You might have read the title and said, “How could my relationships be inauthentic? I’m the one experiencing them!” Ok, maybe you didn’t say that haha, but nonetheless allow me to break this down for you.
We live in a world where being self-centered is the status quo. We often spend the majority of our time asking ourselves how can this experience, person, or activity benefit us. Sure, there are many times where we do things for the benefit of others. However, at the end of the day we are in the business of looking out for ourselves. This is perfectly normal, so don’t feel guilty for it. Also, we all have a different realty. Two people may be in the same situation or hear the same sound but interpret it completely different. So, these two factors contribute to the creation of inauthentic relationships. Let’s dive a little deeper into how this works.
But What About Me?
As mentioned above, we are in the business of looking out for our own best interest. This can be toxic when interacting with people in our lives. Of course, we all want that perfect boyfriend or girlfriend who will set our world on fire. We want that friend who is there for us and understands us 100%, but can you already see how the idea of always looking out for our best interest might augment the relationships we have with our friends and significant others? What we tend to do a lot of times is play the role of enforcer. We will accept someone into our life, then proceed to mold them into our ideal friend or wife.
Allow people to be themselves. We often times will miss out on the experience of whom a person is because we are too busy trying to convert them into what we want them to be for our own benefits. When this is done, the person we are with will either change themselves for you or resent you for trying to change them. Either way, the result is not all that desirable. The beauty in relationship is the uniqueness of the individual. It’s no wonder that so many marriages fail in this day and age. Also, let us not ignore the large number of older couples whom are unhappy together. When you fail to see and accept an individual for their true authentic self, you will never be fully comfortable with them. They will do things that you do not approve of, they will believe in certain ideas that you personally don’t like, and they will constantly be changing. This sounds like a recipe for disaster and it is. So, it’s ideal to shift the way we approach our relationships. Instead of trying to control and force someone into a mold, we begin to appreciate people for whom they are. This sounds simple, but it can be quite difficult at first.
First, you must learn how to see an individual’s authenticity. This can be developed through active listening skills, having an open mind when interacting with this individual, being non-judgmental so that this person can be themselves around you, and asking probing questions. So many times, people don’t even have a good idea of the person they are with until years down the road. We put on our pretty masks to impress the other person, while simultaneously ignoring the truths of whom the other person is. This is yet another recipe for disaster.
Next, once we begin to get a clearer vision of whom this person is at their core, we have a decision to make. We can then decide where this person fits into our life. Some people might be a better fit as a friend, some a significant other, and some aren’t fit for your life at that particular time. Now you might be thinking, “But wait! Isn’t this the same thing as looking out for your best interest. How is this any different?” The difference is that you are no longer trying to force anyone to benefit you. You are accepting what people are giving you and then making a conscious decision as to the role they might play in your life. I must stress importance of having an open mind. If you are not open to listening to and sorting through lifestyles and ideas that are not in alignment with yours, then this will not work! So with that said, let me provide an example of both.
Example 1: I meet a woman that I find attractive, and we begin to spend some time with one another. Not wanting to lose this woman, I put on my best front at all times. Her not wanting to give me the wrong impression, she puts on her best front at all times as well. In my mind, she has to be my girlfriend no matter what. Look at her…She’s stunning! With this in mind, I proceed forward blindly. We end up becoming an “official couple”, and life is sweet. Later down the line the fronts we had up begin to fade away. I begin to uncover several things about this woman that I honestly have a hard time dealing with, and I’m not the most open minded when it comes to certain things. On top of all of this, I’ve had this idea of what my ideal woman will be like. You know…a good cook, Christian, loves to travel, and doesn’t talk way too much are among a few of the things on that list. Fast forward some, and I’m now frustrated with the relationship that I am in. I try to change the woman I committed to and fail at doing so. I must either decide to leave this woman that I think I love or suffer through it with only the hope of things getting better one day. Now of course there are many pieces missing in this story, but it provides a sufficient outline.
Example 2: I meet a woman that I find attractive, and we begin to spend some time with one another. I begin the process immediately of first trusting myself and her to be genuine around her. This means that I am behaving how I would behave if I were by myself. I am saying what I want to say and allowing her to see into myself. Then, I apply what I mentioned earlier…having an open mind when interacting with this individual, being non-judgmental so that this person can be themselves around me, and asking probing questions. Through this we are able to see each other for whom each of us are, rather we like it or not. This gives us the power to make an informed decision as to where we are to go next. However, before abruptly making a decision, I express my concerns (assuming I know what it is that I want). Just because you’re not trying to force someone to change doesn’t mean that a compromise can’t be made. After hearing my concerns, she then has a choice to compromise to meet my concerns or not to. Because there is an early understanding of each other, there are no premature commitments made or major surprises down the road (there are always things we can’t account for). If we decide to enter into a relationship, it will be built upon understanding of one another and our needs, honest expression, and an appreciation for the other individual. However, I’m not trying to preach that things will now be perfect. Things will come up, and people are always evolving. But because you love and respect that person for them, you will be able to evolve with them or accept the changes that came with that person. Also, if one takes this type of approach, they have to be willing accept the loss of people in their lives. There will be times where someone might not be able to accept all that you are presenting to them and times where you will need to walk away from an individual as well.
Once again, these examples are merely templates. The most amazing thing happens when you approach things this way. You begin to find potential and love for everyone. You see that people are not just beautiful and amazing because of the specific qualities that they exhibit, but due to the plain fact that they are human.
As I mentioned earlier, we all have our own realities. Rather intentionally or not, we oftentimes try to force our reality onto another. We want other people to experience and understand life the same way we do. This is a great roadblock to the development of authentic relationships. By doing this, we are invalidating the life and experiences of another. We essentially say, “What you think and do is cool and all, but what I think and do is much better. Abandon yourself for me.” This is most commonly seen with parenting and other forms of authority. A parent might believe that a successful human gets a great paying job, is tied strongly to their faith, and will raise a beautiful family with several children. Their child on the other hand might believe that their calling is art, they aren’t too certain about the whole religion thing, and they might not want kids in the future. However, growing up this child has their parents, teachers, and other people’s beliefs forced upon them almost 24/7. They are told what to want in life, what not to do, how to go about living a life that someone else wants and etc. This is yet another recipe for disaster. This might also lead to explain why many people have strained and unnatural experiences with people whom are supposed to be their leaders and teachers. People do not enjoy being forced to do anything, especially if it is against their will. They will either rebel against it or accept it with a burdened and resentful heart. So, what is ideal? Open, 2-way communication is definitely a start. When both parties are able to listen to what the other has to say, then understanding and respect will grow.
As you can see, the whole basis of this post is to allow people to live their lives. In doing so, you can live yours as well. This life shouldn’t be about forcing someone to like you, forcing a relationship to work, forcing someone to obey your guidance, or forcing anything for that matter. Fear of not being accepted will begin to diminish. And most noticeably, we will see people for who and what they are, not who and what we want them to be.
The next time you spend alone time with a new person, try and really see where that person is coming from. Observe their body language and mannerisms, ask questions to really allow them to open up, and be yourself around them. A question that I love to ask is, “How do you see yourself, and how do you think others see you?” Allow them to look into themselves and pull something out for you to enjoy.