When you enter into a relationship, you do so based on several basic notions: you like spending time with the person, you have the same values as the person, you like doing similar things. But what happens when, as your relationship evolves, as does your partner, into someone who you didn’t sign up to date? Can a changeling go back to their original form, or was their pre-dating dance simply an elaborate ruse?
The Person You Met
When we first start dating someone, both partners are bound to begin the ritual by putting their best foot forward. This means that in the first few months, we see the best that each other has to offer. Before each date, we spend from several minutes to several hours grooming, making ourselves into a desirable human being. One of the reasons we spend so much time on our appearances initially is that our early impressions of each other are formulated based largely on physical appearance and attraction.
Speaking strictly for women, this can mean everything from wearing only our skinny jeans, to sucking in our stomachs, to even hitting the gym to create our best physical impressions of what we think you are looking for. We make ourselves up, get our hair coloured, and keep a sharp eye on creeping hairlines, from our eyebrows to our bikini lines. We do this to rope you in, there is no doubt about it. The level to which we maintain this is really an individual matter. For some ladies, looking our best at all times is a constant concern. For others, we let a few things lag once we’re feeling settled.
For some women, this goes for our personalities as well. When you first meet someone, women are conditioned to act a certain way. The current dating world seems to promote an ethic of fun, not clingy; sexy but not slutty; confident, but not bossy. There are equal demands placed on men: do you pay, or go dutch; be romantic, but not cheesy; be sexually assertive while trying to read our often confused and confusing sexy/sweet/slutty signals. It’s a jungle out there.
It goes without saying that, in the initial stages of dating, we are possibly not being completely forthcoming with all of our foibles until we get to know, like, and trust the other person enough to expose the soft underbelly of our true selves.
What Can Change
Once the two of you have gotten past the initial uncertainty of “does he like me? does she like me?” the two of you will begin to let the other person in on some of the things that you may have been keeping from each other. These hidden qualities will likely come out in some of your first few disagreements. In the early days, both partners might let a few things pass that they are not as willing to overlook as the two of you become more used to each other and more secure in demanding of each other the things each of you needs.
One reason for this might be that your partner chose to overlook some behaviours, hoping that they were simply mistakes, not patterns. Chances are that you did the same. None of us want to scare off our new potential romance by seeming unreasonably demanding, restricting or controlling from the get-go. Another reason for changes in demands or needs is simply the fact that, as a relationship changes and evolves, so does a partner’s expectations. We come into relationships with preconceived notions about how we expect people to treat us, and these are difficult to change. In fact, chances are, those expectations were always there, your partner was just waiting for the right moment, when she is feeling secure enough that you won’t ditch her, to bring it up.
It can be more disturbing when what seems to change in your partner is not so much their needs, but their basic personality. It is not uncommon, I have found, to find that there is often a whole other person underneath someone’s public persona. This can work in several ways, good and bad. For instance, you can start dating someone who you perceive as sweet, if a little needy. When it comes down to the crunch, however, don’t be surprised if this delicate flower end up having an inner strength solid enough to support the two of you when called upon.
On the opposite side of the coin is the person you are attracted to because they are the life of the party. We have all met charismatic people who, once you really get to know them, can be quite serious, sombre, and sometimes downright depressing. What are you to do with someone who start to show signs that they are fundamentally not the person you signed up for? Can you change them?
When it comes to someone’s character, chances are that the authentic part of them is the one that they show you when the two of you are alone. All of us put on airs in public to some extent, and for many, it is a good defense mechanism. By showing you a different side of themselves, they are basically showing you that they trust you enough to let you see who they really are. This is also probably a test, to see if you are going to stick around after they’ve shown you their less crowd-pleasing side.
What you have to decide is if you are interested in all facets of your partner’s personality. If the change is just too drastic, you might have to talk to them about it, or ask if there is anything you can do to help them. It could be that the change is situational and that they simply haven’t shared something painful that is going on with them. If it is just who they are, then you have figure out if the potential in the relationship is worth sticking it out. If the change isn’t situational, then chances are that the party-girl you initially encountered is not going to come back too terribly often.
Finally, comes one of the most sensitive changes: appearance. Once we have been in a relationship for a bit, both partners start to get a little lazy. Legs and faces don’t get shaved as often, perhaps you’ve both put on a couple of pounds, maybe sweats have replaced the skinny jeans as the date uniform of choice. The best way to attack this is not head on.
If something about your girlfriend’s appearance is bothering you, don’t tell her. Rather, do things for her that encourage a change back (this is how we work on you guys). If she hasn’t gotten her roots dyed in a while, or she’s forgotten the art of make up, get her a gift certificate at a salon and tell her that she deserves to be pampered. If you want it to be something specific (like a brow wax), and she accuses you of making her feel badly about herself, blame it on the person at the salon. Tell her that you wanted to pamper your girlfriend, and this is the service the girl at the salon recommended. Then shrug helplessly and hope she falls for it.
If you’re both getting a little chubby and it’s turning you off of each other, start planning active dates like wall climbing or even walking every night to get yourselves active. Make changes in your life that reflect the changes back to how you guys were initially. If your sex life has stalled, talk about new things you can try to get yourselves interested in each other again.
If you are not being intimate (both sexually and emotionally), it’s going to be difficult to work through any changes that are happening that you may not understand or be comfortable with. Keeping open lines of communication is important because if you keep silent about changes in her, then you are implicitly condoning and encouraging them. If you aren’t happy with who your girlfriend has changed into, it’s up to you to let her know your expectations. Chances are, you’ve changed too, and maybe she is trying t figure out a way to bring up the exact same conversation.