Every relationship requires work. It’s like brushing our teeth, we can’t just do it once a month. Even the seemingly “perfect” relationships have brushing up to do. Relationships are living things, they grow and change as we do the same, so they need to be re-crafted weekly if not daily. In my couples counseling practice there are issues or problems couples come in with to work on, but before we get down to the problem, we need to be heard. How do we get our partners to hear our needs and for us to really hear theirs? It’s called “mirroring” and it works when we work it.
What is mirroring?
Imagine sitting in front of a mirror, except we are sitting knee to knee with our partner looking into their eyes. Sometimes I call “mirroring” doing “knee to knees” or “check ins.” One person speaks and the other person listens and then mirrors back to the speaker what they have heard, without adding, without judging, without rolling eyes, laughing or wincing. The listener mirrors, “So what I hear you saying is that you need to feel my appreciation for taking care of our daughter’s birthday party. Did I get that right? Is there more?” The listener actually asks the speaker if they heard it correctly and asks for more information until the speaker is emptied out. Then the couples switch, so that the speaker becomes the listener and the listener has their turn to speak. There is no conversation, arguing, or negotiating at this point, just speaking and listening. We create a safe space for the couple to just be heard, and this is a tremendous gift we can give to our partner. Better than a diamond, better than seasons tickets to the Mets. Can you feel the love yet?
How it helps:
This process, which I learned in my certification in Imago Therapy, creates a sense of validation and empathy in our relationships. Even when we don’t see eye to eye, we sit knee to knee with the intention to make communication safe, loving and strong. Most human beings have a basic need to be heard, validated and appreciated. When we sit face to face without distraction (yes, turn off your cell phones please and make sure the kids are busy or sleeping), and we genuinely show interest in what’s going on with our partner, we feel instant connection and love, even if the issue isn’t resolved right then and there.
Doing check ins doesn’t always have to be in my office, and once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t even have to be knee to knee. Try sending your partner a text each day, thanking them for something they did, said, or thanking them for simply being. Think of these love notes as practice until your next mirroring session. Set a weekly “meeting” to sit down, hold hands, and share your needs, appreciations, requests, and goals for your beautiful, conscious life together.
The Little Things:
Little acts of love add up. It doesn’t need to be Valentine’s Day (which I will remind you is right around the corner) or your anniversary (you should know that date) to do thoughtful things. Married couples most often have kids, work, aging parents and community involvement and our schedules are packed tight. We need to plan everything because we couldn’t get anything done otherwise. But what if we planned to infused a little spice into our everyday, and put loving gestures in our calendars just as we do luncheons and book fairs? Schedule surprises. Do something for your partner that you’d want them to do for you. Maybe it’s a meditation class together, or a run by the river at sunrise. Cook your partner’s favorite meal, or reenact your engagement. Then, no matter what the day brings, when you meet back up at the end of the day, you will feel closer, more connected, more IN love.
When all is said and done, when we make our relationship our priority, we have a much better chance of living a life we love. Let's mirror the behavior we want to see. Here’s to health, connection, consciousness in our loving relationships! Happy Valentine’s Day!
For more information on my couples psychotherapy practice, please visit www.jennifergraf.net. For daily tips and inspiration, please follow me on instagram @jennifergraflcsw.