Keep Your Eye on the Belly Button

Growing up, I played a lot of basketball. I learned one game changing lesson: stay focused on the belly button of the guy I was guarding. By watching my opponent’s stomach rather than the rest of his body, I didn’t fall for his fakes. He might feign to go left or pretend he was going to take a shot or pass it. Since I knew he couldn’t physically move without taking his belly button with him, by keeping my eyes on his mid-section, I knew exactly where he was going, and I stopped getting tricked by my opponents’ deceptions.  

In your relationship, how often do you buy into your partner’s distractions rather than see the truth about your partner i.e., your partner’s emotional belly button? 

By distractions, I’m referring to your partner’s unloving behaviors.  Your partner might get angry, shut down, blame, judge, or criticize you. Your partner might also try to gaslight you, discount your feelings or shame you. 

But that’s not keeping your eye on the belly button.

Here are some loving actions you can take to stay focused on your partner’s emotional belly button:

1. Move into compassion for your partner. Know that your partner’s unloving behaviors originate from fear: fear of difficult feelings like loneliness, heartbreak and helplessness. Tell yourself that your partner has good reasons for acting in unloving ways and isn’t intentionally trying to harm you. 
2. See your partner’s essence.  This is what first attracted you and why you’re still with your partner. Maybe it’s your partner’s kindness, loyalty, humor or thoughtfulness.  Or you love how playful, creative and curious your partner is. This is your partner’s emotional belly button!
3. Set an internal loving boundary. Remind yourself that you’re not responsible for your partner’s thoughts, feelings or behavior. It may be true that you triggered your partner, but as long as your intention is not purposely unloving, then your partner’s unloving behavior is not personal, i.e., it doesn’t define your self-worth. Yes, it is personal in the sense that your partner’s behavior may be directed at you, but it’s not because of you.   

Focusing on your partner’s emotional belly button allows you to respond with love rather than react from fear.  When you do this, you create a more loving relationship.