Thinking about Relationships

Yes, I capitalized it. I feel like leaving it lower case would negate the power of interpersonal dynamics. Relationships are not minor and do not deserve to be left in the lowercase.

So, Relationships…I feel like this could be a blog post or a novel. Aren’t we all always trying to understand the people we have relationships with? Your old friends from when you were young and stupid know one ‘you’, while your work friends know a subdued ‘you’ and your family knows the ‘you’ that was naked in the tub in that photo in your mother’s photo album. Which ‘you’ is the real one and which relationships are therefore fake, or at least less genuine?

None of them. Each ‘you’ is a legitimate representation of who you were when you met the other person and formed a bond. When you try to pull all those versions of ‘you’ into one is when the problem starts. Your family doesn’t know ‘work you’ and your work friends don’t know the young and stupid ‘you’ that used to get into trouble and take risks the current ‘you’ never would. Each version of ‘you’ is its own person and each one of you has formed alliances and built relationships that allowed you to overcome obstacles, gain ground, get promoted, fall in love, get a job, etc.

There is nothing wrong with being a different version of yourself around different people. I’m not saying be untrue to who you are currently, I’m just saying your high school friends will remember the day in Mrs. Whosiwhatsis’ class when that kid did that thing, and your work friends will know exactly what you mean when you bubble over with laughter if the story about the photocopy machine spitting papers out comes up, and your family will tell stories you sometimes wish would never see the light of day again but they will finish each other’s sentences because you all know the stories so well you can all tell them forwards and backwards.

I think when people get into the therapy funk when they try to be 100% true to themselves; they lose sight of the fact that it’s not disingenuous to be different versions of yourself when you are doing it because it fits the situation. It follows the idea of code switching, when people switch the way they speak in different environments to fit in more fully. I think there is an emotional equivalent that allows people to shift between versions of themselves. I know I need to be one version of myself in front of my grandmother, she would not be thrilled at the way I speak and act around the people with whom I used to go clubbing. My ‘teacher persona’ is someone I very specifically inhabit during school hours, but my friends would think I was losing my mind if I gave them explicit directions on how I expected the conversation to go when we are out to dinner.

I’m not saying be fake. But if you stop and think about it, aren’t we all an amalgamation of all the people we’ve known, the adventures we’ve had, and the things we’ve experienced? Wouldn’t it be rather boring to be exactly the same version of yourself all the time and in every relationship you have?

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