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Mirroring in Marriage: What It Is and How It Can Help

A lot of what makes a relationship special isn’t always something you can explain in words. It’s the way you feel when you’re with your partner, the strong connection you share, and those times when you seem to be on the same wavelength. Have you ever had moments when it feels like your partner knows what you’re thinking, or you finish each other’s sentences, or you even act alike without planning it? If so, it’s a sign of a deep and close connection, whether you’ve just started dating or have been friends for a long time. This connection is called “mirroring.”

Mirroring is often talked about in business situations and when dealing with assertive salespeople, but it’s something that matters in personal relationships, too. When it happens naturally, it makes a great friendship or love stand out from the rest. So, why is it valuable in relationships? It’s all about how we communicate without words. We asked an expert to help us understand the psychology behind this idea.

“In simple terms, mirroring means copying someone’s behavior. This could be their voice, what they say, or how they express themselves without words, like their gestures, movements, and body language,” explains body language expert Tonya Reiman. “Especially when it’s between two people of the same gender, you might notice that they match things like the tone of voice, blinking speed, and even how they breathe.”

How and When Does Mirroring Happen?

So, how does mirroring happen? According to Reiman, it’s when you either consciously or automatically copy someone else’s behavior. Let’s say you’re in a job interview, and you’re feeling a bit nervous. Your natural reaction might be to avoid looking the interviewer in the eye or seem a bit closed off. But, if you make an effort to mirror the interviewer’s actions, you’ll appear confident and establish a connection with them. This, in turn, will help you feel more at ease. For instance, you might sit in a similar way or scratch your arm when they do something like rub their eye, creating a non-verbal connection between you two.

Mirroring also plays a part in those initial romantic encounters. When you’re trying to connect with someone at a bar, it can be a deliberate strategy. You observe how the person is standing and moving, and then you mimic their movements and posture to show that you have similarities, suggesting that you’re a good match. In the early stages of any relationship, we’re naturally drawn to the sense of being in harmony.

What Can Mirroring Reveal About Our Romantic Relationships?

In long-term relationships, mirroring happens naturally and reflects your connection. Holding hands and walking in sync are examples of this. It creates a strong bond and positive feelings, enhancing your relationship’s foundation.

Can Mirroring Indicate Relationship Issues?

Mirroring is natural in the early stages of a relationship, but as time goes on, it should happen without effort. If you notice a change in how you and your partner interact physically, it could be a sign that something is amiss in your relationship. Discuss these changes with your partner and work together to rebuild your connection. One effective way to do this is by sitting in the same position and looking into each other’s eyes for three minutes. This helps reignite the connection and fosters vulnerability, which is essential for repairing and strengthening the relationship.

How to Strengthen Bonds Using Mirroring

When it comes to marriage, you and your partner might already unconsciously mirror each other. But you should consider another aspect of building relationships: your connection with your partner’s family, like your mother-in-law. “The first time you meet your mother-in-law, for example, spend the first few minutes actively listening. Remove your filters and ego, and try to understand her perspective,” says Reiman. “If you can put aside your own feelings, you might naturally adjust your behavior and body language to connect with her.”

It may take some effort, but if you practice active listening, you’ll notice things like the words she uses or how she’s sitting, which can help you connect. “When we talk about building a connection, it’s about making Person A (your mother-in-law, in this case) feel so at ease that they can truly open up to Person B (that’s you!), and then Person B becomes comfortable, and a bond forms.”

How Can Mirroring Go Wrong?

It might sound good, but mirroring has a drawback. This is like when a pushy salesperson tries to act like you to make a sale, and it can make you feel uncomfortable. While we naturally like people who are similar to us, we can also sense when someone is faking it to manipulate us into doing something we don’t want to do.

“If the other person’s mirroring makes you uncomfortable or takes you in a direction you don’t want to go, that’s a warning sign,” she adds. “It shouldn’t make you feel like you have to like them; it should be a natural connection. While mirroring can help break the ice in the beginning, if it starts feeling forced or doesn’t align with your true feelings, it could mean that your relationship isn’t meant to be.”

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