Look in the mirror

Everything we struggle with in another person is related to something within ourselves

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I left my husband, after lots of indecision. Now I wonder about leaving my boyfriend. I work full-time, have a toddler and attend Sac State full time. Sometimes, I wait to come home until he’s asleep. Lately, he’s been going to bed early and leaving before I get up, like he’s avoiding me. If I tell him I love him, he asks me to elaborate. It’s irritating. I find myself engaging in small talk, which he does not like. After getting caught looking through his phone, I’m working to respect his privacy. When we argue, I feel extremely sad or angry. I’ve slammed doors and pushed him. The last time I left, he didn’t stop me. Recently, I gave our landlord a 30-day notice without telling my boyfriend. The next day I canceled it. My boyfriend says he loves me. I don’t know if I feel the same. Advice?

Yes. If love failed you in the past, you are under no obligation to keep repeating the experience. Your marriage is over. Don’t let yourself continue testing a man to see how far you can push him before he leaves. Even if your parents offered affection, guidance and support inconsistently during your childhood, you can resist recreating that experience now with your man. To move in this direction, you have to be fed up with being miserable. Admit that the chaos you create steals your happiness. Then, stop.

Working full-time, being a mom and taking a full load of classes is exhausting. Have you considered that it might be beyond your bandwidth? Trim your class schedule to alleviate stress. By slowing down you can devote time to processing your feelings. Not every feeling is true. Not every emotion deserves expression. But emotions will show you where you feel broken and insecure. Those places are begging to be healed. To begin, take responsibility for your part in any difficulty. See what you were trying to teach yourself by holding on to suffering. Choose to be kind to yourself. Release what no longer serves you. If you learn to give your inner world this kind of attention, you will bring it into harmony and move through life with more ease.

As you slow down, you will also recognize yourself in others. For example, when you say that your boyfriend is avoiding you, are you able to own the ways you avoided him? You stayed away from home until he was asleep. You admit to pushing him away physically and emotionally. It’s as though the two of you are mirroring each other.

Everything we struggle with in another person is related to something within ourselves. You push him away because intimacy is difficult for you. You seem afraid he will discover that you are not capable of loving him as much as you think he loves you. Here’s a little secret: Love is a growth opportunity. If he loves you more, that’s OK. You can learn how to love fully by moving closer to him a little bit more every day. By slowly opening to love, you will also expand and deepen your experience of self-love.

Meditation of the Week

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us,” wrote novelist Herman Hesse. How do you know when you’re looking in a mirror?