How Your Relationships Are A Lot Like Looking In The Mirror

Love isn’t what we are looking for when it comes to friendships and relationships, it’s familiarity.

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A couple of years ago, I was getting my nails done at a nearby salon when I got to chatting with the girl sitting next to me. She had recently relocated from California and was new to the area, looking for friends, and hoping to explore the city. We immediately clicked and decided to exchange numbers. Within a few days, we were meeting for brunch and planning a ‘girls’ night out.’ She had a few friends, whom she met at work, and we all seemed to get along fairly well. I believed we were on track to become best friends…until we weren’t.

After a couple of nights out, the friendship began to fade. It wasn’t due to anything in particular and there was no ‘dramatic ending’ to her and I’s friendship. We were trying to work around completely opposite schedules and eventually, days turned into weeks and we fell out of touch. Typically I would be bummed about another friendship ending due to the inability for us to find a time that worked for us to hang out again; however, what I experienced instead was the realization that we had both already served very specific purposes in one another’s lives.

In the months we were talking, texting, and snap chatting on a regular basis, our conversations seemed to inevitably gravitate towards one of two things: either our failed relationships or ‘drunk stories.’ It was at that moment that I realized why this person was placed in my life. She had a similar story — a recent split and uncertainty about whether or not to patch things up and power through or call it quits. Either way, she was willing to ‘drink away the pain’ every time her thoughts grew complicated and I, the same way. This new friend of mine was exercising a level of influence she didn’t even realize she had as it related to the trajectory of my existing relationship — one that was holding on by a thread.

The more she shared about her relationship (and I, mine), the more I found myself thinking, ‘they’re clearly not a good fit.’ My gut wanted to give her a little direction and simply say, ‘it’s time to move on,’ but instead I listened as she shared. I didn’t see it then; however, looking back, I realize her situation was a reflection of my own and the advice I so desperately wanted to give to her, was a projection of what I actually needed to hear for myself.

It was enjoyable to have a conversation with someone who validated everything I was experiencing, including the temptation to re-enter a toxic relationship.

I have written before about the importance of using the ‘third person’ when providing advice to oneself. The reason for this is the emotional detachment you can achieve in doing so. By negating the impact the outcome can have on your life and by removing yourself from a place of emotional investment, you are able to provide advice and answers that are truly what’s best for both you and the situation at hand.

Love isn’t what we are looking for when it comes to friendships and relationships, it’s familiarity.

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It wasn’t a cosmic coincidence that she and I met and it’s no surprise why we were drawn to one another — there was a deep and unconscious psychological need that we provided for one another. Through reflection, I noticed the same disheartening pattern in several of my other friendships.

As John Gottman would have it, ‘finding your soulmate is not a random, chance encounter orchestrated by the divine, no matter what movies you have watched that feed this belief.’ Instead, he suggests that your ideal partner is someone who is closely aligned with your ‘love map.’ In other words: your subconscious concept of a perfect match.

Oftentimes, we believe that what we look for in a relationship are simple requests such as financial stability, emotional support, respect, and loyalty. The subconscious part of our being would argue that what we are actually seeking is a person who identifies with our deepest needs from a psychological place.

For example, children of divorced parents tend to have a much more negative attitude towards marriage as a whole. These children grow into adults who are less optimistic about the feasibility of a long-lasting, healthy marriage. In addition, these same children may find great difficulty in achieving trust in a relationship. Surprisingly enough, this unease does not always dissipate following cohabitation.

This could also explain why some children of addicts grow to have adult relationships with addicts. Psychologists would offer the notion that this could be their subconscious’s way of trying to ‘heal’ their partner in a way they were unable to do for their parent(s). Or perhaps, they have not yet made the correlation and instead find themselves in a relationship with an addict, because it caters to what’s been familiar to their life.

You cannot heal yourself by simply trying to change another person.

The same can be said about children who are exposed to violent outbursts and toxic arguments between their parents while growing up. Oftentimes, these children will adopt a sense of complacency within the behavior and might find themselves likely to make excuses and exceptions when similar behavior takes place in their own relationship. Studies suggest that exposure to consistent bantering between parents can introduce a long-term impact such as a decrease in cognitive performance, increased relationship problems, and higher rates of behavior problems.

Many of us adopt new friendships and relationships in our lives, without ever realizing what it was about that person that innately drew us to them. The more we learn, the more dots can be connected, and the more evident it becomes that this person is a reflection of all of the things you would like to work on in yourself. It’s the reason why we find it so easy to make excuses for less than desirable behavior in relationships, especially if it is a behavior we would naturally mimic. You are not frustrated by the action itself, but the parallels it suggests with your own behavior.

Projection is a real factor in many relationships, both romantic and not, so oftentimes, if we are noticing judgment in ourselves, it is likely the behavior we have yet to address with ourselves, about ourselves. If you find yourself getting particularly irritated by a certain quality of another human being who you have chosen to be a part of your life, it could perhaps be a wake-up call to turn the focus within.

It is important that we realize the purpose a person serves in our lives and that we do not abandon our own healing in order to cater to theirs. Relationships are an opportunity for us to see ourselves more clearly and to adopt a sense of self-awareness about why this person has entered into our lives and what it is they can do, innately, to draw attention to the places we have yet to work on for ourselves. So rather than judging another for their life, decisions and habitual behavior, consider using it as an opportunity to redirect the words you would say and speak them into a mirror instead.

Written by

Writer. Poet. Philomath. Dog Mom. Traveler. Creator. Wanderer. Teacher. Empath. Author of “Unapologetically Human” - available on Amazon

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