I never knew what loving someone looked like inside of a commitment to each other. Looking back, I thought if I was the perfect girlfriend, or if I could make the relationship great all of the time and fix anything that went wrong, then we wouldn’t break up.
Instead, of course, I would prove myself wrong. I would prove that I was unlovable.
My perfectionism would show up subtly. It was almost imperceptible to me, which made it difficult to shift the relationship pattern I could see myself having but not knowing why.
I avoided conflict, because I was terrified that it was the gateway to breaking up. I spent a lot of time trying to make sure that nothing went wrong in relationships.
I would slowly slip in to people-pleaser mode, doing what I thought I "should" do and being who I thought would be the "perfect" girlfriend — doing sweet things, always being there when he needed, validating him, making sure to always think about him when making my plans.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with doing any of those things. What wasn’t working was that my intention in doing those things came from fear. I was looking for love from fear of not being lovable.
My strategy instead was to create a shiny squeaky clean image of myself to show how lovable I was, and keep a lid on the messy, unsure, and imperfect personality traits. I had to have it all together to be lovable — a good job, a nice home, always with a smile on my face, well put together, among other things.
The cost to myself also became very clear: I lost myself. Predictably, relationships would end because he felt smothered or I felt my needs weren’t getting met — which is no surprise because I completely denied having them by pretending to be perfect.
Like a peacock fanning its feathers, showing yourself favourably while dating is completely normal, and it feels so incredible when you find someone head over heels for you.
There’s the excitement, the butterflies, the trying on his last name (jokingly, of course), the adventure of being courted and the lust high. It’s like you’ve finally proved that inner critic wrong, that you are indeed lovable.