Mark Darcy says to Bridget Jones, “I like you, just the way you are…” and the whole audience sighs. That’s exactly what you want, isn’t it? That your other half loves you just as you are, with all your good and bad qualities. Right?
You want your partner to love you just as you are. But who is it exactly that they’re supposed to love? Is it the person you were when you met? The person you became in the end? Is it that slightly moody morning person, or the radiant you-at-your-best? “All of the above,” you may say, “but most of all, I want my partner to love who I am.”
But who are you? Your personality changes constantly, just like everything else in the world. It’s like the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said ages ago, panta rhei, everything flows. You can’t step into the same river twice. Buddha agreed, nothing is permanent, everything changes and is interdependent. Is your personality in your body? Well that’s renewed every seven years, cell by cell, from top to bottom. Even your brain is subject to constant change. To live means to learn, to grow, to gather wisdom. In fact, you are never the same from one minute to the next.
If you want your partner to love you just as you are, you burden him (or her, obviously) with a complicated task. If he loves the person you once were, you may feel less than valued because apparently, he doesn’t see who you are now. If you ask him to change along with you – to love the person you are from moment to moment – you’re not exactly making it easy either. How can you ask him to love you while you keep changing into someone else?
What’s more, if you say you love a person just as they are, that’s not all roses either. Behind those sweet words is the expectation that your beloved had better stay the person they are right now. It can come across as a demand, as a sacred duty, even as an act of tyranny. “You never complain, and I love that about you…” or “The best thing about you is that you’re always cheerful…”
This is the biggest mistake people can make in relationships: forcing each other into a straitjacket. To force a person means to create a distance. Those who force are the boss, and those who are forced are, in fact, slaves. Do you want to turn your partner into a slave? That’s probably not what you mean when you say, “I love you just the way you are.”
Text: Jean-Pierre van de Ven – Photo: Toa Heftiba
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