The Role of Authenticity in Relationships

Imagine this: your friends have just set you up on a blind date. You’re filled with nerves just hours before the date, and they assure you, “Don't worry! Just be yourself!” We’ve all heard this phrase before, but what can “being yourself” actually mean, and what can it do for you? When it comes to our love lives, should we really follow this advice? What can being authentic lead to, and how does it affect our relationships?  To start off, authenticity has been found to lead to higher relationship quality. In one study conducted in 2010, authenticity was measured in four different dimensions: awareness, unbiased processing, behavior, and relational orientation. Participants who were more authentic by these measures also reported engaging in constructive relationship behavior, and in turn, leading to healthier relationships.  However, perceived authenticity also seems to have an effect on relationship quality. In this study that examined perceived authenticity between partners, those who were told that their partners were highly authentic were more likely to report an increase in trust, satisfaction, and commitment as compared to those who were told their partners were moderately authentic. Therefore, if people believe that their partners are being honest and presenting their true selves, they view their relationship more positively.  Finally, being authentic may just be the best strategy for a long-term relationship. When presented with descriptions of two individuals, one of which was “being themselves” and the other who was “playing hard to get”, there was a strong preference for the former authentic person. A significant number of participants saw them as more attractive, had a desire to date them, and could imagine themselves in a long-term relationship with them.  In short, we wouldn’t recommend pretending to be someone you’re not. Playing games, or strategically crafting your image to make yourself seem more attractive, will not help you in the long run. Instead, if you are authentic in your motivations and actions, it can ultimately lead to stronger and more stable relationships.