The Mirror: A Priceless GiftOct 21, 2022
What story are you telling yourself and others about your break-up or divorce?
What role do you play in your own story? Are you a victim who was manipulated by a deceitful ex? Or were you a powerful co-creator in the unfolding of the relationship? Do you find yourself focusing primarily on the positive aspects of the relationship or on the things you wished you could have changed?
Dr. Wayne Dyer used to say “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Rings true for me! We can choose to see our relationships and break-ups as treasure troves, over-filled with priceless information about what brings us great joy, as well as the hidden and denied parts of ourselves, which we can often only first see reflected in others.
Relationships offer us a profound learning opportunity as a reflecting surface – much like a mirror. A mirror externalizes our experience, by reflecting back to us our appearance in a given moment. It’s a snapshot. And we often use this image to groom ourselves. We admire what looks good in the reflection or make adjustments to what we don’t like as well.
Mirroring does the same thing in relationships. Our partners reflect back to us images that we can use to both learn more about ourselves and clean up our own likenesses.
After a very painful break-up, like many people, I found myself missing my ex. I thought to myself “what do I miss the most?” So, I quickly wrote down a list of twenty-two experiences from the relationship, in which I felt overwhelming joy.
My list included things like feeding each other Macadamia Nut Brittle ice cream at night before bed; hitting golf balls at the local driving range after work; snorkeling together and learning about the sea; reading to my partner in bed, snuggled close. As I reviewed the list, many of the items were very simple, meaningful moments of kind, warm connection, often filled with laughter and lightness. I also experienced great joy with my partner in shared adventures and travel, which offered inspiration, growth and learning.
What came over me as a result of this exercise was profound gratitude. For my ex. For the relationship. For all the joy, love, play, fun and learning, which I experienced within, or as a result of, the connection.
I also gleaned a deeper understanding of what brings me contentment and joy. I learned the importance to me of meaningful, kind, warm connection. Laughter. Lightness. Play. Adventure. Inspiration. Learning.
This learning stays with me as I move forward, and it shapes my priorities. I choose connection that offers meaning and warmth, laughter and silliness. I love adventures, big and small, as well as any experience that promises to inspire or teach me. I also facilitate these experiences for others. I am warm and meaningful in my interactions. I laugh. I am silly and playful. I teach, inspire and plan adventures! I give what I most enjoy receiving.
Mirrors also reflect things that we don’t like. There were certainly painful parts to the relationship, too. Look for the actions, behaviors and/or choices by the ex, which led us to feel emotions such as disappointment, anger, hurt, betrayal, sadness and fear. Why should we revisit these painful memories? These emotions help pinpoint critical information about our values, as well as the expectations and assumptions (many of which are often subconscious or unspoken) we hold for ourselves, our partners and the relationship itself. We would not feel these emotions unless it involved something important to us.
Let’s say your ex was chronically late. If this annoyed you, then perhaps you place a great value on punctuality, or associate timeliness with respect. Or perhaps the lateness was not the issue. Maybe it was the consistent lack of notice from your ex, which led you to wait or to worry.
Mirroring also conveniently uses our exes as proxies for learning about the hidden and denied aspects of our own personalities, before we can see them clearly in ourselves.
For example, my ex did not want to get married. Not ever. Her freedom and autonomy were very important to her, as was our relationship. And if I looked up the chain of command, to her parents’ union, I could clearly see that she did not want to recreate her parents’ dutiful marriage.
At the time, the concept of marriage was important to me. I saw it as two people publicly and legally committing to love and support each other through the ups and downs in life. It seemed romantic and also like the scaffolding that facilitated the construction of commitment.
Underneath that outward sentiment lurked something deeper though. Despite my stated preference for marriage, I, like my ex, did not want to model my partnership after my parents’ relationship, which I judged as constraining and dutiful. I cherished my freedom and autonomy, as well as the love and nurturing from my partner.
And the commitment? I learned that it shows up (or not) on a daily basis. I didn’t need a cage to capture it. And as a lawyer, I know very well that no legal document can demand or ensure it. It is based on willingness alone.
The relationship you had was a season of life that can be viewed in many different ways. You can look back at this time to learn more about yourself, your values and your priorities – through the actions that were taken, the emotions that resulted, and the unique mirroring that happens when you are connected to another person.
You can choose to view your relationship as a priceless resource for moving forward.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Dr. Wayne Dyer