Being Earnest

honesty-sincerity-integrityLast weekend, I went to a very interesting gathering of women to discuss themes that appear in my books, and other issues of concern . . .

I wanted to title this blog ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ as a play on Oscar Wilde’s great work of that name but then I realized that may mislead people into thinking I’d actually read it, when in fact I only ever watched the movie, which starred the wonderful Rupert Everett and incomparable Colin Firth, two of my favorite British actors.

Still, this is a blog about being earnest, in the sense of “showing depth and sincerity of feeling” but also about being authentic, which is a close cousin but not the same thing  as being earnest. Just this past weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend a gathering of women in Northern Virginia, having been invited by one of my readers (and now cyber-pal) to join a discussion about some of the themes in my books, and issues that modern and progressive women face in general. We sat around with wine and finger foods in an informal setting, talking about love, life, relationships and of course, those mysterious creatures, men. After the discussion, as I headed for home, I thought about the various strands of the conversation we had and realized that a topic I had been contemplating blogging about anyway – authenticity- was actually at the heart of our discussion.

Here’s how:

As we talked well into the evening, we gradually got to a central question which dominated the latter hour and a half of our discussion. The question was basically this: can women be our authentic selves in relationships with men and still have those relationships survive?

And as a corollary to that, can the progressive, independent women of today find fulfilling relationships with men while still being their authentic selves?

Well let me end the suspense: we did not find answers to those questions.

But what I heard, as the conversation unfolded organically, was that the women present  were in one of two ‘camps’. In the first camp which I’ll call the Purists, were the women who believe that the prospects of having a relationship survive our being our true selves are dim, either because men have bought into a feminine ideal that does not exist or because we as women help perpetuate an ideal that we cannot possibly live up to. Though their point of view sounds quite jaded, at the heart of their views, they still by and large seemed to yearn for authentic relationships with men, relationships that are unfettered by the need to pretend to be something that we aren’t, be that a certain physical type, or of a certain temperament, etc.  So in other words, these women want to achieve the “pure” romantic notion of relationships where you and your guy don’t just love each other, you get each other as well.

The second camp, I call the Realists. These were the women who seem to accept the whole “women are from Venus, men are from Mars” philosophy and believe that the only way to maintain relationships with men is with a certain degree of gamesmanship – like learning how to provide all those things the masculine ego needs to survive (praise, reinforcement and recognition) and making adjustments to find your personal fulfillment elsewhere because we understand and accept that the men in our lives will never fully get us though they may love us.

At the heart of those strands of thinking were different approaches to the question of being authentic. The Purists seemed to find something inauthentic about the Realists’ approach, and the Realists believed that the authenticity of the connection between women and their mates is not at all compromised by the need to make course adjustments just to keep the road to a long relationship primarily smooth and less fraught with conflict.

There was plenty of food for thought after this conversation, and as always, being in a place where I got to hear women sharing openly, frankly and earnestly about their needs, their wants, and their fears moved me and opened my mind. I don’t know if I will see these women again, but I know for sure that you will – as parts of them will appear in my work, and undoubtedly make it richer.

What do you think? Is it possible to be truly authentic in our relationships with men?

Happy Reading!

-Nia-

7 thoughts on “Being Earnest

  1. I’m going to venture to say, the real self will eventually come out. So we may as well be as real as we can from the very beginning. However, I think maintaining a successful relationship does require compromise, ego stroking, support of one’s dreams, and ACCEPTANCE. I think all of that is part of what love is in a relationship. Any relationship/friendship should inspire us to desire to be better than what we are. So that being said, I am probably a little bit of both purist and realist.

    1. I agree about it coming out Nikki, which is why so many relationships I see don’t last. When you start to find out who you thought you loved isn’t really that person at all, it has to be devastating. And while people do change, hopefully you change together rather than apart which I can only think would work if you are being real with each other in the first place.

  2. For me personally, I am a full blown realist in everything I do. However, I believe in both sides of this discussion because the authentic me is all about the gamesmanship as you say. Relationships cause for several things, one being thinking steps ahead of your opponent/mate…some call that thinking negatively, I call it being prepared for whatever comes. But my curse is being honest which is also a strategic move in the game…so when you think ahead of your opponent, you are able to tell them what they are about to do before they do it…which is always scary to the opposition.

  3. I have to say yes, it is possible to be your authentic self with men in relationships. I think it first requires you to actually know who you are authentically and then to trust him with that part of yourself. In my ten years of marriage to my husband, who I am has definitely become more authentic because the things I didn’t even care about before, now became so essential to who I am and how I planned to live my life with or without him. And because I trusted him and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him like we said in our vows, I revealed those things about myself. Men I believe have the same issue, the same fears but through communication with the right person, it can be overcome. I will admit, as I realized some things about myself were not what I thought a man might find desirable, I decided to reveal myself with a “soft opening” like business will do in order to implement a change or reveal a new product…lol…Anyway, it worked for me and we are better for it.

    1. Congrats to you 10 years of marriage and hoping for a lifetime between you and your beloved. I LOVE the expression “soft opening”. And also the fact that as we grow, how we feel about things will change. If you are with the right person they will take that leap with you and embrace change just as you embrace theirs. But it can be a beautiful thing! I am thankful for my husband. I literally thank God everyday for him for all the reasons you named. We know the best and worst about each other and can love each other through it! This year marks 22 years together.

  4. That was deep Nia,

    I think it is possible to be your authentic self in a relationship. I do however, happen to know women who are from both groups. I’d like to think that I’m from the purist group. I believe that my husband and I have a genuine relationship and can totally be ourselves no matter what.
    However, if I am honest, I’d also have to say that from time to time I see a bit of the realist creeping in from both of us, depending on the situation.

    We are often swayed by what we see and what we hear from outside influences. In certain heated situations, I often tell my husband, “This is me and you know that. So why don’t we work on accepting each other instead of trying to change each other.” I believe if you’re not authentic, neither is the relationship. It’s work, but it can be done.

    I wish I could have been at that discussion!

  5. Hello Nia!

    Watched the movie too and LOVED it! I need to watch it again…

    Very well written post! I’m giggling over here because out of curiosity, I broached this issue with my married friends and they all whole heartedly, unequivocally, agreed with the realists. And the point they made, which caused me to stop and ponder their wisdom, was that women have to think about this from the perspective of “when I make some adjustments, he will be happy, and then he will feel good about himself and our relationship, and then he will most definitely do whatever I need to make ME happy”. But they didnt say this in a diabolical “I’m manipulating him to get what i want” kinda way. It was more an issue of giving a little (where it really won’t diminish you to do it), and then reaping something bigger and better – for themselves and for the marriage – a win-win situation. For them, its about the big picture and picking their battles and figuring out how much they can give. Like Nikki’s book chat said, this is something we do in ALL relationships anyway. Is it authentic or inauthentic? I don’t know – I think it just IS what it is. But yes, as someone else posted, women do need to be careful not to adjust too much and completely forget themselves. No wonder people say marriage is hard work. And men do make these adjustments too (gotta keep the wife happy, right?).

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