"Lasting love has to be built on mutual regard and respect. It is about seeing the other person ... when I watch couples, sometimes I can sense a blindness has set in. They have stopped seeing each other." -- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The things we do to go all out to show the love in our life how much we care. We buy roses or cook special dinners to heighten the romance and express our love. But you know what is even more romantic and sexy than champagne laced strawberries or fancy lingerie?
Being seen for who we really are.
The sad thing is that few of us ever get -- or give -- that gift.
Most of us know about the myopia of falling in love. In the heat and excitement of our initial attraction, we don't notice that he stiffs the waiter when it comes to tips or that she frequently prioritizes work over spending time with us.
We miss the signs that he might have a drinking issue or that she's self-absorbed.
Scientists will tell us that being blind to our lover's faults in the initial phases of attraction is natural. The dopamine and other hormones coursing through our veins signal us to pursue and capture that mate -- not stop to ask questions!
Once the hormones have calmed down and we begin to get to know one another, we start seeing our partner for who he or she really is, right?
Nope. Sorry to burst your bubble but this is when a different type of blindness sets in: the blindness of our interpretations.
In the Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) and Huna (the original spiritual and psychological system of the Hawaiian Islands) I teach, one of our fundamental concepts is, "Perception is Interpretation." This basically means that we never really see whatever we're viewing. We see through the lenses of our beliefs, attitudes, prior experience and the decisions we've made from those experiences.
Some of these beliefs and attitudes are conscious; some are not. But they distort our vision of everything we see -- including the people we love. It begins early in the relationship when we peg our partner as "distant" because she isn't a hugger or "unreliable" because he doesn't call when he's running late. And if we don't question these assumptions and recognize them as our own projections and interpretations of behavior, over the months and years, we build a stronger and stronger case about who the other person is.
And this destroys any chance of true intimacy. Why? Because rather than seeing our partner as the unique, incredible, perfectly imperfect being they are, we get stuck in the ruts of our own interpretation.
How about trying the following steps to give your partner the gift of being seen for who they really are?
Acknowledge the interpretation: The first step is always to acknowledge that what you have seen is not what you got! If you asked 50 people to describe your partner, it's likely all 50 have slightly different perspectives.
It's hard to admit, but being "close" to someone doesn't necessarily mean that you have a clear view of them. In fact, with people and situations we don't care about, we tend to be more neutral. It's when someone or something really matters to us that our underlying attitudes and beliefs fire up and wreak havoc with our perceptions. Begin by simply acknowledging that your perceptions and interpretations are not "truth" but colored by attitudes and beliefs.
Review your history: How is the way you've judged your partner similar to the way you saw your dad or mom, past boyfriends or girlfriends? Who do they remind you of, especially when he or she does something that you don't like? You might find that your partner reminds you of several people in your past. Yes, it might mean that you've chosen to marry someone just like your dad or you've repeatedly chosen the same type of person to date. But it also might mean that you're projecting past experience on someone who doesn't deserve it.
How does this work? Say you always saw your dad working, even at home. And eventually, your dad found someone else and left your mom. Now, whenever you see your partner putting in extra time at work, you get nervous. You may even have broken up with a string of partners because they were "workaholics." Were they really? Or did your past hurt color how you saw them?
Question your assumptions: Based on our projections, we often ascribe particular meanings to certain behaviors. For example, you assume your partner doesn't really care about you because she doesn't make a big deal about your birthday. You assume your partner doesn't want sex because he doesn't initiate it.
Take a few minutes to list those behaviors and jot down what you think those behaviors mean, especially behaviors that bother you. Next, be brave and share that list with your partner. I'm betting you'll be surprised at their response!
Try some ho'oponopono: Ho'oponopono is the forgiveness practice used in the Hawaiian Islands. My students who use this process on a regular basis swear that it has done wonders for all of their relationships, including relationships with their significant others.
Done in its authentic form, ho'oponopono has the unique ability to dissipate old perceptions and refresh the energy between you and the people you love. You not only release the pain and gain the valuable insight from past disappointments, you have the opportunity to release negative projections and get a fresh perspective on your partner.
Roses will fade within a week and will be forgotten before long. But learning to see your partner with fresh eyes will serve you both for years to come!
To your TOTAL empowerment!
Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy, and Empowerment Fit, a program that incorporates targeted mind/body/spirit practices to create optimal physical fitness and health. Keep in touch with Dr. Matt on his Facebook page See where Dr. Matt and his team are headed next for a live event at www.nlp.com