7 Signs Your Partner Can’t Be Genuine Around You & What To Do About It
When you're in a good relationship, you should be able to be your authentic self with your partner. After all, if you love someone, you're not going to judge them for how they are, and in return, you should be able to expect the same. But what do you if you suspect that your partner can't be genuine around you? According to experts, there are certain signs you can look out for. But most importantly, there are things you can do to help your partner overcome it.
"The fear of rejection is a powerful motivator to keep ourselves hidden," relationship therapist, Dr. Gary Brown, PhD, LMFT, FAPA, tells Bustle. "It's one of the biggest reasons why someone won't allow themselves to express their true, genuine self. They're afraid that if you see their inner world, you may not like what you see."
When someone's deep insecurities makes it hard for them to relax and be their true self around their partner, it may come off the wrong way. According to Dr. Brown, it's like someone telling their partner, "I don’t trust you enough to truly love and accept me for who I am," even if that's not necessarily true.
"As a whole, living in distrust is a painful experience," he says. "The fear and distrust keeps us feeling alone, lonely, and isolated from the one we love. Having said that, there are some very specific things that you can do to help your partner out."
So here are signs that your partner can't be their true self around you, and what you can do about it, according to experts.
1. Your Partner Has A Habit Of Getting Close And Pulling Away
If your partner has a habit of getting super close one day and then pulling away the next, it could be a sign they have trouble letting themself just be themself. "The very first thing you can do is to understand that fear is usually operating here," Dr. Brown says. Once you understand that, then you can approach your partner and gently open up a conversation to help work this through.
"Just remember that your partner may have some specific or vague reasons about why they aren’t being authentic with you," he says. So be prepared to hear just about anything, including, “I don’t really know.” However you decide to go from there, just be sure to keep blame, shame, or anger away from the conversation. Instead, approach it with genuine curiosity. "Hopefully this will help set a nice and safe tone for the two of you to have a conversation, and future ones," Dr. Brown says.
2. Other People Seem To Know More About What's Really Going On With Them Than You Do
"A good sign that your partner has difficulty being genuine around you is if you notice that [they have] little trouble sharing information with others, but tend to be less detailed with you," Dr. Lisa Wilke, PsyD, Clinic Director at the Center for Mental Health and Wellness, tells Bustle. Although it can signal distrust, you don't need to jump to that conclusion right away. As Dr. Wilke says, maybe they're just struggling to find the right time to talk to you. For instance, if your partner made some questionable decisions in the past, they may have trouble opening up to you about it because they don't want you to see them in a bad way. Instead, they might talk to their friends or family members to help them work through it. So it's not that they don't trust you. It goes back to the fear aspect. They're probably just scared of losing you.
If that's the case, Dr. Wilke says just give them space. "Don’t push them to share," she says. "In fact, when people feel pressured, they have a tendency to share less. If they do end up sharing because of pressure, they may be resentful."
3. You Have No Idea What They Like To Do In Their Spare Time
If your partner keeps certain things secretive, it could be a sign they don’t feel that they can share that side of themselves with you, Jonathan Bennett, certified counselor and relationship coach, tells Bustle. This doesn’t necessarily include hiding bad behavior, but it involves the day-to-day stuff like their hobbies, accomplishments and viewpoints. Again, they might not share for fear of your reaction.
If this is the case, Bennett says it's important to figure out why. "In many cases, your partner probably tried to be authentic in the past, but your reaction conditioned them to avoid being open and honest," he says. For instance, maybe they're really into a certain activity but you may have made an off-handed remark about how you thought it was kind of lame. Even if you didn't intend to hurt your partner's feelings, they may not have taken it that way. So if you know your partner has trouble opening up to you about the things they truly enjoy, start a conversation around it. Try to understand why they love it so much and maybe you'll get them to open up a little more.
4. They Get Nervous When You Bring Up Certain Topics
"If your partner seems to get nervous discussing certain topics, they could feel like you don’t accept them 'as is,'" Bennett says. This behavior may involve changing the topic, being evasive, or simply avoiding conversations altogether. "Perhaps you overreacted, got into an argument, or unintentionally mocked them about their opinion," he says. It happens even to the best of couples. If your partner is sensitive to criticism, something like that can make them shut down.
The best way to overcome this and improve your relationship is to be more mindful of your partner's feelings. When you're in a relationship for a long time, you get comfortable to the point that you feel like you can say anything without consequence. You can sometimes forget that your partner has feelings too. "In the future, try to be more open and accepting of your partner’s true self, even if you have different opinions," Bennett says. "Remember that no one is perfect and you can support your partner without having to embrace their ideals."
5. They Seem More Physically Relaxed Around Other People
If you notice that you only see your partner smile or laugh often when they’re with their friends or family, it’s a sign that they can be their true selves around other people and may struggle to be genuine with you. This doesn't necessarily mean they're not happy with you. It just means that they're more relaxed around people who really know them well. They're better able to let loose and be comfortable. If this is the case, Dr. Wilke says it's important to recognize that it's more about them and not really about you. "They may have difficulty trusting or being themselves in general and this may have more to do with their past experiences and less to do with you than you think," she says. Talking to them about it in a kind and calm manner can help you find out why they may not be fully comfortable with you yet.
6. They Never Seem To Take Initiative
Being with a selfish partner isn't any good. But when you're with someone who doesn't take initiave and always makes it about what you like or what you want to do, they may have trouble being their true selves around you. They might worry that their idea of a good time isn't your idea of a good time. If this is the case, make sure to bring it up in a calm way as soon as possible. "When people feel judged, belittled, or criticized, they have a tendency to hide their genuine self in fear that they will not be accepted," Dr. Wilke says. So be sure to watch what you're saying and as well as how you say it. Although you may not be doing this intentionally, if your partner feels judged, it's something the both of you will want to get to the bottom of.
7. You Just Have A Feeling That They're Trying Too Hard
"I think that there are many people that don't even know who they are authentically," Allyson Leak, relationship advisor and author of The Goddess Potential: A Guide To Developing A Relationship With Your Inner Self, tells Bustle. "If you were really in tune with yourself then being authentic or showing that, would come easy and natural." That's why some people have a tendency to try really hard to be someone they think they should be, instead of just being themselves.
If someone doesn't know who they truly are before entering into a relationship, it's going to be a struggle for them. It's hard to shape your individual identity when you're trying to merge your life with another person. That's why Leak suggests for couples to practice mindfulness. Take five or 10 minutes a day to sit together in silence, talk about your day, and maybe even start a gratitude practice.
"You can get a mason jar, label it and once a week you each write one thing on a sticky that you are grateful for regarding your relationship," she says. After three months, dump the notes out and read them together. It's a great way to get you and your partner to slowly open up to each other.
If you notice that your partner has a hard time being themself around you, just remember that it's really not you. It's up to them to overcome their fears so they can open up. But that doesn't mean you can't do anything. You can keep being that loving and supportive partner that you are. If you don't push and allow them to open up in their own time, you may find them feeling more comfortable sooner rather than later.