How To Be Authentic In A Relationship, Because It's All About Balance
Being authentic is such an important part of a relationship, but some people struggle with it. I don't think it should ever be that difficult to be your true self in a relationship, because in a strong, healthy relationship you should be encouraged to do so. And, importantly, you should feel comfortable doing it.
"Any time you are not authentically yourself it's a sign that you are not truly comfortable in a relationship," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "If you are hiding things, embarrassed about things, faking things, it suggests that you don't feel that [your partner] will truly like you for yourself." And that's a problem. But there's also a trade-off: you don't need to speak your bluntest mind all of the time.
Research from Yi Nan Wang at Beijing Normal University shows that it is important to balance being your true self with your partner's feelings. Now, I have a knee jerk reaction against anything that suggests being less than 100 percent honest and authentic all the time, but taking your partner's thoughts and feelings into control definitely makes sense. Wang explains the ideal as "balanced authenticity", where you take your partner's feelings into account, without letting them override your own, and sill being honest. With contentious issues like politics, religion, and pizza toppings, this idea can be really helpful. But it can be difficult to achieve. "I think why some people find it difficult to maintain authenticity in a relationship is because the nature of self and well-being are both intrapersonal and interpersonal," Wang tells Bustle. "The self can't exist in a vacuum. In the same way, relationship satisfaction or others' approval is basis for well-being. To achieve both intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits, people need to possess high wisdom. In the relationship, when people find they can't integrate his inner request with others' approval, they usually feel it difficult to maintain authenticity." It's complex.
How do you fare? Wang developed a “Authenticity in Relationships” scale (AIRS scale) to look at how balanced authenticity would measure against personal satisfaction in relationships. Here's what you need to know:
1. The Test Looked At Three Types Of Authenticity
Included in the survey was the type of authenticity Wang endorsed— balanced authenticity. But it also looked at other-distorted authenticity, which is when you aren't true to yourself in order to please others, as well as egocentric authenticity, which is just what it sounds like: it's all about you.
2. Most People Scored Highest On Balanced Authenticity
The average person surveyed responded that they most identified with balanced authenticity, which was good news. This was followed by other-distorted authenticity and egocentric authenticity fell last, which means people are more likely to try to please other people than to put themselves above their partner's feelings.
3. ... And They Had The Highest Self-Esteem And Wellbeing
According to the survey results, balanced authenticity was the only type that correlated positively with wellbeing. Even better, it didn't compromise self-esteem or lead to putting your own authenticity to the side to please other people. So Wang was right — there is an ideal amount to take your partner's feelings into account while still being true to yourself.
If you're single, you can take the survey to get an idea of how you react in relationships and to think about how that might be. But it's also useful if you're in a relationship. If you and your partner both take the survey, you can make sure that you're both balanced in your approach to authenticity in your relationship. If there are differences, don't panic. You can use it as a starting off point for an important discussion. It's one you have to have — because being yourself and comfortable in your relationship is a must.
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