How does my partner reflect on who I am?
How does a person’s sense of self change through their perception of how others see them in a partnership?
I spoke with a client recently about how uncomfortable they became infront of their friends because of their new partner’s behaviour. Their new partner of a month was expressing his strong opinions on a subject, involving him divulging more personal information than my client was comfortable with. In exploring this, she initially focused on the appropriateness of his self-disclosure, his insensitivity in taking centre stage and lack of respect for the listeners’ potential embarrassment at the details. I asked her ” Describe what you are feeling as you tell me this story?’ She replied ‘I feel embarrassed – what will my friends think of me?’
In exploring this not uncommon situation, it appears that the client was not so much concerned about ‘his’behaviour as how ‘she’ was seen infront of her friends – since he was her choice of partner and was acting in a way she would not have chosen for herself. In trying to make sense of her difficult feelings of embarrassment, she was appealing (by her actions) to social myths that ‘it was inappropriate to behave like this’ – when in fact the real discomfort was that she was forced to see herself differently as she anticipated her friends would judge her by her choice of ‘him’.
Our relationships with others offer daily opportunities to come to know the unfixed nature of ourselves – our interactions with ‘our world’ including the world of others and ourselves in relation to them, reflect the phenomenological and existential nature of our existence. With this in mind, what opportunities exist to change stuck or fixed views of ourselves – and others – that no longer serve us!