In season two of Scrubs (admittedly not a great source for dating advice), Carla confides to J.D. everything she was worried about and stewing over in her head: the things she didn’t want known because she thought they made her sound crazy. J.D. then divulges the information to her boyfriend, Turk, behind her back.
When Carla found out about the betrayal she was obviously upset and yelled at J.D., “You babbled all my crazy to the person I plan on spending the rest of my life with!” She was embarrassed. (Turk was unphased.)
Although I agree that it wasn’t J.D.’s place to share this information, something bothered me about Carla’s response. Why should she be concerned about Turk seeing her “crazy”? They’d been together for about a year, and in a long-term relationship like that, it seems to me that your significant other should be the safest relationship in which to share those pieces of you that you wish weren’t there.
Unveiling your true self is a gradual process–it should be with someone that you’ve grown to trust, and after spending some significant time getting to know the person–but in the right context we have to make sure we aren’t holding part of ourselves back out of fear.
In my experience, sharing only makes my husband and I grow closer to each other. Early on when we were dating, I let Nate know that I tend to forgive, forgive, forgive and let things that are bothersome just roll off my shoulders. However, at some point (I let him know) I start to feel taken advantage of and I start noticing all these little things that previously didn’t bug me. It builds and builds, and then I explode–volcano style! It’s big! It’s bad! It’s ugly! You don’t want to see the wrath of Carrie (an otherwise extremely peaceable person). When I get mad, people cry.
“Ha ha. Okay,” was his response. “Well, what can we do to prevent it from getting to that point?”
We discussed and brainstormed some ideas that mainly centered around me recognizing things that were bothersome and bringing them to his attention before they became problematic. Some examples of things I identified were looking at the TV or phone while talking to me instead of making eye contact, and hanging out as a group with his roommate the whole time when I came to hang out, and interrupting me when I’m communicating something important to point out something random he was noticing (that guy on a bike, that new store). It was difficult for me because I was afraid of confrontation. I prefered peace to conflict at all costs, but I acknowledged that something needed to change so that I didn’t ultimately injure the relationship.
Gingerly, I tried bringing things up. Nate responded positively every time, which encouraged me to continue discussing issues with him. Because he makes me feel safe, I’m able to bring up areas of conflict with him, and we have had very few explosions in our six years together.
If we knowingly hold pieces of ourselves back, we are in some ways lying by omission. That’s not authentic love. I think we selfishly hold back because we’re afraid our true selves are unlovable. After all, they are pieces of ourselves that we don’t even like. How could someone love us if they knew about those pieces? Well, we all have pieces of ourselves we wish weren’t there. That doesn’t make us unloveable; it makes us human. And I’ve found that the human heart is capable of mind-blowing, soul-shaking, heart-changing love. If we are brave enough to let someone else into those dark places, they might just be the person who helps dig us out.
If you aren’t currently in a long-term relationship, reflect on those areas you avoid sharing and how that’s impacted your previous relationships. If you’re currently part of a long-term relationship, identify an area that you’re afraid to share for selfish reasons and find a way to have that conversation. Share your crazy!