I am, like many people, hooked on the television show, “Scandal.” If you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend it. It’s thought-provoking and I am a huge fan of Shonda Rhimes‘ (the show’s creator) writing for the show. The show is a fictional depiction based on the life of a Political Fixer, who is called in to resolve the scandalous issues of politicians in D.C. Central to the show’s storyline is a love triangle between the show’s main character, Olivia Pope (the Political Fixer), the President and the President’s wife. I don’t advocate cheating, but I am fascinated by the dynamics of this relationship. There are many layers to it, which makes it hard sometimes to figure out who is being betrayed. What is evident is that it involves three lonely people who see their situation as apart of their responsibility to a larger goal.
The episode last night included a heart wrenching exchange between the President Fitzgerald and his wife, Mellie. Their relationship is often contentious with occasional notes of kindness and sweetness. Mellie is aware of her husband’s affair with Olivia Pope, but is more interested in his Presidency than his outside interests so she puts up with it. The President seems to struggle with his feelings and his duty to uphold his image. But, last night, he talked to Mellie about how their relationship was engineered by his overbearing Father, who was more worried about his son’s image and future political career.
Fitz: Does it ever bother you? All the lies? All the pretending? And that’s not an accusation, cause I do it too and do it well. It’s just a question. Because it’s gotten so easy. I don’t know anymore.
Mellie: Pretending is what’s real.
Mellie: Every married couple alive pretends. They pretend they don’t hate their in-laws or their husband’s stupid jokes or their wife’s laugh or that they don’t actually love one of their children more than the others. Marriage is, well, it’s almost all pretend. For everyone. That’s the reality. That’s what’s real. Buying into the delusion that there’s any other way to live together, to get through an entire life together, that’s, well that’s the fantasy. That’s pretending.
As I listened to the delivery of this speech by the character, Mellie, I felt inner sadness. But, I started to wonder how many people resign themselves to a life of pretending. Is this what affairs are born of? Is it the belief that you have to pretend to be someone or something you’re not to satisfy the other person in the relationship? The theme of the episode seemed to be about spouses lying about who they are to exist in the relationship and keep up the illusion (or delusion) of love.
But, then I started thinking about pretending in general. Do we only pretend in our marriages? Are we pretending in our daily lives? Do we pretend at work and with our family members? Do we pretend with our friends? When are we our authentic selves? It’s easier to pretend that everything is fine than it is to get down into our feelings and admit how we really feel. When you talk about what you really think or feel to someone else then you have to deal with their reaction or feelings. You have to take the chance that it won’t result in them rejecting you. Maybe, people pretend to avoid the realization that their relationship isn’t serving their needs.
But, pretending produces damaging results. First, it builds resentment. When you are pretending and no one notices, it makes you feel like no one knows the real you. The more you pretend, the less you identify with the real you until you no longer recognize yourself. Eventually, you start to feel invisible. And, you will blame your partner for allowing you to disappear. You will lose connection with your partner. You might want to be seen so bad that you will find someone, outside the relationship, to show your true self. By creating intimacy with an outside person, you may feel as though that relationship is more rewarding than your present relationship.
Pretending is a barrier to intimacy with your partner. Within relationships, if you want to build intimacy, you have to show up as yourself. A relationship is where you are supposed to work through all the parts of yourself you think are not acceptable by giving your partner the opportunity to accept them. It’s not easy because you may face rejection. But, it’s over time and by working through all the fear and resistance that people can show up for one another. As long as you are pretending, you are cheating your partner out of growth and the opportunity to prove their acceptance and love. It also means that you don’t trust them with your true self. You are teaching them to love someone who doesn’t actually exist.
We’ve all pretended. Sometimes, life requires you to plaster a smile on your face when you feel like crying. But,all of us desire a sanctuary within another person where you can show the true you. But, it’s not automatic. You have to create it by consistently showing up as your authentic self. Your life partner is the one person you should be able to show more of yourself than anyone. It’s understandable that you may have to compromise and change some things to support the relationship. A relationship is about considering the other person and finding the balance between your needs and their needs. But, if you are just pretending to do those things to keep your partner quiet, you are putting a straitjacket on intimacy which will eventually lead to relationship madness. If you don’t believe me, watch the show.
The ultimate goal of being ourselves in an authentic way is actually about loving ourselves in a generous way.
What are your thoughts? Are you pretending? Can you show up as your authentic self? Share in comments.