We use denial as a way to see the best in our partner, to see the best in ourselves, and to see the best in our relationships – which often leads to relationships that shouldn’t have lasted longer than a month in the first place.
The only time I talk to my long-distance friend, Sarah, is between 4pm-5pm, before her boyfriend, Ben, gets home from work. She recently called me and our conversation went like this:
Me: “Now’s not a good time, can we talk later tonight?”
Sarah: “I can’t. How about tomorrow at 4 o’clock?”
Me: “That’s too early. How about 7pm?”
Sarah: “Ben will be home.”
Me: “Do you have plans with Ben?”
Me: “You can’t talk when Ben is home?”
Sarah: “He doesn’t like it when I talk to my friends.”
I heard all the bells and whistles ringing and could have sworn I heard someone yell “RED FLAG ALERT!”
My dear friend seemed to be unfazed.
I left the conversation thinking that surely Sarah knows it is not healthy for her boyfriend to discourage her from having friendships. Certainly, there is a part of her that knows she is allowed to have friends, and talk to them, even if Ben is home. He is trying to control her support system, and she should know better.
But there are two things in motion here: 1. Ben’s attempt to control Sarah, and 2. Sarah’s secrecy. Sarah has been hiding our friendship from Ben, and does not disclose when she talks to her friends. The control, the hiding, the behind-the-back-ness: what part of this is suggests this is healthy and indicative of a fulfilling relationship?
There is someone else in Sarah and Ben’s relationship, and that someone is Denial.
For too many couples, denial is the glue that keeps the relationship together. When you meet someone new, you’re often overwhelmed with feelings that range from excitement, to fear, to dear-all-that-is-holy-let-this-be-the-one. With all of these emotions in competition with each other, you don’t always see everything as clearly as you should. We use denial as a way to see the best in our partner, to see the best in ourselves, and to see the best in our relationships – which often leads to relationships that shouldn’t have lasted longer than a month in the first place.
Worried you might be in relationship denial? Here are four signs to look out for:
#4 You’re Waiting For Your Partner To Change
When you think of your partner and relationship, do you start thoughts by saying, “If only he did this...” or “If only she would do that...” or “If only we...”
All of these “If only”s are a sign that you’re waiting for your partner to change, and ultimately, your relationship to change. You shouldn’t be expected to change for your relationship, and neither should your partner. Your partner deserves to be loved for who they are, and so do you. Don’t stay in a relationship with someone, waiting for them to transform into who you think they “should” be.
#3 You “Hide” Your Partner
Are you avoiding letting your family and friends meet your partner? RED FLAG ALERT! If you can predict your friends’ uncertainties and objections, it’s a sign that you have the same doubts but are having a hard time admitting them to yourself. You deserve to have a partner that you want to share with your friends and family, and to have someone you can be proud to show-off.
#2 You Can’t Be Yourself
Do you suppress your ideas, thoughts, and personality for the sake of your relationship? Do you force yourself to do things differently to keep your partner happy? If you are trying to be the “perfect” person for your partner, think again. You cannot keep up the charade forever, and resisting your true self is a good way to lose your self-worth. This is a sign that are afraid to be yourself because it means losing your partner. You deserve to be loved for who you are, and love someone for who they are, in order to build a relationship on trust and honesty.
#1 Loneliness Is Calling The Shots
If you would rather be in an unhealthy relationship than be alone, it is time to evaluate your current relationship for any signs of denial. The fear of being single can cause you to ignore your better judgment, and fears of loneliness often trump the acceptance of reality. It causes us to look the other way, consent to what is unacceptable, and ignore instincts. By forcing yourself to remain in an unhealthy relationship, you are denying yourself happiness and the benefit of a fulfilling life.
Honesty is the greatest weapon against denial. Examine your wants and needs in order to identify what you truly need in a relationship. If you can, communicate this with your partner. If they are not supportive of your needs, it’s time for you to seek the relationship that everyone has the right to experience. Remind yourself that you deserve happiness. You deserve a partner who loves you for you without hiding your true self.