Mirroring, mirroring…

Couple mirroring each other

Why couples seem so similar after many years spent together?

Partly because they accustomed to mirror each other’s posture, gestures, tone of voice, many times meta-communication, even the negative ones. The more you know about your unconscious reaction, the more you understand what your partner goes through…

Shortly after our first anniversary, my husband and I were presented with a great opportunity to travel across the southern part of Africa. As you can guess, it was full of excitement and adventure. However, as you can imagine when you travel, there were huge differences in weather, culture, language and habits. In essence it was full of stress.

As usual, it took its toll in our communication. One day I was working on some points in my head. Lately, I noticed that whatever I say he is arguing with it, whatever he says is somehow negative. Seemingly, out of nowhere, he spoke up:

“Did you notice recently whatever I say you argue with it and whatever you say is somehow unpleasant?” It surprised me tremendously because it was almost what I wanted to tell him, only he began a couple seconds early. It also surprised me because I was aware of him doing it but I had no idea that I am doing the same!

It’s famous in psychology that if you are tuned to someone, you pick up his or her body language. I’ve seen it many times in random places, but more often in my practice. Whenever a couple comes to me in my private practice, there is a lot that I can immediately see in their body language. Many of them sit in front of me in a near perfect mirroring position, which of course I consider as a good sign because they are attuned to each other.

I see lovely gestures as well. In the middle of a heated argument, one half of a duo spreads out her hands high in the air showing that she has no idea how it happened. Within a fraction of a second, her husband’s hand was the same, way high in the air sharing the feeling of “I’m clueless.”

Recently though I noticed another related phenomena. One of my clients complained about his wife not validating the feelings – especially the painful feelings of his, but argues about its rightfulness. Soon enough, we had a session together. I saw him with my own eyes rejecting his wife’s negative feelings the same way as he complained.

In another case, both man and wife missed the attention from one another. Both of them were able to list occasions when she or he was starved for attention (and of course acceptance) but the other disrupted the conversation or simply left.

Many other cases show me that when we are together with someone for a longer period of time, we mirror not only each other’s body language but frequently our mistakes – in communication as well.

This phenomenon has a great advantage. If you have an issue with your partner and a desire that you would like to see disappear or change, first make a deep introspection whether or not you do the same. If you do, it’s easier to begin the change with yourself – and let’s hope that your partner will mirror it. Meanwhile, you can understand when and why are you doing what you are doing, which might lead you to a different approach on how you face the problem.

This or that way: you will be way more prepared to create positive changes in your relationship than if you only point a finger to your partner’s faulty behavior.


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Photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net