Are we in Pretend Love?
The story of one of my sweet and sometimes sinister young mentees might help us decide for ourself. One afternoon she called me, bursting to share the joy of her “healthiest relationship ever.” After ten years of hearing her stories and mentoring her through fear and disempowerment, it was good to hear her happy tone. She said she had been dating a guy for a while, and went on to exclaim, “We tell each other everything now! We’ve gotten past that big hurdle. You know, the one everybody goes through when we don’t want to tell the other person who we really are because we’re afraid they’ll leave, and we don’t want it to end.”
It’s so easy to admire the honesty of her description! Can any of us relate? Have you ever pretended to be something you weren’t, hoping that you could get people to stay?
Later in the evening, I thought about what she said and wondered, does “everybody” go through this hiding, lying, and pretending period in a relationship? And how did this ever seem like a good idea? After many years of coaching people to be empowered, my experience has been that we choose to pretend when we FEEL afraid, and think we are not enough. The less proud of ourself we are, the more we think we need to pretend in order to be accepted. Instead of admitting to someone that we are afraid, we lie.
Let’s take a quick look at the behind the scenes of how the pretend game rolls.
For example, let’s say that we really, really, really like someone (ok, I feel like a teenager now). And let’s say we decide not to tell them who we are, because we decide that who we are isn’t good enough. So we lie and say we’re more, or something else. Or maybe we don’t lie. Maybe we just don’t say who we really are, and instead, we say whatever we think the other person wants to hear. It might sound something like this, “I love you so much! I want to raise a garden with you, fold your underwear, dance under the stars naked and cook spaghetti for you at midnight! I want to ride horses together and lick ice cream from your bottom lip, but not at the same time! And we can do whatever we want every day, because I own a bank!”
Now, let’s just say that the person we’re telling this to buys into our baloney—hook, line, and sinker… and we bag the Big Buck. If the reality of who we are is the opposite of what we said, the Buck is in for a big surprise. If we actually: love our ex, hate getting our hands dirty, don’t do laundry, are too shy to be naked anywhere but in the shower (and maybe there too), can’t cook for crapola and go to bed at nine every night, that Big Buck’s antlers are going to become weapons of mess destruction. And who can blame him? We, as we ARE, are not who we presented ourself to be. He didn’t agree to be in a relationship with us as we are—he agreed to be in a relationship with our pretend self. Pretty cheesy of us to think that would work. By the way, for those of us who like language, the word cheesy in this context, means blatantly inauthentic.
The big fat farce here is that we justify our behavior by thinking we’ll keep ‘em by pretending.
As we get more comfortable in a relationship and begin sharing more, our deepest thoughts and feelings may not be anything like—or opposite of—what we pretended to be. When this happens, the person that we say that we love has every right to feel manipulated, hurt, afraid and angry, which usually drives them to leave. Wasn’t this exactly what we said we were trying to avoid? And doesn’t this sound exciting for everyone??! Ahhh yes, most of us have been on that wild ride at one time or another, it’s called the rollercoaster of lies and drama, yippeeeee!
If we continue on that ride, it renders us powerless.
Whenever we pretend about who we are, at ANY level, we undermine our power. By pretending to be someone bigger than we are, we assume that we are unworthy of love, AS we are. And when we believe THAT lie, we will feel an empty hole in our heart. And after our loved one leaves us in search of someone who really IS who we were pretending to be, and we shut Life/God out because we’re hurt and angry, the only thing we may feel we have left to turn to for some solace is some form of mildly entertaining punishment like addiction, which may temporarily provoke us more that the pain we feel from the loss of our partner.
Deep down, what we really want is to be real and be loved.
In the deepest part of who we are, we want to truly know and love ourself–SO much so, that we can proudly speak our truth of who we are, what we want and what we believe. What we really want is to not lose our true self. We want to accept, honor and respect our self, whether we’re in a relationship or out of a relationship. It’s this connection with ourself that we really want and need and desire. And it’s this connection that requires truth.
Finding True Power and Willpower.
Living in an empowered way means knowing and “walking” in the confidence of who we are. It means not pretending, and this takes courage. As Maya Angelou said, “Courage is the most important virtue, because without courage we can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” We must be courageous to be truthful about who we are, and to keep a real connection with ourself and our partner.
So instead of freaking out about being truthful, we can just fess up.
Let’s not be the cowardly lion. Why let our truth scare us? As the old passage goes, “the truth will set (us) free.” If you’re thinking about breaking free of the pretend game—or you’re bored with the passé life of pretending, here are two ways to fess up.
