That blissful initial period of meeting and connecting with someone romantically can feel wonderfully liberating and reassuring.
It’s like we’ve finally found someone who seems to like us and is like us; someone from the outside world that we float around in with so much uncertainty, who thinks we’re basically okay. Or even better than okay. Combined with plenty of hormonal activity, it all means that we’re likely to experience that emotional rush known as falling in love.
One of the strange things about being human is that although our own feelings and emotions are ever-present in our lives, the inner experiences of other people are mostly hidden from us—at least until we get to know them well. Which means that they can appear as less troubled than we are by life’s complications and contradictions. This is a big part of what’s so appealing about getting close to someone, discovering the ways in which we are similar to, and different from, each other.
Until then, we have to fill in the gaps with guesses and assumptions—and the risk is that these projections may blind us to the reality of who that person is. When the initial “honeymoon” period in a new relationship inevitably begins to fade, we start to find out more about the actual person we’re with. Best-selling relationship writer, Jed Diamond, calls this the “disillusionment” stage, and he says it’s at this point that many people give up on their partner, often going on to repeat the process with someone else, not considering that maybe with mutual patience and kindness, that’s exactly when they could progress to a deeper level of mutual acceptance and love.
I went around this cycle of new beginnings and premature endings many times until I began to understand how I was sabotaging my relationships by hiding my true feelings from my partner. A childlike part of me thought that if my partner really loved me, she’d somehow know what was going on for me without me needing to tell her—an attitude which ended up in tears of frustration for both of us. Which is why it’s so important to share our deepest feelings—even when we think they might cause surprise or upset.
Unless I share my truth with a partner and she does the same, we are both likely to make up stories about each other’s inner worlds; then the foundation for our relationship will be fragile, built on guesses rather than on the solid ground of mutual understanding and acceptance.
That level of openness and honesty can seem risky to someone like me who’s not very comfortable with being vulnerable, but I’ve found that this is the only way to build the level of closeness which can sustain a loving relationship. Now, when I feel any fear about sharing tender feelings with my partner, I just do it anyway. The best part is that she says it makes her respect me more as a man, which helps me feel accepted for all of who I am. What’s not to like about that?
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