September 20

Learning from Mirrored Relationships

It occurred to me recently…six years into my relationship with my soulmate partner…that my last relationship before I met my husband was a mirror relationship meant to show me how frustrating my behavior had been toward past partners. I was writing about using contrast (when the universe gives you the opposite of what you’re wanting for yourself) and it suddenly dawned on me that my last relationship before I moved from North Carolina to Georgia was not only contrast, but a mirror meant to show me all the behaviors I had exhibited in previous relationships and how they did not serve me when I was seeking my soulmate partner.

Now, just because it took me six years to realize this information, that doesn’t mean I didn’t put what I’ve learned into action before now. I absolutely did. I remember in the moment thinking about how frustrating that partner was and why and how it was similar to how I had behaved in the past, but I didn’t make the full connection until yesterday.

Many people who talk about Twin Flame connections talk about how twin flames are often a mirror of their shadow self. I have to admit that for the most part, I view twin flame connections as trauma bonds, but this experience and epiphany may change my view a bit.

I can see how this particular relationship may have fallen on the side of the continuum of relationships as more of a twin flame than anything else. He and I did share trauma, but that trauma was mostly self-induced and based on the behaviors I recognized as mirroring my own.

So what behaviors did I see him mirror? He was passive aggressive, uncommunicative, and emotionally manipulative. I remember writing him a letter to help him understand why I no longer wanted to see him and including specifics of how his own behavior was hurting him far more than I ever would. He was so focused on getting attention that he once allowed himself to be nearly taken over by sunstroke because he refused to ask for help until he nearly passed out and someone “noticed” that he was in trouble. What followed was an hour or more of everyone at the event paying attention to him, which he thrived on.

The thing is, had he simply said he was feeling too hot and needed to go inside and get some water, I would have joined him in an air-conditioned hotel room not 10 feet from where he nearly passed out. But he didn’t want a solution, he wanted the attention. And he wanted attention from as many people at the event as he could possibly garner. 99% of the issues I had with him came from him not speaking up about his needs.

Thinking back, I can see this kind of behavior in myself. I would go off on my own and sulk until someone asked me what was wrong rather than just speaking my needs to my partner. The fact that I had chosen partners who didn’t care, had far less to do with my emotional manipulation than my own desire to be seen and paid attention to. I remember a trip to Phoenix, AZ where I was tertiary to the relationship. While the other woman was along to play and have fun, I was left to handle the business, the formal dinner service, and cleaning up after the other woman and our shared partner. I spent a lot of time that weekend by myself because I felt invisible around them and didn’t know anyone else. I went for walks, found corners to sit and watch people, etc. On the whole, I was miserable and I am pretty certain—at least subconsciously—I wanted them to be miserable, too. I didn’t get anything I wanted during that time. My surly demeanor meant the partner and the other woman felt justified in leaving me alone and cleaning up after them. My refusal to speak my needs to them left those needs unfulfilled.

At the time I was dating that last man before I met my husband, I was running 3+ miles a day in the morning before the North Carolina heat kicked in. My partner spent the night at my house and insisted on getting up with me to “run.” He was significantly older than I was and in poor health, so he didn’t really want to run with me—in fact, I’m pretty sure he couldn’t have run if the hounds of hell had been chasing him. The problem wasn’t that he wanted to come with me, or that I thought I’d have to slow down my run for him to keep up, but that he wanted me to walk with him instead of sticking to my routine of running to the track down the street from my house and then running my three miles before walking home again. But he didn’t tell me any of this. He just cried as he walked home from the track as though I had purposely left him behind. I have memories of what it felt like to be on his side of that equation. When we don’t love ourselves or believe we are worthy of love, everything feels like a rejection because we don’t speak up and let others know what we need from them. We often feel left out of others’ interactions because we have isolated ourselves. And then the resentment builds even more as we watch others do what we wanted to do with the people whom we wanted to do it.

When we don’t speak our needs to the people we expect to fulfill them, and later build resentment toward them because our needs aren’t being met, we are being incredibly unfair to people we claim to love. Emotional manipulation is something I know I’m guilty of from past relationships. I know that in the moment, it can feel very much like the only way we get attention from a partner is to act out or have an emotional outburst. When we are involved with narcissists, this behavior is exacerbated. Narcissists often don’t give us attention in healthy moments and only pay attention when they’re being inconvenienced by our emotional outbursts. When they finally do pay attention, it’s often negative attention to a negative attention-seeking behavior.

So, I’m unpacking this mirrored behavior I recognized and want you, my readers, to understand that everyone goes through what you’re experiencing. I’ve been the emotionally manipulative person I couldn’t stay with when I was on the receiving end of the behavior. I have used emotional outbursts to get attention, even negative attention, because I didn’t believe I could get what I needed any other way. I know what it feels like to watch others get what I want, from the people I want it from, and be resentful of the situation, but also knowing I’ve put myself in that situation by isolating myself in the moment.

What mirrors have you found in past relationships that you now know are showing you the behaviors that didn’t bring you the happiness you sought in your relationships?

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