Like a lot of other people, I’ve almost reached my limit of thinking, worrying, hearing, reading and talking about The Virus. Even in my dreams there’s an anxiety that I didn’t have four months ago. But today, talking on the phone with a friend of mine, that topic took us in an interesting direction: romantic relationships. What do you do when someone you fell in love with, someone you thought you knew, suddenly acts and feels more than a little “fake”?
It feels like betrayal. Not one of the more enjoyable ‘mysteries of love’. I get it: people and their viewpoints change over time. But what if the person I fell deeply in love with had radically-different beliefs (and desires) from me all along, but kept silent about those important differences? Is this “on him”, or “on me”?
My friend and I despaired that people seem so divided about the basic facts of The Virus. But it’s one thing to see strangers on the news acting-out their beliefs. It’s another thing entirely, when someone close to you – someone you love, or used to love – reveals a ‘side’ you never saw before. We both have ex-husbands who’re showing a new and disturbing kind of anger lately. Apparently triggered and exposed by social controversy around the pandemic.
So how is it, we both wondered, that you can fall totally in love with someone, spend years with them, and not know who they truly are until there’s a crisis or tipping point? Some event or topic that tweaks his or her nose and they go ‘primal’, emotionally. Rage. Defiance. Illogic. A whole lot of confusion for the one who stands by, watching in horror and disbelief. “Who are you?!”
Back in the day, my moment of disbelief felt like running into a concrete wall. It was an event that shook my faith in Love. It also shook my faith in myself: my judgment and my ability to see someone clearly. In fact, that was the worst of it. How could I not see this coming? The simple answer: Because I didn’t want to. I wanted to trust; fully and completely. I must have — I knew that I had — deliberately ignored signs of deep incompatibility.
The crazy thing is, I’m not alone in my ignorance. Since our separation and divorce so many years ago, I’ve learned much more about the difficulties a lot of people have discerning The Real Person underneath his or her surface personality.
One of my favorite people to listen to on this topic is psychologist Caroline McHugh [ find her on Youtube]. She describes the different personas that we all have: how others see us; how we see ourselves; what we project outwardly, versus what we keep hidden (and why). Turns out, some people have more to hide than others. They reveal only what might help them get what they want and need; not necessarily what is real and true. The good, the bad, and the downright ugly.
It’s hard, I think, not to beat up on yourself when you’ve misjudged someone and feel the pain and embarrassment of that mistake. “Love is Blind” means ignoring the superficial stuff: “warts and all”. It’s not supposed to mean that you get crushed by a man or woman who is selfish, deceitful, and manipulative. Bottom line, we all have different skillsets when it comes to being transparent about who we are and what we believe.
With the backdrop of a present-day exchange with my ex-husband – a man I spent a decade with and share a son with – I can see now what was there all along. If we’d been dating in the time of The Virus, I may or may not have heard his conspiracy-thinking. It would’ve depended on whether or not – as McHugh says – my lover wanted me to know the strength of his feelings. If he wanted me to see who he really was in that moment.
Love can only do so much. It can’t read minds, and tries its best to read hearts. We have to get really good at recognizing our own habit of hiding parts of ourselves – acting-out our own worries about not being lovable – so that we can recognize the same fears in other people.
To read more about self-awareness and finding love… Looking Within For Your Soulmate;