First, the easiest way to share truth.
The easiest way to start telling the truth is to start telling the truth to strangers and new people we meet. This limits the impact of consequences. For example, let’s say we’re going on a blind date. The person sitting across the table says, “Tell me about yourself.” We share a robust list of our most stellar qualities. In the past, we may have intentionally omitted that we’re also a not-so-wealthy-shopaholic. Now let’s see this through. In the spirit of turning a new leaf and being honest, we know that we can only hide those 25 boxes of “had to have it” clearance Christmas ornaments for so long. If the dates go well, the person we’re dating is going to find out sooner or later. So, why not make it sooner? If they don’t like us, we can get it over with quickly, like pulling a tooth. If we admit our shopaholic tendencies within the first three meetings, our date can make up their mind about whether they want us. Either way, we win. If they decide that we’re “the one,” they cannot rightfully be disappointed when we buy all the clearance items on the shelf after Christmas, because they knew. And, if they decide that they don’t want us after three dates—well, that’s WAY easier than after three months, or whenever they find out. And, BONUS! If they don’t leave, we know they’re satisfied with us as we are, and we won’t feel like a shophead for lying, hiding, and pretending. Our self-worth will increase and we’ll feel better about ourself and our relationship. And, the longer we tell our truth and surround ourself with people who like us for who we are, the more likely it will be we may not “need” the shopping addiction anymore. We have nothing to lose but people who don’t really want us anyway.
The second way is harder.
Long-term pretending is the most challenging to confess. I’ve mentored many people who were married, had children, and were having affairs for years. Some were having affairs with the opposite sex, others—affairs with the same sex. Either way, the burden they carried of lying, hiding, and pretending to their spouse and extended families also led them to believe that addictions would help them cope. Many of them drank a lot, some decided to have random meet-up sexual encounters to cope, others turned to porn, drugs, and workaholism—just trying to feel accepted and “ok” for a “little while.”
It can be much more difficult to tell someone our truth when we have been lying and pretending for a long time. We start to feel responsible for continuing to lie to them, on the mistaken premise that lying to them saves them from being hurt. The “funny” thing is, that if we’re not the kind of person that they need and want, we’ve already hurt them, just by being who we are and making the choices that we made. Fessing up doesn’t hurt them… it hurts us. It hurts us to admit we’ve been lying, to know we’ve hurt other people and to receive their anger and consequences—even if those consequences may be warranted.
Pretending can be an immense pressure on us. Keeping up the lies can be exhausting, and at best, cost us a lot of precious time, energy, and effort to remember them and recite them as needed. If you’ve “had it” with the pressures of long-term pretending and are ready to take a step towards living your truth, you might consider applying one of these three tips,
- Find at least ten minutes—whether in the privacy of the car, the park, the bathroom, or a counselor’s office, and say your truth, out loud. It might begin like this, “I have been lying to someone I say that I love.” Then, we can feel that truth. By staying with that truth and feeling how it feels, without running to our lover, drink, drug, or distraction, we begin to process the experience. Feelings are like the weather… they don’t last forever, but they need to be felt for us to begin shifting our perspective.
- Know that we are strong enough to change our choices when we’re ready. If we decided to lie, we can decide to tell the truth. We need not let ourself be bullied by the fear of what will happen.
- If we’re ready for bold action, another option is to make a clean sweep. Some people who were involved in long-term pretending chose to get groups of affected people together. People were invited to gather in a “safe” place with a “safe” person, counselor, or guide. The truth was admitted to everyone at once. It’s like a self-imposed intervention. Although the anticipation of this event can be nerve-wrecking, it can also be cathartic and freeing.
Most of us live in a percentage of truthfulness and are prodded to consider becoming more authentic when we’re experiencing heavy consequences from pretending. Complete authenticity is a beautiful, wild treasure, experienced often in nature with her animals, but not as often with her people. But don’t worry, or take all this too seriously. Authenticity happens one choice at a time! We can just laugh at our old pretend self, let loose, and get on with it! As the impressive clergyman says in the movie The Princess Bride, “Love, true love, will follow you forever.” And the way to find true love is first to be true! If haven’t seen that classic movie, I hope you do, it’s sure to make the whole family laugh, while teaching us a little about love along the way.
So, what say ye?
Please share your thoughts and feelings about today’s topic in the comments section, so we may grow in courage, authenticity and willpower together!
Always with Love,