When couples are asked to name their biggest relationship problem, hands down, the most reported issue is communication. But there’s one simple trick that most couples’ counselors teach. It has helped save many a marriage and is called emotional mirroring.
The exercise goes like this. Couples sit face to face and hold hands. One partner talks about a relationship issue and the other listens intently and attempts to understand how the other must be feeling. This isn’t a game of who’s right and who’s wrong. Even if the facts don’t seem accurate, the partner who is listening must believe that the feelings associated with the partner’s memory of events are valid and real. After the partner finishes speaking, the listener repeats back in her or her own words what they think the partner is saying. Then they switch sides. The object of the exercise is to teach empathy for a partner’s experience, it is not to argue the facts.
When you try this for the first time, you might be really surprised to find that your partner didn’t hear you well, or translated your words into a totally different meaning! This is a great way to practice love and acceptance. To get you started, here are a few ground rules:
1. Arrange the time for emotional mirroring when there will be no distractions like children, phone or television.
2. Before you begin, hold hands, look into each other’s eyes and tell your partner you love them.
3. Toss a coin to determine who goes first and switch off each time you do the exercise.
4. The partner who shares first must try to not blame the other but instead focus on feelings and reactions to the other’s behavior. No name calling. No angry attacks. Keep voices calm.
Do this at least once a week and watch your relationship blossom into a loving, secure attachment.