In Chapter 10 of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, I wrote, “A spouse is a mirror who shows us characteristics of ourselves we would rather not see reflected back to us on a daily basis.”
For instance, a wife may choose to react with an anger outburst, rather than talk calmly through conflict with her husband. A husband may choose to spend more time at work, rather than deal with his unhappy marriage. In each instance, the spouse’s reaction says something about himself/herself. Meaning…It reveals an unhealthy way that each of them handle situations.
And because spouses are together for years on end, there’s no running away from such problems, even though plenty of people try to run away for as long as they can. But unprocessed issues only lead to greater trouble.
You can’t escape your reflection.
When your spouse reflects back to you an undesirable personal characteristic of your own, choose to not blame your spouse. They may simply just be reacting to your behavior.
Rather, be strong enough to pause for a moment, take a deep breath, then seek clarity on the issue at hand. Repeat back to your spouse what they just said to ensure that you’re understanding them correctly. Ask, “Did I hear you right when you said _____?”
Instead of automatically and emotionally reacting to their reaction, try to see beyond their words, even if those words are attacking you. Try to see how they may just be reflecting something you don’t want to admit about yourself.
The first step toward fixing any problems in marriage is to not point fingers at each other. Rather, each spouse must learn to take responsibility for themselves and then choose to work together to help each other.
Marriage is two imperfect people learning how to be imperfect together. Once you realize you have that in common, a kind grace can flow through your marriage, even when conflict arises.