappointment, hurt, or confusion rather than approval or delight? Do you get overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, failure and even shame? Do you withdraw or do you get angry and attack?
Does your sense of being a good person get shattered? Do you reject your mate’s input?
As a marriage and family therapist I am witness to the defensive and at times brutal words and actions that result when a client challenges their mate. Reactively the confronted mate often goes on an attack or shuts down completely.
The confronted one can’t hold on to a sense of being loved when their partner is expressing anything that is perceived as negative. It’s as if they scream, “Take me out of my pain! Make me feel good and competent again. Don’t be so mean!”
Dr. David Wexler, Ph.D. has created the concept of “shattered mirrors”. When our mate confronts us, it’s as if they hold up a mirror with an unflattering reflection of us. At that point our picture of ourselves gets shattered. Usually one of two things happens. Either we take on the unflattering reflection as gospel truth, feel inadequate and withdraw or we get angry and want to make our mate bad and smash their mirror with the unflattering reflection of us in it.
We have just been triggered. We may not even be aware of the trigger. Automatically we react like we did in a previous significant relationship either as a child when our parents confronted us, or in a past relationship when we were questioned. Some of us reacted in past relationships with shame and some of us covered our hurt or fear with anger. This is where our past relationship patterns often are replayed in our marriage.
What kind of a mirror image did your parents reflect back to you when you were a child?
- Did your parents reflect total and unrealistic adoration at all times?
- Did you face a mirror of neglect and disinterest?
- Were you perceived as a nuisance or bother?
- Did you face an inconsistent mirror reflection?
- Were you shamed one moment and adored the next?
- Did you face an angry parent who you could never please?
Since none of us are or were raised by “perfect” parents, we all have a deficit in the mirror reflections we received as children.
If you were previously married, what kind of mirror image did your ex reflect back to you?
As a result of our relational history, we often look outside ourselves for validation and approval.
When we look to our present spouse to always and only reflect adoration, approval and affirmation we are asking for the unhealthy and we asking our spouse to be dishonest.
A relationship is a commitment, not a muzzle!
Having a marriage worth cherishing requires the willingness to challenge yourself and to challenge your mate. Make certain that when you express disapproval of your mate’s choices, you do it in a loving and supportive way.
Blind acceptance of everything is not love! It is denial!
Pretending that something doesn’t bother us, when it does, is a form of personal dishonesty. Love is not dishonest.
“Love chooses to love with its eyes wide open.” John Gottman, Ph.D.
If we want to implement change in our relationship there will be times that we have to hold up a less than flattering mirror reflection to our mate. We also have to be willing to receive their mirror reflection of us.
It’s guaranteed that each of us will have moments of selfishness, stubbornness, and at times even stupidity. We will disappoint each other. We will be insensitive to our mate. If one of our goals as an individual is to grow into a Conscious Lover, imitating the greatest Conscious Lover of all time, Jesus Christ, we will learn to welcome our mate’s truth even if it makes us temporarily uncomfortable.
WARNING: When you confront your mate, make certain that you are doing it from a loving place!
I cannot express the amazement and relief that floods over me as a therapist when I sit with a couple who are willing to face their mate’s mirror with curiosity rather than defensiveness. Rather than distancing or getting angry, they seek to understand their spouse’s perspective. In that moment I see a partner who takes seriously their spouse’s input. They thoughtfully process the input and are willing to be influenced by it. This may lead to change or at least to a follow up discussion.
I sit in admiration of what I have just witnessed. The courage on the part of the partner to raise an issue and the courage on the part of the other to endure the broken mirror moment, and seriously reflect on what their mate has just shared.
“A refusal to focus on an issue brought up by your mate is a betrayal of your relationship.” John Gottman, Ph.D.
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…