The other day while we were driving in the car, Christian was angry.
Not at me. He was frustrated that we didn’t have a clear plan for the direction of our work. So I did what any loving wife would do. I got mad at him for being mad.
You may have heard the saying, “You become like who you are around.” Mostly what is meant by the saying, is that If you hang out with people who are not successful and playing big, chances are YOU will not be successful or play big. If you hang out with people who are depressed and negative, YOU may find yourself feeling pessimistic and low too.
There is another way this dynamic plays out in relationship. When Christian gets mad about something, I get mad at him for being mad. I become like him. Which doesn’t help, by the way, it just accelerates his anger, because he now adds “being mad at me for being mad at him” to the mix. When he withdraws, I punish him for withdrawing by withdrawing myself. When he judges, I judge him for judging. Christian does the same with me. And we both do it with our kids.
This plays out so fast that we barely notice how we “become just like who we are around.”
Now, it is NOT my intention for us to both be pissed, withdrawn and judgmental. Even though that is what gets produced. And I know it is the same for you – that when you “match” your partner’s moods or thoughts, you are not wanting a miserable experience either!
Our unconscious positive intention in matching our partner’s emotion is for the bad feelings to go away and the good ones to return. For example, some part of me actually believes that if I get mad at him for being mad, he will quit being mad! Crazy, eh?
What to do to change this dynamic?
First thing is to notice it. Become aware that you are becoming exactly like the behavior or emotion you are resisting.
Next, is to replace your resistance and annoyance with compassion. Say to yourself, “We are the same. We feel the same.” This will soften your heart.
Lastly, understand that underneath anger, is a pure innocent desire for love, connection and all things good. Reach out in love from this place and you will notice, that your partner will begin to “become like who they are around.”