Category Archives: expectations

The False Self

young woman holding smiling face

I just finished reading the chapter entitled “The Impostor” from Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning.  It is about the false self — the shadow personality or projected self that we all have.

The false self always wants to look better than it is – better than it feels. It wants to project an image of being more successful, smarter, more courageous, more confident, more competent, and more emotionally healthy. But it is hiding behind an illusion of its own making.The ability to present our true selves is critical in dating and marriage. How can I really love you if I don’t know who you are down deep. If I don’t really know you, then who and what am I saying “yes” to at the marriage alter? This is one of the reasons why taking a reasonable amount of time before becoming engaged is essential. Can you really say you have gotten past the projected image to the real person?

It is always unpleasant to be confronted with our failings and dishonesty, and harder yet to admit them. It is an even more difficult task to actually dig for them. Is the purpose of that kind of exercise to lead us down a path of self condemnation?

Not at all!

Honest self examination should lead us to humility and to self forgiveness. It should bring us to a place where we can accept the reality of our flaws without becoming overwhelmed by them. The failure to do so will often result in hostility towards others and/or hatred or some other form of violence towards our self.

Accepting the existence of our false self does not mean becoming resigned to living out of our false self.  Rather, it means being aware that there is an internal tug-of-war going on that wants to put image ahead of honesty. Let’s face it; it is painful to let others see our uglier, but more honest side. But will they truly know us until they do? Can we accept others’ imperfections until we make peace with our own or will we just become judgmental and harsh with them?

Again, the key is in self forgiveness just as God has forgiven us.

We can move towards maturity and growth and honesty and away from fear, anxiety and self protection when we know that we are acceptable and loved. Intimacy with others grows as we reveal our true selves. Vulnerability with safe people produces closeness, and closeness lets us experience love and acceptance.

Drawing near to God may be our first step in shrinking the false self. He accepts us just as we are, and He loves us unconditionally. And He does so knowing us completely. When He is our focus, we begin to lose some of the need to hold on to our insecurities and defenses. We realize that He protects us and validates us and our identity shifts.

If there are obstacles in the way of your growth, there is always help available by reaching out.

Girls: He’s Not Going to Change

There is an old saying that a girl marries a guy hoping to change him and a guy marries a girl hoping she’ll never change. The punch line? They are both wrong.  
This is one of the reasons that there is a condition called post-nuptial blues.
We hold high expectations for what we hope will happen after the wedding. But when reality turns out to be different we can become sad and disappointed. That is why we tell pre-marrieds over and over that they should only marry a person if they can accept them as they are – not for their potential. If they never change, can you live with that?
Most guys will change to a degree over the course of a marriage, but they don’t always change in the direction that you want them to. I know that no guy wants to be seen as “a project” and neither does a woman. So if you find yourself thinking in that direction, think again. You both will be happier if you don’t hold that agenda.
Do you have an unspoken list in your head? He will become more spiritual after we marry. She will become more secure and less angry. His work ethic will change. Her work ethic won’t change. I could go on and on – but you get the point. 
I have seen another reason for post-nuptial blues as well, this one particularly for the girls. So much of their focus has been put on “The Wedding” and “The Honeymoon” that marriage seems like a let down. It is as if this is the single defining event of their life and now that it is over there is nothing more to look forward to. Instead of being seen as a beginning, it is seen more like an ending.
This is why Nan & I strongly suggest that weddings are better when they are more modest (apart from financial reasons). Somehow when weddings are not overblown there is more focus placed on the relationship rather than on the ultimate party for friends and family. It is often difficult to convince girls of this when they have held a fantasy wedding in their mind for decades. This might be the first major test of the ability of a couple to come to a reasonable compromise.
Then there is sex. It is wonderful when couples have about the same libido after they get married. But this might be a more difficult adjustment than anticipated. And it may be another reason for post-nuptial blues. Fortunately, most couples that truly love each other will work on doing their best to find ways to please one another in the bedroom. Sometimes it takes intentionality to connect or hold back more often than we would like.
The solution for a lot of these issues is often to lower your expectations if you are in a relationship with a partner who has high standards, flexibility and good character. If not, it may be time to move on.   

What About Bob? (Neediness)

One of the sadder situations we run into in our counseling practice is when we have a very emotionally needy person. In relationships, this can be one of the greatest liabilities because it often achieves just the opposite of what the person desires. The more the needy person pursues, the farther the pursued person distances from them.

Why is this?

I would define it as a control struggle. The pursued person often doesn’t feel loved, but rather they feel controlled or used. They become the object of stability for the other person, but that requires that they surrender their independence to a greater extent than they would like. They will likely become resentful and lose respect for the pursuer.

Where it gets really ugly is when the person being chased turns on the needy person and expresses hostility and disgust. This rejection fuels further control efforts, and the needy person can become even more self-defeating with intensified behaviors. Check out a perfect example:

Yes, it’s a comedy and extreme, but you can probably feel the tension in the exchange.

The reasons for this neediness probably stem from family of origin or early childhood attachment issues. These early unmet needs are never satisfied easily, and a part of the person remains emotionally immature. The internal craving for love and attention is similar to what an addict feels for his/her drug of choice.

What is the solution here?

The most helpful action is joining a codependency support group like the CODA class at our church or an Al-Anon group. Exploring the causes and grieving the associated losses will do much to bring comfort and understanding. Also, taking your dependency to God instead of your partner, as hard as that may feel at the time, will help you to not push them away and sabotage the relationship.

What if you are the one being pursued? It is not good to give in to the intense demands of the pursuer, but you can remain kind and offer reassurance. Instead of running away from them you can remain calm and set and keep reasonable boundaries. You also might ask yourself why you attract needy people. It is possible that you also have family of origin issues that could benefit by joining a codependency group.

Personal or couples counseling is also very helpful to deal with this relationship dynamic. The counselor can assist with the setting and keeping of boundaries as well as regulating the emotional exchanges.

Do you see yourself in either of these roles at times? It is always better to deal with it sooner than later. It will prevent you from experiencing unnecessary pain.