Put Your Best Foot Forward in Love: Be Your True Self.

Linda was 38-years-old, when I first started treating her. She was in the off mode of a six-year, rocky romantic relationship with a man who she describes as being intolerant of her needs and desires. When she agreed with him and selflessly met his needs with no complaints, they got along well.

Two years into the relationship, Linda tired of catering to his desires and needs. She hated that he verbally mistreated his mother, disliked his politics, stinginess, and was angry with him for emotionally degrading her with his sadomasochistic sex games. That’s when the trouble began. He accused her of lying to him to win him over. He thought she enjoyed their sexual games and was hurt that she disparaged his beliefs and ways. She was “no longer the right mate for him” he said.

Linda never liked his sexual preferences and was appalled the first time she heard him boss his mother around. But, she held her feelings and thoughts back because she didn’t want to lose him. And, she sensed that he couldn’t tolerate differences very well. So Linda became what he emotionally needed to be happy in relationship.

Linda is like many men and women at the start of a romantic relationship. They manage their new lover’s impression of themselves by holding back viewpoints that might lead to disagreement. To some degree, this is understandable. Most of us dip our toes into the social water, so to speak, before we jump in with both feet. We are testing out if it is safe to be authentic.

But, there are people, like Linda who are characteristically agreeable, to avoid social rejection or abandonment. They become very good at identifying people’s needs to insure acceptance and safety. This is a defense called projective identification). When it is used as part of the empathy process, it is a healthy defense. But, it becomes pathological when people use it to satisfy other people’s desires at the expense of their own. This is what happens to children who have narcissistic parents. They learn early on that to get love and approval they need to hold their true selves back and instead mirror the thoughts, feelings and needs of other people (Alice Miller, The Drama of the Gifted Child).

This is exactly what happened to Linda. She knew what her lover wanted and gave it to him, until her true self could no longer be silenced, which was always the stimulus for conflict in her romantic relationship.

What Do We Need To Be Happy in Love?

We need to put our true selves forward from the get go, to have a healthy love relationship. If we want a romantic relationship so badly that we sacrifice our true selves to get it, we don’t love ourselves enough. One day, like Linda, your true self will break loose and cause a lot of relationship conflict.

The benefit of presenting our true selves from the start is that we shoo away people who are really wrong for us. If you find yourself holding back true feelings to meet the fantasies of a lover, you are most likely subconsciously recreating the narcissistic relationship between you and your parent. Like Linda, it won’t take long before you see him or her as selfish, controlling and insensitive to your needs.

Intimacy requires that we bring our whole selves to a relationship. If my patient Linda had understood this better, she could have chosen better and avoided six years of relationship conflict. By Linda’s description of the relationship, I’m fairly certain that Linda’s boyfriend would have rejected her from the get go, if she had made her true preferences known.

But, every experience is a potential source of emotional and spiritual growth. We cannot redo the past. But, we can learn and grow so that our learning curve gets shorter.

Don’t wrap up what you think, feel and need in an attractive, pleasing package that hides the greatest gift that you can give to another person—the real you. Let the following Whole Self Affirmations remind you to stay mindful to your authentic self, in relationship.

  1. I vow to bring my whole self into a romantic relationship from the start.
  2. I welcome opportunities to show my true values, thoughts, and feelings.
  3. I honor authenticity rather than perfection.
  4. I honor an expression of differences as a normal part of healthy relating.
  5. The right person for me is the person who accepts the real me.
  6. Being true to myself is more important to my happiness than keeping up a relationship in which I have to inauthentic.
  7. The extent to which I can bring my real self into an intimate relationship equals the amount of intimacy that I will get from it.
  8. Verbalizing differences is a normal part of intimate relating; it is neither aggressive nor confrontational.
  9. The relationship challenge is to be whole rather than perfect.
  10. I have faith and courage in the future to wait for a romantic partner who will accept the real me.

I hope you liked my post today. Please let me know by selecting the LIKE icon that immediately follows. You can also Tweet or Google+1 today’s post to let your friends know about it. Warm regards, Deborah.

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3 Responses to “Put Your Best Foot Forward in Love: Be Your True Self.”

  1. A question to me re: this article post on my FB page by a friend: http://www.facebook.com/DrDebKhoshabaBlog"For those who are in “circulation,” what is your advice regarding how they can protect themselves against those who do not want to be “real” during dating? What are the red flags and what are the safeguards? Bad marriages, divorces, and of course many lawyers become rich due to the “games” played by those who do not want to be themselves during dating."My friend is right in thinking that if we did our due diligence better in choosing romantic partners, there most likely would be a decrease in bad marriages and in the divorce rate. We can only hope right?So, I’ll focus my comment on what to look for others who do not want to be, as the saying goes –for real. Here are some red flags that point to a person who doesn’t bring his or her whole self to the relationship table. 1. Too perfect to be true: People who have a high degree of narcissism do not put their real selves forward when dating. Why? Narcissists expect perfection in themselves as much as, if not more than they expect it from you. If they are ill, have a family problem, a bad hair day or something else that lessens their opinion of themselves—you may not see them for a couple of days or a week or two. I’m not kidding. They are in hiding until they can put their best foot forward once again.2. Immediate answers for everything: People who are less than real in relationship have a low tolerance for inexactness in their thoughts, feelings and beliefs. They themselves have such firm, authoritarian ideas and opinions that there’s little room for ambiguity in others. Just listen to what they have to say. The older I got, the more I could acknowledge to myself that I do not always have an immediate answer to things. This is a sign of psychological maturity. This doesn’t mean you don’t have opinions. It just means you are open to considering change in yourself as well as in others.3. Rose-colored glasses: Listen to how a date speaks about past experience. People who have difficulty putting their real selves forward tend to describe their experiences from a rose-colored glasses perspective. Now, I can understand on the first few dates most people don’t want to air their dirty laundry. But, as you get to know a person, do the rose-colored glasses stay on her? It is not that people have to see their experiences as terrible to be real. It is rather do they talk about their past that shows some learning and personal growth. 4. Distances from self: How a person talks about experience, once again, reveals much about the degree to which they can truly be themselves. How does your date talk about himself? Do conversations mainly favor external events rather than conversations about what he or she thinks, feel and believes? Are self-descriptions simple rather complex? I’m always this or that with nothing in between. This is a simple description. Simple, black and white self-descriptions with little areas of gray point to little personal growth. Keep this in mind people who are less than real in relationship usually don’t know themselves too well, rather than trying to outright deceive you. Everyone is on a personal journey of psychological and spiritual growth. We progress at different rates. There are many likable, great people who don’t know themselves too well and thus not ready to be real in a relationship. If you get better at spotting those who are not ready, you don’t have to waste time with them, get angry because they can’t give you what you need, and create unnecessary dramas along the way.

  2. Dr Debbie,I'll take the real thing to go, or rather to stay, hold the fake and the fear…a good reminder, thanks!


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