Many are not “true to themselves” within a relationship. They feel that being true to oneself and to the partner – open and aware about own desires, needs, behavior and attitudes and acting according to what they really want – might involve a risk and a price to pay. They think that ignoring their own will is the best way to maintain a relationship. But the opposite is true:
When you are not true to yourself you can’t have a satisfying and healthy intimate relationship.
Being true to yourself means removing your masks and behaving according to your authentic, genuine self, out of a sense of self-worth and empowerment. When you are true to yourself you can be true with your partners. You can then cultivate an authentic and intimate relationship.
Many, however, are not true to themselves: they try to “accommodate” to their partners, at times even at the expense of giving up their own needs, desires and beliefs. They might think this is a way to keep a good relationship, but don’t realize that by not being true to themselves they actually harm the intimacy.
Here are two such examples:
Marilyn was a vegetarian until she met Peter. He made fun of her and expected her to experience his love for meat along with him. Marilyn hesitated, but decided that for the sake of “a good relationship” she was prepared to give up her vegetarian diet. After all, she thought, what could happen if she ate meat once in a while?
For the sake of her relationship Marilyn is prepared to give up something she believes in, which is really important to her. She doesn’t realize that in the long run, this behavior is exactly what might harm and end the relationship.
Julia loves Bill, pampers and cares for him. She’s there to satisfy his needs, just as she’s done with previous partners.
Sometimes Julia gets tired of always being there for him, and would like Bill to pamper her. But she never allows herself to ask. She’s afraid that it might make him angry; that he might stop loving her.
Julia’s need for love and fear of abandonment drive her to not be true to herself, making it impossible for her to develop a bond based on mutual give and take. Her lack of loyalty to herself may boomerang: she might eventually become angry, frustrated, irritated. Not only she might be unable to cultivate an authentic and intimate relationship, but she might ultimately find herself alone, as so many times in the past.
How did you learn to not be true to yourself?
Experiences you had while growing up might have taught you that behaving according to what you desire might have brought unpleasant consequences: criticism, judgmental reactions, punishments and rejection. As a result, you learned – like Marilyn and Julia apparently have – that expressing your needs and desires cost you dearly. Consequently you might have unconsciously learned to ignore what you really wanted, concluding that in order to survive, the best was not to be true to yourself (but rather accommodate your behavior to others’ demands and expectations).
As an adult, you are used to this pattern and are liable to let things happen without really agreeing to them, just so that you will have a partner and will have a relationship. You do so unconsciously, afraid that if you’ll be true to yourself and express your wishes, you may not meet the expectations of your partners; that they might criticize you; be angry at you; not love you; reject or maybe even abandon you.
Jimmy and Ann met through an internet site. After a short period of emailing back and forth, they progressed to phone calls and soon afterwards met at a café. Two days later they went to a movie. On their third date, they walked along the boardwalk in the moonlight, holding hands and breathing each other in.
At the end of the evening, Jimmy drove Ann home to her apartment. On the staircase, they kissed, and Ann thought to herself: what if he expects me to invite him upstairs? I’m not sure I’m ready for that, but I know it’s accepted on a third date. And Jimmy thought to himself: what if Ann asks me up? I don’t know if that suits me at the moment, but what if that is what she expects?
And they went upstairs and went to bed.
Ann is afraid that now that she’s found someone who seems to be nice, he might not want to see her again if she refuses to go to bed with him. Jimmy is afraid that if Ann expects to go to bed and he refuses, she might question his masculinity. So they go to bed on the third date, not really wanting to do so.
Often you are unaware of the fact that you are not true to yourself. If you have an on-going relationship which isn’t satisfying, you feel hurt and angry, not realizing that by not being true to yourself you might have brought it upon yourself (thus tending to blame your partner).
If you fail having an on-going relationship, you might jump from one partner to another, feeling disappointed, frustrated, confused, saying to yourself: “I gave so much!”; “I wanted it so badly”; “I tried so hard” – “so what happened? What went wrong – again? What, for God’s sake, have I done wrong this time?”
You haven’t done anything. What you have not done is be true to yourself; you did not behave according to your will. That’s why once again you have been accumulating anger and frustration and another relationship has ended as so many in the past.
As long as you don’t observe your behavior, develop self-awareness and get up the courage to be true to yourself, you are liable to fail time and again.
Rationalizations and justifications you use when you are not true to yourself
From the beginning, Sally felt that Don was not suitable for her: he didn’t like being touched; he was emotionally closed; he didn’t care about what interested her. Even so, she stayed with him.
When meeting her friends she often comments that “most men are closed”. She tries to convince herself and them that Don has the “potential” to change.
Sally convinces herself that Don has the “potential” to change; that their relationship has the “potential” to improve. It makes disguising the truth more convenient; it enables her to postpone any decision to later.
When you are not true to yourself and not behaving according to your true will and desires, you rationalize and justify to yourselves why you accept the situation as it is:
* “After all, you can’t always do whatever you want.”
* “After all, there is a potential there”.
* “You have to know how to sacrifice and compromise.”
* “I’ll never find a better partner anyway.”
* “All relationships are the same.”
When you use such rationalizations and justifications, it’s easier for you to continue behaving with your partners the way you did in the past, without being true to yourself, without respecting your own will and desires, without being authentic.
But continuing behaving like you have until now will continue harming your relationship.
How to change from not being true to yourself to respecting your own will and be true to yourself?
The way to make a significant change in your behavior is by getting to understand whatever fears and needs control you and drive you to not be true to yourself. Are you afraid of rejection? Are you afraid of being alone? Do you need so much love that you are willing to do whatever your partner wishes, even at the expense of your own self-respect and desires?
When you understand what has driven you to give up on your will and not be true to yourself, and realize the damage it has done to your relationships, you can then begin to make the necessary changes. You will then empower yourself to develop and maintain a satisfying and healthy intimacy.
The following Exercises will enable you to see to what degree you are true to yourself
Are you true to yourself? Use these exercises to check it out! You will then become better equipped to develop a successful intimacy.
1. When you are not true to yourself, what do you want to do, express or request, but don’t dare to?
2. When you have a relationship, what do you find yourself doing that you don’t want to?
3. When you have a relationship, what does your partner request of you that you would prefer to refuse but don’t have the courage to?
4. What prevents you from being true to yourself?
5. How do all these find expression and affect your relationship?
6. What needs to happen for you to get up the courage to be true to yourself?
7. How being true to yourself will affect your relationship?