Opinion piece by Richard Bleil
A friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend. In my opinion, it was a long time coming, but it was still difficult for her because whenever he was with her he was very sweet and supportive. Unfortunately, in this information age, it was evident that he was anything but this when they were apart.
Although hers was not a long-distance relationship, I think I would like to start with this particular topic. I have long held a hypothesis that so many long distant relationships are so successful because anybody can be decent and charming for twenty minutes at a time. It’s easier to hide our true selves the further apart we are.
The reality is that we all have multiple faces. My students know Dr. Bleil, but they don’t know Richard. They don’t need to know my fears, my passions, my kinks, my weaknesses and they don’t really need to. It’s of no consequence to them; I’m just there to pass on a little bit of knowledge. And there’s nothing wrong with this; they see what they need to.
The problem comes in when we hide parts of ourselves from those that should know. I’ve written before of infidelity, and I’ve written of a friend of mine that is a sexual partner with a married couple. The married couple opened up and were honest with each other, and came to the mutual decision that they wanted to bring another person into their bed. There is nothing wrong with this, and is probably quite healthy for their relationship. Cheating, on the other hand, is devastating, and, frankly, I’ve never understood those who can forgive their partners who cheat, even though I was ready to become one of them when I found out about my wife. Forgiving infidelity is training the individual who is cheating that they will be forgiven, so what is their motivation to stop? Of course, this philosophy implies that the only correct response to infidelity is ending the relationship, and I certainly understand that that is a drastic and painful step.
Our faces change depending on who we are with. Our friends see a different version than potential business partners than wives than mistresses. Sometimes it’s fair, sometimes it isn’t. Some people are so good at manipulating their own face that it is the equivalent of deceit. Narcissists are outstanding at coming across as nice people, or hiding their barbs and oppressive behaviors so well that even their victims doubt that it is happening.
But, sometimes when we behave differently around people, it’s a good thing. Joke as I might about how alone I have been throughout my life, the reality is that there have been rare occasions that I was fortunate enough to have been with a special woman who has made me a better man.
There are those people who make us want to be better than we are. I am not a fan of modern pop music, It all sounds the same to me, and too often they keep me waiting to actually begin. It feels like it’s the start of a song, it’ll pick up soon, and after waiting a painfully long time, suddenly it’s over. But there is one with a sentiment that I like, and understand, with lyrics that basically say that I like myself better when I’m with you.
It is a special woman indeed that makes me want to be a better man, that makes me want to be my best, that has me walking with my head just a little bit higher.
I’ve heard it said that a woman will marry a man hoping that he can change, and a man marries a woman hoping that she will never change. The reality is that we all change. We grow, we learn, we take paths that are sometimes wrong, but hopefully more frequently correct. When we change around our partner, is it because we are hiding secrets, or because we are growing with them?
We all choose who we want to be and, at least to a degree, whom we bring into our lives. If we’re not happy with who we are, we have the power to change, regardless of the breaks in our life, and how others treat us. We may not have as much control over our circumstances as we would like, but we do get to decide how we respond to them. We also should be aware of those people in our life. We should know who elevates us, and who drags us down. We can choose to be the person who does not behave in a manner where we don’t have to lie to our loved ones, and we can choose to be with somebody who makes us want to be better.