How much would you be willing to change for the man you love?
If he says he loves it when women wear dresses, would you wear a dress?
If he says he spends his weekends hiking, would you match him step for step?
If he says that your laughter is so loud everyone’s staring, would you tone it down?
We all have a limit.
Some women won’t change at all for a man. Take me or leave me.
For other women, love means uniting with their beloved. They take up his hobbies, join his social circle, and adopt his beliefs as their own.
Why do some women change so much, while others don’t?
It has to do with the interplay between attachment and authenticity.
The Impossible Dilemma
According to Dr. Gabor Maté, attachment and authenticity are two of our most fundamental needs.
We need to feel emotionally attached to the people we love. Without a place where we are loved and we belong, we feel adrift.
At the same time, we also need to feel like we’re being true to ourselves. If we pretend to be someone we’re not for the sake of getting approval or fitting in, we feel ill at ease.
In a healthy relationship, those two needs can co-exist.
We can be true to ourselves AND emotionally connected.
But quite often those two needs come into conflict.
You make a best friend who will only remain your best friend if you do what she wants to do.
You join an organization that will only allow you to remain a member if you fall in line with their mission and values.
You’re not allowed to question.
You’re not allowed to disagree.
You get to belong as long as you conform.
This even happens in families.
Maybe you noticed that you made your parents happiest when you did what they wanted you to do.
Maybe you noticed how pleased your parents were when you repeated their beliefs back to them.
Maybe you felt like your parents wanted you to be a carbon copy of themselves.
When you tried to assert your individuality, you could feel their disapproval or emotional withdrawal.
You learned that authenticity would cost you attachment.
If you said what you really thought, or expressed who you really were, you would sever your emotional bond…
And you may never get it back.
That’s an impossible choice when you’re young.
For children, being loved by their parents means everything.
So maybe it became easier to shut down your true thoughts and feelings.
It became easier to ignore that little voice inside whispering your truth.
It seemed like such a small price to pay for getting to feel like you belonged in your family.
You could make your parents happy by being what they wanted, or you could disappoint them by making choices that felt right to you.
Now you are an adult, and you’re seeking love and attachment again.
This time, you’re seeking it from a romantic partner.
Although you may have forgotten how you felt as a kid, the lessons you learned back then are embedded in your psyche.
Either you believe that men like a certain kind of woman, and it’s your job to make yourself attractive…
Or you believe that nothing is worth pretending to be someone you’re not.
Old-fashioned dating advice assumes that attachment is more important than authenticity.
After all, the thinking goes, if you were already attractive to men, you wouldn’t be seeking dating advice. Therefore, there must be something about yourself you need to change to be more attractive. You need to be more mysterious, or more flirtatious, or more hard-to-get.
While you can do this—after all, it was so easy to please your parents by being what they wanted—you pay a price.
You lose yourself.
Is the relationship worth it if you have to be who he wants you to be, rather than who you are?
Love Doesn’t Require Sacrificing Your Authenticity
Dr. Brené Brown writes poignantly about this dilemma in Braving the Wilderness.
She believes that the sense of belonging you get by sacrificing your authenticity to be part of a group (or a family, or a relationship) is not truly belonging at all.
Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it… True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
Does a man truly love you if he only loves you for the ways you please him?
Does he truly love you if he hasn’t seen the full you yet?
Does he truly love you if he’s disgruntled when you exhibit a mind of your own?
Do you ever feel like you’re forced to choose between your relationship with him and being true to yourself?
Then it’s not true love.
When it’s true love, you don’t have to choose between yourself and him.
When a man truly loves you, he loves you for YOU, not for how you please him.
He loves you because you are a unique being that has never existed before and will never exist again.
Sure, there are parts of you that he finds hard (just as there are parts of him you find hard!).
But he knows he cannot pick and choose. You’re a package deal. To enjoy the parts of you that he fell in love with, he has to learn to live with the parts of you that he finds difficult.
My wish for you is that you hold out for a love that embraces ALL of you.
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