Still, many of us choose to hide behind a façade of who we aren’t because we are so afraid to let our partner know who we really are. We are sure that if he or she would get to know the real us, they would reject us.
What we have learned in our own relationship, and in the last few decades of providing relationship counseling to the couples we work with, is how damaging it is when a partner masquerades through the romance wearing an emotional suit of armor. It may feel safe to the partner locked up in there, but we cannot get in to love them, nor have we been able to figure out a way to receive any love from them either.
We might have once believed that the masks we wear protect us from rejection and satisfy the profile that we believe others are looking for in us. We wore whatever face we thought our partner wanted us to wear. But this kind of behavior seldom works out well. We cannot pretend to be someone that we are not without real consequence to our relationship.
Members in 12-Step recovery circles who have had the opportunity to deliver or receive a 5th Step, will describe a depth of acceptance that is possible when one person rightly aligns himself or herself with another. The alignment is one of honesty, openness, and willingness. During these 5th Step encounters we intuitively know that honesty and acceptance are vital elements of the healing experience. When we are the ones receiving the self-disclosure of the other recovering member we strive to be as non-judgmental as possible to those who choose us to receive their inventory.
But how many of us are too afraid to risk exposing ourselves in other relationships to that same level of intimacy as we do with our recovery friends? And what do we do when our partner wishes to share transparently with us? Do we offer the same unconditional love and acceptance that we would offer a stranger? Too often our own fear gets in the way and we want to control, fix, or manipulate rather than merely listen.
It truly is fear, and our fear is seldom founded. The trick is to simply listen, just like we do in recovery. Our job is not to fix our partner but simply to share honestly and to listen honestly. Pray for the patience and grace to be a listener rather than a “fixer.” And allow those people that you care for to see you without your disguise.
If you can do this, the acceptance and love you receive in return will be enduring. You do not need to trick people into liking “who you want them to think that you are”. Take off your masks and give them a chance to like you for who you really are.
Please click HERE to share with us some of the ways you may have grown in to your own intimacy journey. What have been some of your fears to opening up to a partner? Or perhaps you have been afraid to support your partner’s self disclosure to you. We would like to hear from you!
This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on their upcoming publication titled “A Decision to Be IN Love” (Leadem & Leadem, 2014).
In this next publication John and Elaine address the challenges associated with establishing or rebuilding romantic health and provide valuable tools for building romantic bonds.
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Last reviewed: 11 Aug 2014