Have you ever changed yourself, or pretended to be someone you’re not, to impress the object of your affection? There’s no shame in admitting it. Most of us have at some point. So often, we craft this image of ourselves to meet someone else’s ideal. The problem is that your true self will eventually reveal itself; you can’t constantly hide your most intimate truths forever – not from someone you spend more time with than anyone else. And besides, wouldn’t you rather be yourself anyway?
In a recent blog (“Commitment is Overrated“), I discussed how we feel more empowered in relationships, and less needy and insecure about our romantic partners’ level of commitment when we shift the focus to the ways we deliver value to them. A reader subsequently asked, “How can we deliver value to our partners?”
I have hinted at this in many of my posts, but here it is, in black and white: The most lucrative way to deliver value is to simply be your authentic self. Be yourself in all of your grandeur and self doubt. Be yourself in all of your confidence, weirdness, mood swings and bad breath. You are valuable. Don’t hide it. Share the stuff you are trying to make sense of, dealing with and working through. Let your partners see that you’re not perfect, because guess what – neither are they.
At some point, you will pass gas, giggle inappropriately and have an awkward social moment in front of your mate. Life happens, and if your partner is going to be beside you, he or she is going to witness it at some point. As we present our true selves, we become vulnerable, which is difficult and uncomfortable for many of us. We worry about our partners’ reactions, and while we hope they will receive and embrace who we are, we know that such revelations mean risking rejection, and no one wants that.
Yes, the risk is great. But the rewards are even greater. There are few things as satisfying as being able to say (and truly believe) that someone truly knows you – and loves you because of, or in spite of, it. That, my friend, is true friendship and intimacy, and at least in my estimation, it is worth the risk.
Make no mistake. I am not suggesting that we should not do things to please our partners, be aware of what they need from the relationships and cultivate the practice of give-and-take. Of course, there are relationships where there isn’t much compromise, and yet both partners are being true to who they are. There are people who want to be the leader and take care of their partners, and there are partners who wish to have someone else make the decisions and to be taken care of. There is no right or wrong way for a partnership to work; that is entirely in the eyes (and hearts) of the individuals in each relationship. The danger comes when someone hides or sacrifices part of him or herself for the sake of a mate.
There are numerous issues that people tend to feel the need to hide in relationships – a lot of them for good reason. Many people are put off by people who have body odor, are overweight, can’t cook, won’t get or keep a job, want more than one partner, keep a messy house, smoke or whatever. The list can be pretty extensive. Then, of course, there are a million personality traits that we fear may cause us to be rejected. But whatever “imperfections” we have, there are people who wouldn’t care a bit, or at least wouldn’t consider your quirks deal breakers as long as they’re getting what matters to them out of the relationship.
So, it’s important to be clear about what you do have to offer to a romantic partner. Perhaps you’re a complete slob who is also funny and nurturing. Or perhaps you’re unemployed, but you are thoughtful and a fantastic cook. Once you feel good about the value you bring to the table, you can feel confident enough to be yourself (whatever may come) – and let your partner be him or herself as well. For long-term relationship success, it’s important that both partners get to show their true colors without judgment. Who cares if your best friend, sister, mother or co-worker “would never date a smoker”? If you don’t care … don’t care. If it doesn’t really bother you (at least not in the grand scheme of things) if your partner stinks, is indecisive, sees other people or puts on weight, don’t let it bother you. And tell your partner that. Imagine how great it would feel to hear the person you love say those three little words – “I accept you.”
If you cannot be yourself in your relationship, or if you cannot allow your partner to be authentic, then ask yourself, honestly, if this person is truly your partner. Is one or both of you dating an ideal, an actor, an illusion? The only way to answer this question is to show your cards. Take the risk, and reveal who you really are, so that your true self can find true love with someone as weird and scared as you are, someone who is looking to be accepted, too, and can’t wait to meet you.
If you got all of that, now you can chew on the fact that this revered acceptance we all want to receive may be temporary…and that is ok. We’ll chat about that soon.
PS: To become a Frank Love sponsor you can make a one-time contribution or contribute monthly by clicking on the amount you’d like to donate each month: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $35, $50, $75, $100, $200 or $500.