The presence or absence of authenticity in a relationship can mean the difference between a happy, fulfilling and loving relationship, or a relationship fraught with insecurities, conflict and disappointment. Authenticity means not being afraid to show your partner who you really are, warts and all. It is true that early on in a relationship, when everything is new and exciting, we are often on our best behaviour, hoping not only to attract our new or potential partner, but also to keep them from being scared off by the reality of our “less than perfect” selves. This honeymoon period can be wonderful, exciting and all-consuming. But what happens once the relationship is more established? Can our partner live up to the same high standards that they set for themselves to woo us with, and which we have come to expect of them? And can we live up to our own?
If we try to maintain a facade, it is inevitable that at some point we will begin to crack under the pressure of expectation that we place on ourselves, or the pressure that we perceive our partners place on us. In fact, the word perception is key to understanding what stops us from being truly authentic in our relationships. For example, if we perceive that our partner expects us to be an idealised version of ourselves, we make the assumption that they will not accept our imperfections, which can range from bad habits to our deepest needs and desires. However, our perception is just that – a perception, an assumption that we know exactly what our partner will think if we let them in. These assumptions often come from the belief that others, particularly our partners, view the world, others, even themselves, in exactly the way we do. After all, we are “as one”, as two halves of a whole – aren’t we? Well, no, I don’t believe we are.
We each have our own, unique way of viewing ourselves, the world, other people, which is influenced by our own individual values and experiences. We cannot possibly know what our partner is thinking or feeling, and they cannot possibly know the same for us. Once we truly realise this, we can accept that our assumptions of how our partner will receive our deepest needs, desires, imperfections and foibles are more a reflection of our own view of ourselves. This highlights the importance of developing a healthy relationship with ourselves well as with our partner. It means that just because we might view the fact that we have issues with trust, or a need for reassurance as “needy”, it doesn’t mean that our partner will view it as a negative thing. It also means that as we cannot assume that our partner knows how we feel or what we want, we have to tell them! When we were infants, if we wanted something we would cry and our parents would either instinctively know what we wanted, or they would work it out.
Whilst this works in a parent/child relationship, it cannot work in an adult/adult, romantic relationship. So why would we expect our romantic partners to know what we want or need? Sometimes we even worry that if our partner doesn’t guess correctly, that they must not love us! Just by asking yourself the following questions, you can start to think about how fulfilled you are in your relationship:-
- What are the things I like about my partner/relationship?
- What are the things that I don’t like?
- Am I being honest with myself?
- What are the things that I want from my partner but do not get?
If there are things that you feel need improvement, ask yourself what you think you need to do to to make this happen. What stops you? Are you making assumptions about your partner? Try to write a list of all the potential positive and negative consequences of saying how you feel and the likelihood of each consequence.
Being brave and telling your partner how you feel might be risky, but the payoff can be the growth of a happy and fulfilling relationship, where both parties are genuine and have permission to make mistakes, freedom to be themselves, and a secure base from which to explore the wide world and return to for comfort.
If you are having relationship difficulties, why no speak to one of our specialist therapists. Sessions are available from just £15.00. Contact Kathy Freeman on 01462-674671 option 2 or visit www.localcounsellingcentre.co.uk