I was watching the Bachelorette the other day. (I know, a great use of my time.) The couple went on this date that was just awesome. They were in Ireland, and the date took place at an old historic church.
As the couple walked into the church, hundreds of small candles were lined up along the sides, directing the couple to walk toward the front of the church. The Cranberries were there, and they started to play their hit song ‘Linger.’ (Think about your high school prom, except probably 100x cooler.) The guy asked the girl for a dance, and they had this incredibly magical moment.
As I watched, I had two thoughts. The first thought was about how impressive the date was. The second thought was more pessimistic: It’s all downhill from here…
Maybe that’s a cynical attitude to have. But I wonder if part of the reason couples from the Bachelor never work out is that they set up these super-high expectations that can’t realistically be met over the long haul of an actual relationship. What happens when there isn’t a TV network financing your relationship? Actual reality can be a hard pill to swallow.
I think a similar problem can happen in normal relationships. At the beginning of a dating relationship, you probably put your best foot forward. You actually clean your apartment for a while and make your bed. You might try to hide some of your ‘rough edges,’ at least at the beginning. We all want to be accepted and loved, and you might be scared that if you showed who you really were, the person you are dating wouldn’t be interested.
I think some of this is okay and normal, but it can set us up for a letdown, just like the couples from the Bachelorette. You can’t keep up the facade forever. What happens when reality hits? What happens when you each start showing your true selves? That’s when the real relationship starts, and you can start to figure out whether the relationship works in reality.
I think it’s good to put energy into your relationship and make it a priority. But as you are doing that, try not to set expectations that aren’t in tune with reality. Be your true self, and try not to hide the parts of yourself that you view as ‘less acceptable.’ In the best relationships, partners love and accept each other ‘as is.’ It’s not a bad idea to see if that can happen from the beginning.
Discussion: When starting a relationship, do you hide who you truly are, or are you okay with presenting your true self? What do you think about setting expectations at the beginning of a relationship that can’t really be maintained over time?