Behind The Mask – The Beginning
When I first started dating I really didn’t know how weird I was.
I mean, I seemed perfectly normal to myself.
My family pretty much accepted me for who I was and even though we had some times that we misunderstood each other we just assumed we had different styles of communication.
Then I started dating and realized how weird I was.
I mean, the people I dated seemed alien to me.
They thought weird, acted strange and never, ever reacted the way I assumed they would.
Almost every word that came out of my mouth seemed misunderstood or twisted in their minds.
I took a break from dating for a long while, trying to figure out if there was something wrong with me.
After all, it couldn’t be them, not all of them!
After some time alone I decided to give it another shot. I had grown a lot in my life and maybe I was not so weird anymore. Plus, I thought I had gotten better at hiding who I was. That I had learned how to better pretend to be normal.
Maybe my dates would be more normal too.
Dates one through five proved me wrong; I think they were weirder than ever.
Then on date six… I met someone truly weird.
- Off centered.
- And I loved it.
- It was if our weirdness matched together like two sides of a broken dish.
We just… fit.
At first it was only our attraction and this feeling of fitting that held us together. While we were better at understanding each other than my previous experiences something was still missing.
I had no idea what my partner was thinking and my partner had no idea what I was thinking at least half of the time.
Frustrated and really wanting this relationship to work I took a look at myself. How could I help us to grow closer?
How could I help us to understand each other?
My Revelation and Next Step
That led to an epiphany.
By trying to be normal I had donned a mask to hide my true self. My partner had as well, and although we often let each other sneak a peek at the person behind the mask we still were not comfortable lowering them completely.
After all, rejection hurts less when they reject your mask and not you.
But how did I lower my mask and encourage my partner to lower theirs?
I wanted this relationship to last and that meant we had to really get to know each other.
Still stumped, I spent a few months trying to sneak past my partner’s mask. Fighting to get glimpses I worked hard to tease, laugh, listen and uncover anything I could. It was not easy and wasn’t fun.
Every date started to be stress filled as I mined for information.
My Aha Moment
Finally I was about to break down when I read some relationship advice that changed my life. It was simple: “Use your words.”
What a concept.
No more guessing what the other person was thinking!
You could just ask?
No more hinting as to what you wanted or were thinking about or worried about, you could just tell them? Shocker! The masks could be lowered with words!
The only problem is, I’m not the greatest speaker in the world. I much prefer to write out my thoughts, examine them, verify them, reorganize them, edit them, and then share.
I realized that was just another kind of mask to hide behind.
Facing someone and talking from the heart was fear inducing, but it was also honest and true.
Baby Steps and Trepidation
It started out small.
My partner had the hurtful habit of ignoring me for long periods of time when we were apart. No calls, no texts, nothing. Oh, don’t get me wrong, my partner was very loving and attentive when we were together but apart seemed to forget about me.
I finally opened up to how hurt I was by that.
Instead of accusing, I tried to share how I felt. I knew my partner loved me but I often did not feel loved while we were apart.
My partner seemed shocked at my words.
I came to find out that it was the past that dictated my partner’s lack of communication. No one had ever wanted to communicate or stay in contact before me.
It wasn’t a lack of wanting to communicate but experience that communication was unwelcome that led to the long empty times.
From then on the silence ceased and we talked all the time, together and apart. It didn’t have to be much, just a reminder that we loved each other and were thinking about each other.
Over and over again this “using your words” bit helped our relationship. I forgot about it sometimes and it wasn’t until I grew really frustrated with my partner that I would remember again.
Then as soon as I would express my frustration and lower my mask my partner would respond perfectly.
So What Did I Learn From Behind My Mask?
What took so long for me to really understand is that everyone is weird and we all wear masks to hide that weirdness.
This takes a lot of trust and communication.
I am not saying that lowering your mask always works however. You have to have someone who is willing to respond in kind. I have tried this technique with friends and relatives. Some have responded in kind and we have grown very close.
Others have been disturbed by my honesty and backed away.
Although I have not lost any friends because of this, I have learned that some people are not comfortable with anything but the mask.
It is a hard fact to face that with most people in this world you have to cover up your strangeness and appear normal. However that appearance of normality holds the world together. After all, not everyone’s strangeness is compatible.
A mask is not necessarily a bad thing.
It can help you to work with others without getting upset and pretty much makes the world go round.
What’s Your TakeAway?
Masks are for short term use only.
They are okay for work or out in public but when you are around close friends, partners, or family you should be able to lower your mask and share your true self with those who love you.
If you don’t have relationships like that then you probably need to take the first step.
Try lowering your mask with someone that you would like to be closer too.
Hopefully they will lower their mask in kind and you will get to enjoy the wonderful weirdness that makes up who we really are.
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