When you go on a first date, you tend to present the best version of yourself. You’re clean, you’re groomed, you’re wearing a nice outfit, and you’re well within your rights to be doing all of that and more. But what happens if that date goes well, and so do the next few? Before you know it, you’re in a relationship, and you may find yourself wondering when — or even if — you can break out the sweatpants and show your boo the schlubbier side of yourself.
Do it right away. No, really. Here’s why.
Keeping up an act is hard work
Let’s be blunt right off the bat: There exist some people who go to great lengths to obscure the facts that they fart and poop from their partners. Do not be like those people.
I have personally known women who have insisted that, if their partners were to be made aware that they farted, the “romance” in their union would simply cease. This is delusional. Your partner definitely knows you fart. Running to the bathroom and turning the faucet on full-blast will not keep them from understanding that you are a human being whose body produces gas, but it will make you look a little unhinged and will totally exhaust you.
The same goes for sticking to a rigorous primping routine. Have you ever seen The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel? There is a sequence in the first season that shows the titular character waking up before her husband, sneaking to the bathroom, dolling up for the day, and getting back into bed so that she looks picture-perfect when he wakes up and he never has to see her without makeup. Doesn’t that sound absolutely taxing? While a fictional show takes that to the extreme, in real life, you may still feel like you have to be put-together 24/7 in order to be accepted. This should not be the case; your partner should care the same for you from the moment you wake up, even if you’re in hair curlers or an acne spot treatment, as they do all throughout the day.
Obscuring the authentic version of yourself is always a problem
OK, so taking care to avoid ripping arse in front of someone or always being in a cute outfit can seem innocuous enough. You can justify these behaviours by saying you just don’t want to be rude, right? You can justify a lot of things that way, actually, and small put-ons can snowball into big ones. If you’re not sexually fulfilled, you might not want to be rude and bring that up, for instance. Do away with these thoughts right now; relationships are about openness and honesty, and letting the other person see your face in all its broken-out glory sans concealer is just as much an indicator of openness as your willingness to talk to them about serious problems.
“If you want your partner to think you never poop and you never fart, then what else aren’t you telling them right now for fear of them seeing you as disgusting, gross, ordinary — whatever it is?” asked Dr. Lori Beth Bisbey, a clinical psychologist and sex and intimacy coach. “Usually, it’s not just the farting.”
She said that authenticity is always better in relationships than “this perfect act that people try to put on.” If you find yourself trying to hide the small, unsophisticated parts of who you are, nip it quickly before you find yourself hiding bigger things, like concerns about the direction of the relationship or your true emotions.
If you never let your partner hear your boisterous laugh, see you in your comfy clothes, or know that something is not sitting right with you in the partnership, you’re not giving them a chance to love the real you or work with you on anything. It’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to them.
The truth will come out — and there may be consequences
Movies and television go a long way in promoting the idea you should always be perfect, polite, and inoffensive for your partner. (To be clear, if that’s your thing, you totally should, but of course, then it’s for you and not necessarily them.) There’s an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that sees Will Smith’s character bemoaning that he isn’t sure his girlfriend’s body “is hers” after she removes her coloured contacts, hair extensions, and press-on nails. His response is deeply uncool and misogynistic, but the fear of eliciting one like it from a partner is real all the same.
Bisbey pointed out that if you go to great lengths to obscure the natural, human parts of yourself in a relationship, not only will your partner be stunned when they inevitably see you in a casual moment, but they may get the feeling you’re deceitful.
“It’s not something that you can sustain, so if you’re putting forward a false self, it’s only a matter of time before the other person is going to see what’s underneath, and at that point, you’ve basically been lying to the person since the beginning,” she said. “It often does have a negative impact on the relationship.”
She noted that while many people do this in a minor form, if you take it to an extreme and, say, never let someone see you without makeup, you’re setting up a sort of fake reality. Bisbey has heard some people give dating advice that amounts to, “Let them love you before you let them see those things.” That, she said, is awful advice. After all, then the other person is falling in love with a part of you that is just one bit of the whole tapestry of who you are, at best, and is a total falsification, at worst.
Do not fear rejection for being real
Maybe you’re doubling down on your self-care routine so your new partner will always see you looking your best. Maybe you’re committing to the appearance that you’re always working, striving, and meeting goals so they will think you’re successful. You might fear that if they see you looking less-than-perfect or lounging on a lazy day, they won’t like you anymore, since that’s not what they’re used to.
First of all, that’s probably not true. The other day, I got a press release about a survey of 1,000 Americans that found that 53% of respondents wouldn’t care if their partner was wearing underwear with holes in it. Yeah, it’s weirdly specific — and was done to promote an underwear brand — but it’s also kind of comforting. Your partner probably does not care if you are schlubby sometimes, so you don’t have to be so guarded.
Then again, they might care. And if they do, Bisbey has a question for you: “Do you really want that partner?”
She went on, “What are you doing with somebody who’s not going to accept all of you?”
If your partner is pressuring you to always look a certain way, even on days when you’re just lounging around at home, or they recoil when you so much as burp in bed, they probably aren’t the one for you. They should like you just as much when you’re doing a face mask in a bathrobe as they do when you’re dressed up for a night out. That’s authenticity and realness; forcing you to put on airs is not — that’s manipulative and unfair.
Find a middle ground
You should embrace the “gross” side of yourself early on in the relationship so authenticity and openness can guide you both the whole time. Wear your most formless old leggings on a weekend in. Ask your partner if you’ve got a booger in your nose. Sleep in your retainer. Be who you really are, because you should be with someone who loves you either way.
Just don’t get too comfortable. No, you shouldn’t be dressed up and diffident all the time for them, but you should be hygienic and decent — for both of you.
“It’s lovely when someone makes an effort for you,” Bisbey said. “One of the things I see that happens after people decide to live together is people stop making efforts.”
She said you can and should totally let your guard down, but not to the point the other person starts thinking that you no longer care if they feel special. Keep up with some self-care. Make time for the gym, your waxing appointments, your showers — whatever it is that keeps you feeling confident. When you feel good about yourself, you’ll be happier, and your partner will be glad you’re taking care of yourself while also being encouraged to do the same for themselves. Everyone wins.