February 2018
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ex-partner awkwardness / mirrors and resonance


I saw my ex-partner at school today -- so strange and awkward! That's the one relationship of which there are no living remains. With everyone else there is at least a little connection or desire. I'm curious about zir life, but not in an emotionally-invested way, more in a "so that is what my life could have been like" kind of way.

And it made me think about mirrors. I think some people (like my bioparent P) are hammered into mirrors by being disallowed to have any independent thought or action, and others are mirrors because it is an easier kind of relationship than communication and self-awareness. I don't know about nowadays, but when my ex and I were together I thought we agreed on so many things because ze was a mirror. And when I spent time with Ash I thought we agreed too, but ze was just mirroring. And then I wonder about myself -- do I attract these people because I am an easy model to reproduce due to my transparency? Or a scarier thought, am I subconsciously attracted to them because I like being reflected? I think it's more likely that I seek real resonance and used to be fooled by the mirroring -- it has been a few years since then, and I have learned to tell the difference at least somewhat, I think. My current understanding of the way to tell is that if someone truly agrees with me on something, that is true whether I'm around them or not, and whether or not I have discussed it with them lately. If they're just mirroring, they won't spot nuances on their own, they won't seek out more information on their own, and they won't apply it to their lives in their own ways.

ETA: I think mirroring can be conscious or it can be habitual. It's is a really useful skill when talking to a boss or some other non-empathetic dispenser of resources; I think it's only a problem when it prevents intimacy or substitutes for it. I think if you are comfortable uttering disagreements with people, having constructive conflict, and maintaining boundaries that are good for you, it is unlikely that you have a habit of mirroring. But I don't have experience from the inside, myself, so I'm just guessing. I don't think I've ever mirrored successfully, though I certainly try when it comes to job interviews :-p

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Comments
coloursofmyhome ══╣╠══
I think I may have used the word "mirror" in a previous LJ comment to you. If so, I didn't mean it this way, but in the sense of catalyzing hidden or neglected parts of oneself and allowing them to shine.

This just struck me today because my ex just initiated contact after two years... I decided I'd be okay with trying, but it was an odd situation because, after we broke up, it started to feel like so much of what we shared was mirroring, in the sense you're using it now. And it's hard to feel so close to someone and then to question what was real and what was an attempt (unconscious, maybe) to get closer to me... not by being authentic, but by presenting themselves as more like me than they are...

I think I've gotten better at recognizing when someone is doing that... but yes, it's like I WANT the connection so I'm willing to believe that this is really them.

Honestly I think this has happened in just about every relationship I've been in at least to some extent, so I'm learning how important it is to consciously recognize it and consciously affirm that it's OKAY to be who they are, to have their OWN opinions, etc.

Oh, and the stuff you shared on constructive conflict has been really useful lately. I've been thinking about a couple times recently where conflict helped me get closer to someone.

Once, I was upset at a friend and publicly said some not-so-nice things, and someone I hardly knew but who I met at a retreat reached out. Said she'd been there but pointed out that I'd gotten away from loving speech, and it was not in keeping with the mindfulness precepts we had taken at a retreat together. She said it would have been easier not to say anything, but she wanted to be a person of integrity. And at first I was upset, but then, I realized how much courage it took and that this was someone I could count on to truly care. Our friendship got so much deeper because she was willing to risk conflict.

Another time, a friend vomited in a rental car and didn't feel like cleaning it when the renter wanted it cleaned; so I offered to do it. We were at a retreat and shared kitchen duty together but I found her playing a game. I came to her and said, matter-of-factly, "I had to clean up your vomit. I would have appreciated you helping in the kitchen rather than playing games." Then I walked away. She was hurt, and it HURT to know this hurt, but I had to speak my truth. She came up with some excuse, but I pointed out that it didn't hold water. A few minutes later, I asked if she was okay. She said yes. She said, "You're right, I shouldn't have been playing a game," and she was getting really down on herself. We were sitting next to each other and I could see her crying. I asked, "Do you mind if I hold you?" and for both of us that cuddle was so good. Like a recognition that we could be angry at each other but hold no grudges or resentment. We could trust each other with anger because we knew that there was still affection. (I think so often we're afraid of conflict because we're so used to equating anger with grudges and... just don't know how to do anger appropriately. You can be angry AND compassionate.) Later she told me that my getting angry with her was really helpful because it helped her see her own process and how she got down on herself and start to change her pattern.

So yeah, I wouldn't have thought about these experiences in terms of conflict creating intimacy until you pointed that out!

-- Lily
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.