In the beginning there is very little context. No shared awareness of each others wants, needs or beliefs. No memories of conversations, stories of our pasts or wishes for the future. No power dynamics.
Time passes and we come to know more of what others are aware of; our laughs, our sighs, the faces we make. They, in turn come to know more of what we are aware of. Our context grows.
Eventually we are aware enough to predict how others will respond. How they will feel.
I push myself away from situations where I don’t feel safe to be honest. Not only in what I say or do, but in what I think.
In the begining relationship there is very little existing context. I’m thinking of the context of a relationship as the things the members have a shared awareness of. An experience you’ve all shared. A conversation about what everyone believes. Stories of our pasts. Wishes for our future. Power dynamics.
As time passess the context of the relationship grows. We come to know more of the things the other members of the relationship are aware of, and they come to know more of what we are aware of. This is defferent for every relationship I find.
As the context grows we build a picture of the participants in the relationship. What do they like, what do they dislike. How do they see them selves, how do they see us. How do they respond to things, how do they expect us to respond to things.
Here lies the point. As that context grows and knowledge and expectations of how everyone will respond grows we inevitably come upon situations where being authentic will distrupt the relationship. Perhaps we’ve changed and no longer feel the same way about something but the other members expect the old feeling. Perhaps some piece of context is created (us becoming aware of it) that isnt inline with our beliefs. Perhaps exposing those beliefs might damage the relationship.
At this point we have to make a decision. Do we be authentic or do we act ingenuinely.
In a relationship where I feel safe to be honest I am free to make that decision, to choose. In a relationship where I do not feel safe to be honest the choice is made for me, I must lie.
Lieing is tiring. It’s hard enough maintaining a single identity. When you throw in a parallel alter ego based on the context of a relationship you start multiplying that difficulty.
Perhaps there is energy sometimes for a few minor deviations. Some alter egos we can maintain to keep our relationships stable. Infact this is probably the norm.
There comes a point though where keeping some relationships stable means maintaining an enormous deviation from our self. An alter ego that is vastly or starkly different from our honest selves (or perhaps who we would like to be).
This point comes gradually I find and as it does I push myself away, I start to end that relationship.
The context of a relationship is a little like a garden. Left unattended to grow it develops many weeds which choke out the parts of the garden you intended to grow and replace them with things you didn’t choose. Left totally alone your garden might become so over grown that you would decide to tear it all down and start again or perahsp find a new garden.
If only we have the tools, training and permission to remove those weeds as they arrive, we migth be able to keep the garden nice for longer. If only I had the tools, training and permission to handle these challenging changes in context, we might be able to keep our relationships stable for longer.
Maintaining a relationship with the tools, training and permission to manage the changes in context creates (for me) a relationship in which I can feel safe to be authentic when I want. A relationship in which I can feel safe to be me.