Sharing your life with someone is supposed to be hard. It takes effort. But not all the effort we put so we could be in a relationship is healthy.
My struggle has always been with honesty. I tend to withhold information or outrightly lie when I know the truth would not reflect good on me. That partly comes from a place of fear: I’m afraid I’ll be rejected for the things I am and for the things I’m not. And also, it comes partly from a place of narcissism: I’m too lazy to change, I don’t like having to explain or be accountable for the things I do because I don’t like not doing what I feel like doing.
If you have a bad relationship with the truth like that, you’ll gravitate towards a relationship that would coddle you. That doesn’t mean a relationship that doesn’t expect much of you. Rather, you would want to be in one in which you are expected to do stuff, as long as you’re in control of what they are.
If you’re that combination of image-obsessed and self-absorbed, you would actively curate those expectations. You’ll actively put up an idea of yourself for that person to love instead of you. You’ll be combative about that idea if the partner accuses you of being other than what that idea is. Even if she’s right.
You would do so much to hide the bad stuff about you. You’ll lie. You’ll deflect. But the worst part is that that insecurity with the truth about yourself and the things you do doesn’t just make you do more bad stuff, it also colors the supposedly good things you do.
In managing your “brand”, you would do and give stuff to your partner to keep your good guy facade up even while you indulge in all the bad stuff you’re doing. In your head, you are thinking that *this* is you, not the person doing all the bad things. But subconsciously, all you are doing is trying to atone for the bad things you do. Not that so she will forgive you, but so you could get away without admitting anything.
Perhaps the good things you do and say come from a sincere place. Maybe you really show your love through gifts and elaborate surprises. But when she wises up to who you really are and what you really do when she’s not looking: does it matter? She would look back at everything with a tainted lens, holding all the “good stuff” in suspicion. And she would be right for it. You can’t be trusted. You shouldn’t be trusted.
All that effort managing the truth and your image could have instead been spent working on the relationship. Listening to her instead of hating her for talking about stuff that doesn’t involve you or your idea of the relationship. Doing stuff she likes not because of how it would reflect on you, but because she likes doing it. Instead of planning surprises, you get to enjoy planning with her. Instead of giving elaborate gifts, you give yourself. Your actual self. Not a painting to admire. Not a list of characteristics upon which you want her to sign off.
That’s why without actively working on your relationship with the truth: without admitting your tendencies to lie and cheat, and without actively trying to change it, you can’t really be happy in a relationship. Owning up to it and deviating from your self-curation and truth-denial would perhaps hurt your chances of being accepted by people you hope would love you, but if it would lead you to someone who’s willing to work through it with you, it would be worth all the shallow parodies of joy you missed out on.