“Relationship is the mirror in which you see yourself as you are. If you are capable of looking at yourself as you are without any evaluation, then there is the cessation of fear, and out of that comes an extraordinary sense of love.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
For many people, relationships are complex and complicated. There’s no one right formula for making it work. It’s far from fairytales and happily-ever-afters take more work than one expects. And yet, humans crave relationships with a significant other. It’s only natural to want to love and be loved.
However, there’s one aspect that many fail to see in relationships — the mirroring. Relationship experts have spoken about mirrors in relationships and how people attract a reflection of themselves. And the sooner people understand this dimension in relationships, the earlier a couple can see what is going on in a relationship and address issues the right way.
What Is This Mirror of Relationships?
What we see in others is a reflection of us. We cannot see a quality or characteristic we like or don’t like unless we feel the same way about it. Unfortunately, this creates problems in relationships that people don’t often realise.
Here’s an example. A woman who loves getting and giving compliments appreciates the gesture of making someone feel better. Yet when her partner doesn’t give her compliments, she feels like she is not appreciated in a relationship. In her mind, she questions why her partner can’t even spare some nice words to make her feel loved and appreciated. On the other hand, her partner does appreciate her, but this person just isn’t used to handing out compliments.
This woman won’t notice the lack of compliments unless she’s someone who is used to them. That is the mirroring taking place here. And in most relationships, this mirroring is also what frustrates people without truly understanding why that is.
The Expectation Factor
The reflection isn’t the problem here. There’s nothing wrong with people wanting the best in their relationships. However, relationships become more complicated with expectations. It’s hard to enter a relationship without expectations. Yet, many would say that more expectations result in more disappointments.
In the example above, the woman recognises an issue because it reflected one of her qualities. In turn, she also expected her partner to think or act the same because that’s what she believes. Her partner not doing the same leads her to question and eventually, judge her partner for that.
To better understand this concept, here’s another example. Women like men making sweet gestures for them. When men don’t follow through with it, women get disappointed. They think they’re not loved, appreciated, or worse, that the men don’t like them enough to plan something sweet on a weekend.
This is a common scenario, and yet again, reflection and expectation play a role here. Nevertheless, there’s one side of the story people choose not to see — is the woman doing what she expects the man to do? Is she also planning a surprise? A better question is, is the woman doing something nice for herself instead of expecting others to do it for her?
It is indeed ironic. The woman’s judgment of the man’s inaction was a reflection of her inaction. (1) She was quick to judge about how the man feels about her or what the man thinks about the relationship. Most often than not, the things people dislike about their partners are something they can’t accept within themselves. Unless people heal, success in relationships can be hard to find.
Why Do Opposites Attract?
The Law of Attraction explains that we attract what we focus on. This law uses the power of the mind to turn thoughts into reality. It also explains why people enter unhealthy relationships. When a person lacks self-love and self-worth, this person can attract a person who is the same, which can result in toxic relationships.
So if the Law of Attraction says this, why do opposites attract then? How can people gravitate toward people who are different from them? The Law of Polarity comes into play here. This law states that there is a duality in everything; that there are always two extremes of the same concept.
Take, for example, an introvert and extrovert. One prefers keeping to himself while the other prefers more socialisation. There are plenty of instances when polar opposites become part of a relationship, and that’s still mirroring. When people realise a quality they’re missing, they easily recognise it in others and yearn for it. Take note, though, that opposites only attract when both are on the extreme ends. (2)
On the other hand, when a person is in an abusive relationship, this doesn’t mean this person attracts abuse or abusers because of the Law of Attraction and Polarity. There are no exceptions and excuses for abusive relationships. Abusers make a choice, and that is in no way a reflection of the victim. Victims should not take the blame and responsibility. Yet, there is something to learn from an abusive relationship for the victim like setting clearer boundaries, asking for help, leaving the relationship, loving one’s self, etc.
The Perfect Puzzle Piece
The universe works in fascinating ways. Relationships don’t happen just because someone wants their fairytale ending. Most relationships occur for people to learn and grow. It’s the experience in relationships that helps people have different perspectives, so they can look at their future relationships from different viewpoints. This helps people become more open-minded and less critical of themselves and their partners.
This is how the perfect puzzle piece falls into place sometimes. In an unexplainable way, you can meet someone whose issues perfectly align with yours because mirrors in relationships aren’t one-sided.
In the earlier example, we focused on the woman expecting compliments, but the man could have been raised in a family where compliments are always given even if they’re not true or no compliments or praise was given at all. Now, their issues fit like hand and glove.
Nevertheless, finding this perfect puzzle piece doesn’t mean a relationship will be smooth sailing. It just shows that relationships are not meant to be trivial, rather, it’s an experience people should have takeaways from so they can heal from their past wounds, learn from mistakes, and grow from them. It’s about taking responsibility and more importantly, learning about one’s self.
How to Be Better in Relationships
A lot of people sweep their triggering issues under the rug, thinking they can enter new relationships without carrying past wounds with them. That’s not how it works. Unless a person deals with the triggers, one can’t be whole inside a relationship. There’s always one foot out the door in case something goes wrong.
The Chopra Center has a great journaling exercise to help people recognise mirrors in a relationship. This exercise will also help tame negative reactions and judgements in relationships.
Another exercise is to reflect on triggers. Trans4mind shares an exercise on bringing awareness to unconscious patterns. (3) Here’s the process:
- Know what triggers you
- Further explore what triggers you. Look into your thoughts, reactions, and emotions. Is there a pattern in how you think and react? Do you always defend yourself and blame your partner? Do you focus on who’s right and wrong? Are you focusing on your negative attitude?
- Reflect on this. Is how you think, feel, and react a result of past wounds that never healed? Is it because you refuse to accept qualities in other people that are different to yours?
- Once you get the answers, decide on how you can take full responsibility for the behaviour pattern and grow as a person from it. Shift from focusing on the “you” and instead, focus on the “I.”
Additionally, The Gottman Institute has fun relationship quizzes you can try. The questions and results are based on research, so you might learn plenty by going through those, as well. Have your partner do these exercises with you so you can learn about each other as you go along and improve communication with the relationship, as well.
Accepting the Mirrors
Mirrors in relationships aren’t bad. Rather, see it as a way to achieve emotional freedom. What you easily see in your partner is the quality you feel or believe in the strongest. However, a negative reaction shouldn’t be the go-to reaction. Ask yourself first why are you reacting this way? It may be because you have or don’t have this quality and you have not embraced it yet.
Learning about mirrors in relationships teaches self-awareness and to reconcile with differences. The moment you see yourself in others, you will be able to connect with your partner more and be more willing to work things out, which helps strengthen your emotional well-being.