The paradox of intimate relationships

Do you meet many chameleons each day?

You know, people who have the ability to blend into the group they’re with.

I know you’ve met a few, perhaps you’ve married one – or you’re one yourself.

A chameleon is the person who becomes whatever they believe the people they’re with want them to be in order to be liked. He’s the guy who uses the big words when he’s with his smart friends, talks sports with his athletic friends, cusses and swears with his work friends, is the perfect son when around his mother, and all business talk when with his father.

Underneath it all, the chameleon has no idea who they are or if anyone else would like them if they were able to just be themselves.

What drives them is the desire to be what they perceive others want them to be because if they don’t, they’re afraid they’ll wind up alone.

The irony of all this – they likely already feel alone most of the time anyway.

Since chameleons do not believe they are okay and likable just as they are, they will go to great lengths to convince themselves and others that they are lovable.

If you’re a chameleon (aka a pleaser, nice guy), you may focus on something about yourself, or what you do, or even who you’re around in order to attain the approval and validation you seek from others – things like your looks, talent, smarts, work ethic, kindness, attractive spouse, cute kids, nice house or nice car.

While everyone gives these parts of life some thought, chameleons attach these parts to the perceived value it provides for their life.

Let me give you an example:

Steve uses the various parts of his life to win approval and love from others. He prides himself for always being in a good mood, dressing well, living in the right neighborhood, driving a nice and always clean car, having cute kids, and an attractive wife. When he and his wife go out, he’s very concerned about how she looks because of the reflection her attractiveness to others has on him.

Steve also wants to be seen as a good dad, so he likes to dress his kids so they look cute, then take them to the park. He believes when others see his kids they will smile and perceive him to be a good father.

What’s interesting is that no one really values Steve for his attachments, as none of these things have anything to do with who he is as a man.

The Dilemma Of Close Relationships

Relationships, especially close ones, present a problem (and we all face this problem).

There’s no way that you can be in a close, committed relationship, and not have your spouse discover who you really are.

This is the reason intimate relationships are so difficult.

They’re balancing acts.

Every committed relationship carries with it the fear of hurt or betrayal due to vulnerability and the fear of isolation or loneliness if you’re not close. How you navigate this balancing act is the mechanism for growth in the relationship.

In reality: You can get as close as YOU choose in your relationships.

Perhaps you’ve believed the opposite – that your spouse has to be open and available in order to create intimacy in the relationship. This is known as “other-validation,” and it’s very common in relationships (especially marriage).

Other-validated intimacy looks like this:

“I’ll tell you about me, but only if you tell me about you.

If you don’t, I won’t either. But I want to, so you have to.

I’ll go first and then you are obligated to disclose too: it’s only fair. But before I go, you have to make me safe and secure. I need to be able to trust you.”

When you approach relationships with too much emphasis on the other person and their reaction, response or validation – you create the chameleon. And being in a relationship as a chameleon, or with one, almost ensures that neither person will experience the intimacy and love both are seeking in the relationship.

Being intimate with someone doesn’t mean you get the response you want.

There’s a fundamental truth at work in every relationship – relationships (good, bad, and everything in between) are co-created.

In order for there to be a relationship, the spouse’s have to collude to create it.

This may hit you like a punch in the gut, but it’s truth.

To move beyond the chameleon and use your relationships to grow, here’s a few rules to follow:

  1. Confront yourself for the sake of your own integrity and personal development.
  2. Don’t count on your spouse confronting him/herself … that’s his/her business.
  3. Stop taking your spouse’s reactions personally.
  4. Don’t react to your feelings.
  5. Stop trying to change your spouse.
  6. Stop trying to make your spouse listen, accept or validate you.
  7. Forget about working on the relationship, and start working on yourself.
  8. Focus on your self, and not what your spouse isn’t doing.
(photo source)

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