“To thine own self be true.” ~ William Shakespeare
In an article published on Science Daily, a direct correlation has been made between dating experiences and the level of authenticity a person exhibits about himself. The study looked at how individuals’ ability to see themselves clearly and objectively, and their behaviors in relation to their beliefs influence their dating experiences. Not surprisingly, those who were able to be more authentic in their behaviors and with partners in relationships reported more positive dating experiences.
In looking back on my first marriage, I see many things that I did that did not reflect my beliefs, and I had a difficult time interacting honestly with many people close to me, most especially with my ex-husband. I did not behave in ways that were consistent with my beliefs. Before ever getting married, I had numerous red flags to indicate that the relationship would never work out. Our beliefs were on opposite ends of the spectrum. At the time I believed this was simply a case of “opposites attract”.
I have always vehemently believed that women should be treated with respect, their opinions valued, and that in order to have a successful relationship one must first be able to be friends with their partner. These were things that my ex-husband and I struggled with the entire time we were married. I often felt disrespected and as though my opinions didn’t matter, and he often expressed feeling that I was friends with everyone else on the planet except him. While I cannot speak for him, I do believe that toward one another we both behaved in ways that we both regret today.
Fast forward six years. It almost came as an overnight revelation to me that I needed to get out of the relationship. I hated the person staring back at me in the mirror. I had sacrificed so much of my true self in order to please him. I no longer had any idea who I was. I behaved in a manner that even I did not agree with, and not in a manner that left me very proud of myself.
I have many friends who report similar experiences. When entering relationships that caused them to sacrifice their beliefs and convictions, the relationship nearly always eroded and ended in break-up or divorce.
After my separation and subsequent divorce, I took a long time getting to know myself again. It seems unfathomable to me now to think that at the time my marriage ended, I couldn’t even tell you what my favorite food was. I continued to frequent restaurants my ex used to insist we visit when we were together for nearly a year before I realized that I really did not enjoy eating hamburgers all the time. During the course of my marriage I had become extremely sedentary. As a result, I snacked a lot and gained nearly eighty pounds during the course of our marriage. It took me roughly six months of single life to lose all of that and then some. With the exception of fifteen pounds I have declared war on since the birth of my youngest daughter in October 2010, I have kept all of that weight off.
I rediscovered music on the radio and realized that my taste was much broader than it had been while I was married. I learned that I enjoyed keeping busy and staying active much more than I enjoyed parking my butt on the couch with a bag of chips and the remote control every weekend. I learned that the world would not come to an end if I did not check my email multiple times an hour. I could actually go days without checking my email and there was not much that I missed!
Enter my current husband. I was still in the midst of learning all of these things about myself when we met and started dating. However, I had vowed to myself that I would never allow myself to remain in a relationship where I felt invisible as I had in my prior marriage. When we were dating, I found my voice and I learned how to speak up about my wants and needs. When we decided to move in together, before we ever went through with it, I expressed my concerns about merging our families. I had two daughters from my first marriage and he had one daughter from his first marriage. Needless to say, we had a breakdown in communication regarding our children and it nearly cost us our relationship.
However, during all of those tough times, it could have been easy for me to ignore my beliefs and convictions for the sake of keeping the peace… but that isn’t who I am anymore. I could not sacrifice my beliefs and convictions and I would not sacrifice my moral compass. Never in a relationship have I made it such a priority to be so brutally honest about my feelings. While in hindsight I can see ways in which I could have handled various situations differently, I have no regrets. Now, after over five years together, our relationship is more solid and fulfilling than ever, and we have learned valuable skills for dealing with conflict in the future.
The study cited in the article on Science Daily confirmed that when men and women act in constructive, healthy ways in a relationship, it increased their partner’s satisfaction with the relationship. The study found that “men and women who reported being more true to themselves also behaved in more intimate and less destructive ways with their partner, and that led them to feeling their relationship was more positive”.
Lead author of the study, Amy Brunell stated “being true to yourself doesn’t mean you should accept all your flaws and not try to make positive changes in your life. But you should be aware of both your limitations and areas where you can improve”.
“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not.” ~ Andre Gide