Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Differentiate between being civil and being authentic
Va.: You once said that if you find yourself editing what you say, or working to uphold a certain image of yourself with someone, then that's a bad thing.
Well, why, exactly? I've been married for 24 years. I edit what I say and work to uphold a certain image of myself all the time. I can say things politely or rudely; I can live like a reasonably competent person or like a slob. It seems to work better when I think about how I want to phrase things and how my husband would react if I said hurtful things, or didn't hold up my end of the bargain re: spending, house cleaning, care of the dogs, all sorts of things. Makes the world tick along a little more smoothly, in my experience.
Carolyn: It's also a way to find yourself several years into a relationship and bearing no resemblance to the person you really are.
What you're talking about is civility, and, you're right, it's not good for us to express whatever hateful thought crosses our minds.
But I'm not talking about civility so much as authenticity. It's one thing to be a civil version of yourself*, but it's quite another to: bite back your concerns/objections because your mate will yell at you for voicing them; or be super-social to please your super-social mate when going out all the time drains you; or be the high-functioning, super-competent half of the couple who carries the load for both of you even though your mate is perfectly capable (and when what you really want is to sleep for a month). These are just a few common examples.
Forcing yourself to conform to outside expectations — real or perceived — will very likely kill, in roughly this order: your mood, your sense of self, your feelings for the other person, your will to invest another ounce of energy in the relationship, and finally, your relationship. With possible lingering effects on you.
That's what I'm talking about.
*If there is no civil version of you that comes naturally, then it's actually best not to put on a veneer of civility, but instead to either choose a mate who is unfazed by the real uncivil you, or to work on your attitude and temperament to the point where the impulse to be civil is real.
Children each form different relationship with parents
From one mom to another: I know it's natural for moms to favor one child. But do you think it's even possible to have equal feelings about more than one child?
Carolyn: Yes, though "equivalent" seems more apt to me.
It's a given (yet it amazes me still) that kids coming from the same gene pool and same home can emerge completely different from each other — and different personalities mean different relationships, with their parents and everyone else.
It follows that the high points in each parent-child relationship will be different — and sometimes, each produces something the parent values. One may be great company, the other extremely helpful, etc. As kids grow and change, too, you might feel closer to one kid here, another there. That's why it makes sense, for all of you, to treat your feelings as dynamic, and just take each kid, each day at a time.