Everything from the concept of individualism to Disney movies, from leadership advice to romance novels, and from motivational speeches to soap operas all share a common theme. They sell us on a polished idea of self-fulfillment. They suggest that we always have an absolute right, even a moral duty, to be our true selves, no matter the circumstances.
They lead us to believe in a world where everything effortlessly falls into place and relationships are perpetually perfect. They promise us fairy tale endings that last forever. But this is not true. It’s a fanciful and unrealistic expectation. We need to see it for what it is – pure illusion.
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The Reality of Relationships
Relationships aren’t always a bed of roses. True, some couples experience an instantaneous connection. But keeping that connection alive, letting it blossom into a lifelong bond, is an entirely different challenge. To navigate this challenge, we must relinquish a toxic belief that has probably sabotaged many past relationships.
This toxic belief is that “my relationship is where I’m free to be myself, where I have the right to be whoever I want and do whatever I want.”
The Trap of Unrestricted Authenticity
The longing to be authentic, to feel valued for our true selves, is universal. We all desire a partner who loves us for who we are. But here’s the crux – being too authentic can compromise your relationship.
Consider this scenario. After a grueling day, you might yearn for food, intimacy, and rest. But your partner might have different needs. A conflict arises if both parties stick to their individual needs without considering the other. Someone ends up feeling neglected or overwhelmed.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Relationships require us to love each other in our most relaxed, natural states – tired, unglamorous, and occasionally cranky. But you can’t be “yourself” all the time. Relationships involve negotiation and compromise.
Stepping into Your Relationship Role
Every relationship thrives on interdependence, cooperation, and considering each other’s needs. In every interaction, there’s a need for balance – you can’t take without giving.
If you insist on being yourself without considering the needs of others, then you’re only taking. If everyone did that, no one would receive anything. Therefore, it’s crucial to contribute to the relationship.
Insisting on being “yourself” without compromise can cause your relationship to deteriorate. However, what’s the point of being in a relationship if you can’t be yourself? This paradox might seem puzzling, but there’s a solution.
Striking the Balance
The only place you can entirely be yourself is when you’re alone. In other life scenarios, you must adapt yourself to fit your role – be it as a friend, employee, or child. Stray from this role, and you forfeit its associated benefits.
To sustain your relationship, you need to become the person your partner needs without compromising your core values or adopting uncomfortable behaviors. It might sound unromantic, but it’s a vital realization.
The Power of Self-Reflection
If you’re encountering challenges in your relationships, introspecting might be beneficial. By honestly answering the following questions, you can gain insightful revelations:
- What is my role in this relationship? (Partner, lover, listener, problem-solver, etc.)
- What initially attracted my partner to me? (Don’t stop doing this!)
- What excuses do I make to avoid fulfilling my role optimally?
- What are my “bad” behaviors that I easily lapse into?
- What’s the reason for my lack of interest in fulfilling others’ needs?
Earning Good Relationships
A good relationship is not an inherent right but a privilege you must earn. When you’re alone, by all means, bask in your unadulterated self. However, when you’re with your partner, strive to be the person they need. This delicate equilibrium between authenticity and adaptability forms the foundation of a robust, lasting relationship.
Fixing the Root Cause
Are you struggling to give your relationship the care it needs to thrive? Then, it’s time to introspect. Use the questions mentioned earlier to dig deeper and address the real issues.
If things still don’t work, then there is no harm in reassessing your relationship. There is no point in wallowing in misery. It is crucial for everyone in a relationship to be happy.
Remember, leaving an unhealthy relationship is not a sign of failure. Instead, think of it as a step towards self-preservation. It’s a move that could lead you toward a happier future.
In conclusion, the fantasy of unrestrained individuality in relationships is just that – a fantasy. Reality requires a balance of authenticity and adaptation, of give and take. It’s not always an easy path, but the rewards of a thriving, loving relationship make the journey worth it.