Most of us wear a mask, presenting ourselves as we want people to perceive us, not only in dating but in life. We decide how much and how soon to reveal our true selves based on the connection and trust we have with another. If we are feeling safe enough to let our hair down, we reveal our authentic selves, warts and all. Sometimes this occurs soon after beginning dating; other times it takes a while, depending on if we feel we’ll still be loved no matter how odious we feel our real self is.
This mask can protect vulnerabilities about which you feel shame or embarrassment — behaviors you know aren’t pretty. It can be withholding opinions or observations that you think the other won’t take well, but they are part of your truth about him or the relationship. People can live with someone for years before letting their true self be seen. At that point, their mate may say, “This is not the person I married” and feel betrayed, duped, or happy with the person who has emerged.
With new relationships, we want our best self to appear. We know how to behave so he wants to hang around us (assuming we want to be around him!). But as you get to know each other, your guard is dropped and you start behaving less than perfectly. You feel it’s okay, as you’ve learned to trust him and believe he will continue to be attracted to you.
How fast is too fast to remove this mask? How far is too far? As you remove your mask, you may cross a boundary that the other feels is unacceptable. You may reveal bitchiness, judmentalness, emotionality, or cynicism. Each couple has to learn each person’s boundaries and know how to communicate calmly and kindly when the boundary is crossed.
Much of how the communication will be received is in timing and voice tone. While you may feel you are being clear, he feels patronized. He thinks he’s just being direct and you feel chastised. As absurd as it might sound, you may want to set up some ground rules — or boundaries — about how to communicate when your boundaries have been crossed. If your letting your true thoughts be known includes making comments that he doesn’t appreciate, you need to agree on a way he can tell you that. If he makes cracks about things that are sensitive to you, you need to be able to tell him without getting angry, defensive, or crying.
Just like with a Halloween costume, the mask can be more attractive or more hideous than what’s underneath. But I’d rather know — and let him see — the real self, rather than waiting months — or years. Only then, can you make an informed decision whether the true person is someone you want to be with or not.
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