The bliss of being seen, understood, and accepted – what could be more touching? More connecting? If any criterion exists for soulmate, being ‘known’ by your lover must reside somewhere on top. Right?
To this end, we make extraordinary efforts to learn all about our partners – their history, their favorite colors and foods, and personality types, everything we can to catch a deeper glimpse into who they are as a person.
Because most of us believe that if we really dive-in and get to know our partner, we can understand them.
And for the most part, this is true. But we are forgetting something – something big.
In truth, all of us carry on our person a special pair of glasses. These glasses have very unique lenses, made specifically for you. They are forged with all your life experiences and tainted with all the meanings you infused into every episode of your existence. It is through these lenses we see EVERYTHING. We never take off these glasses, till the day we meet our Maker.
Hence, when we see our partner, when we ‘get to know’ our partner, we are always looking at them through our own unique perspective, our own filter. We see every facet and story about our beloved through our own history, personality, fantasy and mainly – our own wounds. On some level, we are not seeing our partner at all, in their true full colors. Rather, we are seeing merely a black & white image, which we fill-in with our own designs, patterns, and colors that we like.
That’s why we can be suspicious of our partner, for no real (good) reason. Or perhaps we can get offended so quickly at what are merely minor infractions. We can accuse our partners of being “narcissistic” when they hurt our feelings, or “abusive” when they say something that struck an existing nerve. Some go on and accuse their partners of made-up attacks or intentions, because they themselves may have suffered this in the past.
And the opposite is also true. We fill our minds & hearts with fantasies about our future life together, because this is the desperate dream we ourselves have and want. I’m always surprised at the level of disconnect between what one partner believes to be the future of their relationship versus the radically different vision the other partner claims to have been communicating the whole time.
I once had a client, who every time his wife would complain about something, he would get bitter and defensive, no matter how she communicated her displeasure with his behavior. After a while, he finally accused her of emotional manipulation.
Hearing this, I did a break-down session with him of her requests and his reaction. When the disconnect between her reasonable issues versus his overblown response became apparent, we explored the origin of his defensiveness:
“When she is unhappy, she makes me feel like I am a horrible person. I feel trapped, ashamed, and wrong.”
After a few sessions, it turned out that he failed to differentiate his wife from his mother, with whom he had a history of this dynamic. Eventually, he gained the clarity to admit that his wife was actually being quite reasonable, and that there was nothing wrong with what she was asking for.
Learning to remove our filters is a life-long process, and can never be fully accomplished. It seems as if we can spend seventy years unlearning what we absorbed during our first ten.
And while this is true, there are ways we can clean our lenses and begin to see our partner for who they really are. But the first step is to stop and ask yourself – “To what extent am I reacting to what she actually did/needs/said versus reacting to what story it brought up in my heart?” Each time you do this, you are wiping-away a layer of pain that taints your world view, and actually standing up for your relationship.
When we remove our filters – when we learn to see our partner for who they are – and we can love them for it, that is when we can have an authentic relationship, and true intimacy begins.