Today and in the next post, I am going to delve into the perfect girlfriend/wife mask. I’ve combined the two because the perfect wife mask is a lot like the perfect girlfriend mask and usually has deep roots in it. It seems like a natural progression to move from girlfriend to wife, and a lot of the same ideas crossover. I am going to focus on the girlfriend role since for me and I suspect for many women we put this mask on much younger in life. This mask, I believe, can fuel our insecurities and change us the most. We date different men with different personalities and needs, and we adjust our mask to meet those needs. In response to pressure we’ve all felt, we change ourselves in order to appear to be the perfect mate for each of the men we become romantically involved with.
I started to tell you in the post about "the happy fat kid" that my weight alienated me from my peers. After the "rose incident" I mentioned in that post, my self-esteem hit an all time low. I truly felt that I would never find someone to like me, let alone love me. So I overcompensated by being extra nice to guys and being their friend. When I was 15, a guy I went to church with asked me out. He was 18, really was not the most attractive guy in the world, and we did not have much in common except that we went to the same church. I was so excited to have someone pay attention to me that I jumped right in, feet first anyway. I turned myself into the perfect girlfriend. I paid him lots of attention, did everything I could to make him feel like he was "the man," and basically lost myself in the process. I’ll take the liberty of saying from experience, please don't change who you are for the sake of pleasing someone else. It rarely works out well; this I can attest to.
I was so scared that this relationship was my only shot at having a man’s love, I believed everything my 18-year-old first boyfriend said. I let him do things to me and I did things for him that would scar me for years. He was very possessive and demanding. He hurt me in many ways that I’ve shared with only a few people in my life. He fed my insecurities and called me awful names. He made sure I knew that no one else would ever love or want me the way he did. If you are in a relationship that involves any form of abuse—emotional, physical, mental—whatever, get out now. No matter what insecurities you hide, no one has the right to mistreat you, especially someone who claims to love you. Even after all these years, I praise God for the one thing that man said that was right. No one has ever "loved" me like he did. And I praise God for showing me what he said that was wrong. Someone else did want me. Thankfully, I was in this abusive relationship for just nine months, but it changed me in a profound way. Over the years God has shown me that the mistakes I made trying to hide my insecurities are not final. Neither are yours. There is so much more in store in life for you and me.
My pastor has spoken about what he calls the “Knit, Stitch, Rip, and Scar.” In a nutshell, every time you engage in an intimate relationship with another person you knit your heart to theirs, and when that relationship ends and you go your separate ways, your heart is ripped apart. Over a lifetime our hearts are marred from the scars of each broken relationship. And yet the cycle of reinventing ourselves becomes a pattern that is hard to break. We work tirelessly to be what each new partner needs, but eventually we can’t keep up the façade. At that point we can become bitter and retreat further into the masks of self-deception we’ve created, or we can choose to begin to discover ourselves and take steps to live and love as we were created to. We can move toward becoming the person we were intended to be. I was freed from that abusive relationship, and from wearing the mask of the perfect girlfriend. You’ve begun to break the cycle here. Be encouraged to stop hiding behind the mask of the perfect girlfriend and believe you are worthy of more. We’re doing it together.
I am so happy to say that my next boyfriend started out as a true friend, and is now my husband. Even when we started dating, I tried to be the perfect girlfriend because I was so fearful of rejection. I was willing to give him whatever he needed and wanted so that he would love me. Thankfully, even as an 18- year-old young man he was worlds apart from my first experience with men. He treated me so differently—with respect and kindness, and genuine interest. In the beginning, I did not believe he really liked me in a romantic way because he was so gentle and kind. I didn’t know how to trust that he was not pushy, rough and possessive. I didn’t believe I was attractive to him. I fell into the old habit of trying to make myself invaluable to him so that he would never leave me. I kept wearing the mask of the perfect girlfriend because I truly did not believe for a long, long time that he really loved ME for ME. It took a long time, but I came to see and believe that he really was different, and that if he could love and respect me, then I owed that much to myself.
How many of you are out there, trying to be the perfect girlfriend? What part of yourself have you given up to make a partner happy? Do you pretend to be less intelligent? Do you let men speak to you with disrespect? Do you allow him to hurt you because you believe he really does love you, and he doesn't mean it when he hurts you? Do you overlook his infidelities because you think you don’t deserve faithfulness? Do you stay and take whatever he dishes out because you fear you are not worthy of real love? Or maybe you have never seen a true loving relationship, so you what you have is as good as it gets?
I’m a Christian, you know by now if you’ve read my posts. Whether you are a Christian too or not, here is a truth you ought to know if you really want to shed the mask of the perfect girlfriend and get your self-esteem together: You are worthy of love and respect. You are worthy of having a man cherish you and treat you like his queen. You guessed it—next time we’ll talk about removing the mask of the perfect wife.