Do you ever wonder what likes and dislikes you should express in your relationship–or HOW you should express those feelings?
Are you ok? Do you need something to drink? How about a pillow? I want you to be comfortable while you’re reading this!
For most of my life, I’ve been so focused on OTHER people—what do they like? What do they need? I was so focused on what others like, I wasn’t aware of what I liked or needed. Even now, I want you to be comfortable while you’re reading this–and didn’t check in with myself to see that I am comfortable writing this!
But a lifetime of not being in touch with myself and not tending to my own needs eventually started taking a toll. I was feeling empty, unsatisfied, unhappy. I felt alone even when I was with someone–because I wasn’t with me. I wasn’t expressing my true thoughts, needs, or desires.
I went on dates and smiled at the right times and nodded my head at the right times, and said, Oh, that’s so interesting, but inside, it was SO not interesting to me. My real self was utterly bored and gagging.
The absurdity of that when I look back still blows me away. I wanted to be liked and loved for who I was, for someone to know ME, but I wasn’t even there. How could they know me, or know my likes and dislikes in a relationship? I was so focused on their experience, I wasn’t expressing my true thoughts, needs, ideas, opinions, or feelings.
Can you relate? Have you ever done something that felt completely NOT you just to fit in? To not make anyone else uncomfortable? I wanted to find true love, but how could I find that when I wasn’t true to myself?
Do you know that each of us experiences 200 lies a day? That’s seven lies an hour!
Do you also know that 100% of dating couples lie? 100%! And how about this? We’re more likely to lie to our co-workers than strangers.
Somewhere in our lives, most of us have been taught consciously or subconsciously that certain parts of ourselves were NOT ok. So, we created false selves–only presenting certain aspects of ourselves to the world around us and hiding the parts we thought were not ok. These false selves were formed by the time we were seven years old, and we continue to build on them throughout our lives.
But imagine how powerful we could be if we let ourselves be vulnerable and honest—if we showed up, and kept showing up, as our authentic selves.
“This above all, to thine own self be true.”
– William Shakespeare
Once we understand that our authentic selves are exactly who we need to be–and ultimately what the world wants and needs us to be–we can realize that we don’t have to hide behind our false selves anymore!
My awakening came when I had my first blind date with John. I had decided I was going to tell the truth on dates. Finally, I was done smiling and nodding and pretending to like whatever the person sitting across from me was saying.
I was done being fake, and I decided to tell the truth. My likes and dislikes in relationships, what I agreed or disagreed with, to give my dates my true reactions to what they were saying and how they were being.
And dang if he didn’t respond in the same way!
It was kind of shocking at first. But it was also kind of electric. Something real was happening here. This wasn’t about two people trying to impress each other.
This was two people being exactly who they were and discovering exactly who the other person was. We were getting to know each other AS OURSELVES.
And that’s where the sparks are.
I wasn’t trying to please him, and I wasn’t trying to present myself in some false way. And neither was he.
It was scary to go against the grain. To say what I liked and didn’t like. But it was also fresh and alive, intimate, and real. And when that is the truth of the moment we’re living, we’re way more likely to get what we want!
You can apply this in a lot of ways (wink wink).
And this is not only true for romantic relationships, but for our relationships with our families, friends, and co-workers too.
…And letting them both be known is crucial!
Of course, I’m not saying we should just dump all over people. But often in relationships, people expect us to be mind readers. Or we expect them to read our minds. We complain that this person doesn’t know what we want, but we never told them what we want to begin with!
Yes, of course, relationships should have happy moments, but WE are 100% responsible for our happiness and satisfaction—in AND out of relationships.
And we are 100% responsible for our likes and dislikes in our relationships.
Early in our relationship, John and I decided we would have a “no secrets” contract. Was it challenging? Yes. Does it continue to be? Yes! There are many times I don’t want to divulge the truth. I don’t always want him to know even how much I’ve spent on a pair of shoes. But because of our commitment to no secrets, I must dig a little deeper and explore why I don’t want him to know. Is it because I don’t think I deserve to spend that money on myself? Is it because I’m afraid he might judge my decision? Am I worried that this purchase might somehow make me less loveable?
Now I’m getting somewhere. One of my deepest yearnings is to be loved. I’m risking that he will stop loving me by telling him this truth. Or at least that’s what my mind is telling me.
But our relationship is built on being real, sharing everything, telling the truth, letting each other know what we’re feeling and thinking. And also, being responsible in our communications–cleaning things up when we’ve been out of line. We’ve built a foundation of trust that allows me to take that risk.
And if something does happen, I know we’ll handle that. And get to know ourselves and each other better because of it.
Conflict helps us grow. In the book John and I co-wrote, The Heart of the Fight, we identify that the common thread of most conflicts is unmet yearnings. Those longings we wish our relationship would satisfy for us. But when we accept that we are 100% responsible for our own happiness, that conflict shifts too.
Can you see how the ripples of being ourselves can so powerfully affect every part of all our relationships?
The risk of being ourselves in our relationships is a big one. But it’s worth it.
After practicing it for so many years, I now WANT people to tell me what they like and don’t like. And I rarely (because we are all works in progress) try to fake my way through a conversation or a meeting just to make someone more comfortable. I value forthrightness—in others and myself.
We don’t have to be anyone else. Come on—let’s take off our masks and let our real selves shine! To discover more about living up to your full potential, don’t miss our resources on Wright Now. We have many different courses available to help you discover more about yourself, your relationships, and your career. Get MORE today!
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.