TL;DR: I would say “no” or “not really,” although you shouldn’t sacrifice who you are in general. Rock-solid relationships take diplomacy and compromise, skills that put our primal, impulsive selves back in their cage.
Sometimes when I think of a relationship topic to write about on my blog, I like to audition it on my partner Phillip.
“Do you think you can be completely yourself with your partner?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said immediately.
But I took time to think about it, given that life operates on a spectrum.
Then, when Phillip was cleaning crap out of our backyard and cutting wood with an electric saw without using earplugs, I wanted to lash out at him about ear protection like a drama-driven reality TV star. But I held back. And I noticed I held back.
Instead, I calmly spoke with him later about my concerns. I told him it made me nervous when he also didn’t use earplugs when installing new smoke detectors in the house. I told him that, while I’m not going deaf (yet), I’m pretty sure I inherited bad hearing (and desperately need subtitles when we watch Netflix) and wished others wouldn’t take their hearing for granted.
All the while, that conversation solidified my answer to my question. Do I think you can be completely yourself around your partner, even if they’re the “right” person for you? I’d say something along the lines of “no” or “not really” (and that’s okay).
You’re welcome to disagree, but let me make my case (based entirely on my intuition).
When I think of being “completely myself,” I think of who I am when I’m drunk or driving by myself—my uninhibited, unfiltered, unabridged self (in the “driving” case, I think of the road-ragey person I am when no one else is in the car to judge me when I’m yelling at the douchebag who cut me off).
While Phillip has seen my road rage, he doesn’t care for it. So, I try to tone it down, just like I controlled my impulses when he used that electric saw without earplugs.
For whatever reason we hold back instead of exploding—be it because we’re scared of our partner’s reaction, you don’t want to come off “difficult,” or you quickly realize your true, primal self released from its cage wouldn’t serve the greater good—we know deep down that the “effort” part (because rock-solid relationships take effort, not work) of maintaining a relationship is the diplomatic part we try to play under the circumstances.
So, again, no, I don’t think we can be completely, absolutely, 110% ourselves with our partners. But I think Phillip’s “yes” came from a good place.
In the end, relationships take compromise, and it helps to put that wild tiger aside (without sacrificing who you are in general) to make the relationship thrive.
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