Authentic vs. Ideal: How to be your best self in a relationship

How to be your best self in a relationship

Some of us prioritize our partner’s needs over our authentic self in relationships and inevitably feel seconded. Relationships are meant to be built on glorious compromises after all.

Some of us refuse to be anything but our authentic self in a relationship and make our partners feel like a third wheel. Why compromise – isn’t your partner supposed to hold up their self as strongly as you do and like you for your honesty?

If you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ve given either situation a go and walked out confused.

What am I supposed to be?

Balancing Act: Authentic vs. ideal

Research suggests couples are happier when they’re their most ideal self in a relationship rather than their authentic self. However, 70% did agree that being their authentic self was quite important in a relationship dynamic.

Ideal self – sounds pretty heavy doesn’t it? Also sounds like a lot of work. Besides, if there’s a significant discord between your authentic and ideal self in a relationship, you’re likely to make yourself unhappy anyway.

This brings us to the question: how to be your best self in a relationship without making yourself or your partner unhappy?

Simple, try to achieve a balance between your authentic and ideal self.

Yeah, that’s easier said than done.

Don’t worry though – we have some actionable tips that’ll nudge you in the right direction.

Let’s find out how to be your best self without paying just lip service to the well being agenda of your relationship.

How to be your best self in a relationship by banking on your authentic self

You need a partner who gets you. We’re sure you would agree that being your honest, authentic self in a relationship can help your partner understand you better and eradicate chances of your needs being unaddressed.

Social outlook, political views, and life goals

These make you who you are.

If you’d rather spend Friday nights catching up with friends, feel free to be open about it. A partner who cares about your well being will never hold you back. They’ll recognize that you value your social needs as well as your time with them and will act accordingly. However, when the relationship is new and you willingly ditched your friends every Friday night for your partner, that’s the vibe they’ll imbibe and assume you’re okay with it.

But when the high of the new association wears off, you may be ruing projecting an inauthentic self and in a way hold your partner responsible for it, which is an unfair way to go about it.

It’s the same with your political views and life goals – these are the essence of your being. Holding back to appease your partner doesn’t work out in the long term.

Key decisions in relationships

To go exclusive or not to go exclusive? Don’t be a yes man when you’re not ready.

You need to consider your happiness as a influencing factor when key relationship decisions are made. Whether it’s opting for a label, going exclusive, moving in, or moving cities for your or your partner’s job, don’t say yes if you’re not completely on board.

These decisions also form the foundation of your relationship. So if they reek of inauthenticity, you’re responsible for setting the wrong expectations and in a way contribute to your own unhappiness.

don't ditch your friends

Don’t ditch your friends, family, or hobbies

Friends and family are notorious for calling us out on our bullshit, which makes continued association with them even more important if you tend to lose yourself in a new relationship easily.

Being in regular touch with those who keep you grounded is a great way to remind yourself of your basic values and overall outlook. Your close friends and family are a whole lot more attuned to your authentic needs (more than you give them credit for). This means they can give you an honest opinion when you’re making a practical decision or call you out if you’re bending over backwards to adjust to a “situation.”

Reminder: A “situation” has really low chances of blossoming into a fulfilling relationship.

Also, remember hobbies? They’re things that you do for fun. They give you joy when everything else in life is pretty much blah. But more importantly, they connect you with your authentic outlook and needs.  

Essentially, step back and engage in something you love to give yourself space to understand your evolving needs.

How to be your best self in a relationship by banking on your ideal self

Your ideal self in a relationship gives you goals to build a better you.

Yes, you’re fabulous. But can you be better?

Absolutely. We all can!

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.


-Aldous Huxley

Really listen to your partner

While losing yourself shouldn’t be the price of ending up alone, there are times when you really need to listen to your partner and be there for them.

If they state that a certain aspect of your personality (for example, passive aggression) is detrimental to their or the overall well being of your relationship, it may be time to take a good, hard look at your behavior. Don’t dismiss it as a quirk your partner needs to grow to accept. If they let slip that something you said or did hurt them, don’t be afraid to apologize at the cost of holding up your authentic beliefs.


Remember: Being overly apologetic or not taking responsibility for your actions at all can cause a dent in your relationship.

listen to your partner

Down with the defense

Weigh your words. Consider the impact of your actions.

In essence, live this cliché every day: put yourself in your partner’s shoes.

That’s what your ideal self would do.

Now, if you aspire to do this all seven days in a week, you’ll probably end up actually doing it for four – which is markedly better than zero.

Defensiveness makes your partner quickly see that you’re better suited as a garden wall than a suitor. Standing your ground is great, but knowing when to yield is key to a healthy relationship.

Remember, self awareness and fair actions make good relationships great.

There’s more to a perspective than what you believe

Your ideal self would like to revel in the Renaissance spirit of discovery.

But in the real world, personal beliefs are so well, personal. And when they’re challenged, you naturally feel attacked.

Now, being in a relationship means you’ll spend a significant amount of time with your partner, whose beliefs may not align with yours all the time.

This means you need to rely on your ideal self to assess a situation that challenges your outlook – do you stand to gain from an added perspective or does this dilute your perspective and adds no real value?

The Wrap

Do you sense you’re always putting the needs of your partner above yours and saying yes to things you’d ideally say no to? Do you often find yourself acting in a way that your partner will approve of?

That’s how losing yourself feels like in a relationship.

Alternately, you may have tried to ensure you’re never stifled in a relationship and put all the cards on the table. So why are you sensing less than warm feelings from your partner?

Often, being your authentic self becomes a priority because you need to be comfortable around your partner or you feel that your authenticity makes the relationship authentic.

But, achieving a balance between your ideal and authentic self makes both you and your partner fall back on a solid foundation of comfort, understanding, and mutual respect. Plus, the relationship still stays pretty authentic.

So which self are you going to choose today?

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