is paved with lies, betrayals and broken hearts. Harsh words, but I'm not even talking about the people who do that stuff to us. I'm talking about the lying, betraying and breaking of hearts we do to ourselves. It seems like an inordinate number of my friends are in relationship crisis right now (like attracts like), so I'm thinking about what it means to be healthy, authentic, rightside up in all of our lives.
Awhile back I realized that I spent a good deal of my time lying. Oh, I'm not the kind of person who would lie about something like, "Did you leave the milk out to spoil?" I'd say, "Why yes I did. Sorry." I'm talking about this other kind of lying where a person you're afraid of says, "I expect this of you" and you go along with it, not because you want to or believe in it, but to appease that person, to stay on someone's good side. I'm talking about lies like, "I"m happy for you" when really, your heart is being ripped into tiny pieces and you're pretending to be brave when you really want to put dead rabbits in their mail boxes. I mean the lies where you protect or hide part of yourself chronically, secretly.
When you get into the habit of lying, you even start to believe you're telling the truth. You convince yourself that you do want to be inconvenienced, that you're a generous person offering care and support (not that you're a weak person who has no boundaries). It gets even more complicated when you mix in some positive results. You compromise on one issue (because all relationships require compromise, so we're told) and believe you did it out of sincerity and a desire to be loving, when in fact you were hoping to buy some kind of "free from abuse" pass instead.
Compromise birthed from a desire to avoid being punished is not love. It's not even compromise - it's capitulation. Love, in healthy relationships, is genuinely recognizing someone else's needs/likes/habits/desires are different from yours, and that you can celebrate and support those choices, even while possibly not embracing them for yourself. Love is not giving up what you need or violating your conscience or hiding your true self as a way to keep the peace, to paper over differences, to keep the sex good, to preserve the intact family, to avoid ruining your public reputation, to outrun criticism.
Authenticity has such a ring to it, though, doesn't it? Like, who doesn't want to be known as "authentic" or "genuine"? Still, it takes a lot of work once you're in a relationship to preserve your "self." I remember Mira Kirschenbaum wrote that you live a lifestyle, not a relationship. The relationship is a support to a life, not the other way around. When you find that your lifestyle, your life's investments and interests, your values and aspirations, your habits and intentions don't match up to your mate's, the strain to the relationship can be profound.
In a healthy space, those differences are not up for negotiation. They need to be looked at squarely, then taken seriously. If you have a significant overlap in basic outlook and lifestyle, the finer points can be negotiated from the point of view of how to help your mate get what he or she wants out of life even if it isn't what you want. That can't happen if one is a controller, or if what you love/like fundamentally clashes with the value/belief system of the other person.
What I notice in me is that relational peace has been such a driving concern of my life, I've not known where I begin and end. My yearning to extend grace (believing it would be reciprocally extended to me) has led me into lying to myself, betraying some of my deepest felt convictions, and even to heartbreak (not attending to myself well enough for the sake of what I thought was love). I'm noticing even in my friends going through this same kind of sifting... authenticity at first looks like showing up in your own life. Then you can begin the hard work of saying what it is you need and want because you start to know what that is. Expressing that to a partner after years of "going along" takes so much time. It can't be worked out in a few weeks or conversations or therapy sessions. Sometimes it can't be worked out. But it has to happen in order for love to be real.
It's hard to know what you really want when coming out of the fog of appeasement. It seems to me that the first tentative steps to authenticity sound more like: "Not that, not that, not that..."