Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Woman looking at herself in mirro

Looking in the mirror at work recently, I noticed I had forgotten an earring  as I rushed out the door earlier.  Half the day had been spent with one dangly hoop on one side, and a naked ear on the other .  I was amused and slightly embarrassed that it had taken me so long to realize my mistake, but I had not looked at my reflection since leaving home that morning.  

How often do we also neglect to look at ourselves internally- not just checking our outward appearance, but in an attempt to really understand ourselves and our part in relationship struggles?   Many times, as couples enter relationship therapy they are in the midst of "the blame game".  Each one points the finger at the other as they try to make sense of where things went wrong.  "If only he would talk to me," or  "She is always nagging me," and other similar comments can be heard with distressed couples.  

Getting stuck in the negative cycle of blame and holding your partner responsible for the relationship struggles is a common occurrence and is easy to do.  However, it may only serve to keep both of you in the painful dance that you are in.  Notice your steps in the dance and the feelings that are driving them.  Do you lash out when you are hurt?  Do you bottle up your feelings, then explode?  How might things be different if you approach conflict in a new way- being assertive, yet communicating clearly, without blame or defensiveness, with respect and consideration for both your partner and yourself?  

In "Hold Me Tight" Dr. Sue Johnson outlines the Demon Dialogues and states there are three common patterns couples get caught in.  Find the Bad Guy is the blame game- both partners pointing the finger at each other for their problems.  In The Protest Polka, there is a demand-withdraw dance that is deadly to relationships. " In the Protest Polka, each person, in an attempt to deal with their sense of emotional disconnection unwittingly confirms the other’s worst fears and keeps this spiral going. In the end, the demanding protesting partner begins to give up the struggle for connection, grieve the relationship and also move away."  Sometimes this leads to the third negative cycle, The Freeze and Flee.  Both partners feel helpless here, emotionally disconnected, and may have lost hope that their relationship can be improved.    http://www.holdmetight.net/where_love_goes_wrong.php

The good news is that the dance can be changed.  Learning new steps that can draw you closer and strengthen the emotional bond to your partner can bring a more positive cycle.  Looking in the mirror at ourselves is a good starting point to make positive changes in our relationships.