Updated: Dec 17, 2020
In my work with couples, I get to see the deep roots of later disasters. Joe and Ariel’s story is pretty typical.
By the time they came to see me their marriage had descended into a whirlpool of bitterness and hurt. Long story short, at the beginning, Joe had seemed like a happy, fun guy. Ariel had seemed like an angel of sweetness and calm. But! In real life, once the period of putting your best foot forward was over, the happy, fun guy part of Joe turned out to be mostly about drinking and blowing off steam with buddies on the weekends, after putting in long, long hours at his job. Ariel? The sweetness and calm were a mask for what had been a long history of depression and a quite negative take on life.
You’ve heard of fake it till you make it? This was fake it till you can’t fake it any longer and then all hell breaks loose.
They both won their prize: marriage to a fake version of another person, Yay!, followed by a bitter, bitter divorce, with a child dragged into the middle of it.
You see, you have one good choice and one really bad choice.
The bad choice is hiding your true self. If you pretend to like stuff that you don’t, to be able to do things that you can’t do, to be a kind of person that you’re not, then you WON’T be able to hide that for long and your partner will not only really not like the real you but will feel betrayed as well. And if you’ve both done that, watch out!
Why do we do this? You know the answer already.
First of all, many of us don’t like ourselves as we really are. We’re sure no one would like us as we are, so we have to try to sell ourselves as we’re not. As if the truth weren’t going to come out!
Second, if we meet someone we like, hey, we want to land the fish, no matter what. Do what you gotta do, close the deal, then deal with the consequences later. As if the consequences won’t be horrific!
This is all too understandable. Particularly in a world—our world!—where people don’t feel all that good about themselves and have all too many experiences of romantic rejection. So I get it. I really do.
But unless you let who you really are show forth—and this is the good choice—I’m telling you you’re just letting yourself in for much more pain and a deeper sense of rejection later on.
You want to know what imperfect people do who find true and lasting love? No, no, no, they don’t say, “Hey, I’m a depressive workaholic!” fifteen minutes into the first date. That’s not what I’m talking about. Sheesh!
It’s just that they don’t hide who they are. Of course, we all lead with our strong points. Of course, we all lead with ways we connect with the other person. It’s just that if your work habits, or your depression, or your indebtedness, or your genital herpes, or your dad’s being in prison are a significant part of your life OR are something YOU’D want to know about the other person, then you have to share before things get serious. Before, in other words, the other person invests his or her heart in you.
If you do that, you’ll be in a win/win situation. If the other person runs the other way, fine. Yeah, it sucks to be rejected, but really all that’s happened is that you’ve weeded out—sooner rather than later—someone with whom you wouldn’t be happy because they wouldn’t be happy with you. You’ve saved a lot of time and misery. So: a win!
But if the other person hangs in there, also a win, and a big one, because now you don’t have to hide anything. There are no landmines waiting to blow up. No secrets waiting to come out. Even better, you’re loved for who you are, and you know it! So: a win!
On the other hand, people who hide the whole story about themselves put themselves at huge risk of their relationship blowing up and of their wasting years of their lives in a bad marriage. What’s the point?