women with pink long hair blows dust from her hands A how-to guide for getting below surface level.

When I came out, I hit the scene. I put on my best shirt (making sure my collar was up…), titivated my pixie hair cut (this often took some time) and made sure my breath was minty fresh.

Hitting the dance floor I scanned around for any newbies to the establishment. Ladies that would appreciate a genuine smile to make them feel welcome.

In those days, an authentic relationship didn’t feature in my life plan. Yet, after years of being on the scene and a spot of dating in and amongst, I realised something was missing. A genuine connection with someone. Someone that would listen to me, take the time to understand who I am and what my goals are in life (without judgement) and someone that would snuggle up on the sofa in front of the fire with me.

I had a few relationships over the years. They all ended because of the same thing. I found out they were not the person I thought they were.

Let me explain. There is something magical about those early days of getting to know someone. Laughing, having fun and ‘playing out’ together. Surface level conversations to find out more about their family life, work and hobbies. Rarely in the early days do we delve into those deeper conversations about the things that really matter to us. I guess we are too wrapped up in having fun.

Then something changed. I realised I didn’t know the person in front of me. The person I had come to know was a censored version of themselves. Over the weeks and months of getting to know each other, they projected someone they thought I would fall in love with. They wore a ‘mask’ and rarely let it drop. The mask protected them so they didn’t reveal all of their vulnerabilities, fears and real thoughts and emotions to me. It dawned on me that I had fallen for ‘the mask’ and had no idea who was standing in front of me.

And with that realisation came the thought ‘I have been hiding the real me too.’

In our relationships, we show up with our ‘masks’ on. Only when we strip these away are we able to be in a relationship with the true version of each other.

If you are anything like me, you have layers and layers of past hurts, other people’s judgements and criticisms weighing you down and your old beliefs and conditioning bubbling away under the surface. You have been collecting them throughout your life. They are all layered up on top of each other.

We rarely show up as our REAL selves. The true, authentic and best version of ourselves. Instead, we hide behind the layers. We hide to protect ourselves and to stay safe. Worrying about other people’s perceptions and judgements stop us from being truly authentic in our relationships. All relationships.

I learnt that when you hide the real you, it is really difficult to express yourself fully to your partner. Communication becomes an issue, tension rises and the arguments begin. The emotions you experience in your relationship become difficult to express and instead of talking them through with your partner, you lock them all down inside of yourself.

In those moments where I have shown who I really am and embraced my vulnerabilities, I noticed a shift in our relationship. It brought us to a deeper understanding of each other and was the catalyst for enabling us to grow and learn more – both as individuals and as a couple.

So, how do you transition from wearing a mask to being real and authentic in your relationship? How do you let your partner in so they get to know the real you?

There are 3 steps to showing up as the real and authentic you.

Step 1. Raise your awareness.

Notice what triggers you in your relationship. What triggers you is here to teach you something about yourself. You will continue to experience similar situations and emotions until you learn the lessons being presented to you. Raise your awareness of how you currently present yourself to the world. Are you simply going through the motions of life? Do you let life happen to you? Become aware of the choices you make and the impact those choices have on you and those around you.

Step 2. Release.

Releasing is essential for a healthy heart, mind and soul. Release all the old beliefs, conditioning, patterns and judgements that you internalised over the years. Let go of what people think you are and their expectations of you. Release all the old stories you have associated with your partner’s patterns of behaviour. Your peace is disturbed when your mind has attached story or meaning to a situation. When you work on yourself and the stories you have attached, you break down the barriers in your relationship.

Release all the things that have happened in your past and in your relationship. Focus your attention on the present moment. Real connection is always experienced in the present moment. When releasing, emotions will rise to the surface. Don’t hold your emotions in. Express them. Feel them. Be in them.

Step 3. Reconnect.

Be completely present with your partner. When they are talking, put down your phone or IPad. Listen. Listen more. Listen deeper. No mask can exist when you are completely present. To connect more deeply with your partner open your heart, let go of any agenda and give them your full attention and presence. Don’t jump in to say something. Listen. Fear and miscommunication come about when you project into the future. Bring your attention back to now.

Hold the space for your partner to blossom. Hold the space for each other. For love. For joy. For fun. As often as you can.

You have vulnerabilities. Don’t hide them. Embrace them. Be who you are, not who you think you should be.

Take risks. Fully express yourself to your partner. Yes, you may feel vulnerable in that split second, but that will quickly pass and you will create a deeper, more loving connection.

You are who you are. Why pretend you are something you are not? When you focus on dropping your mask and showing up as the real you, your relationships become deeper, more passionate and you will feel a connection you have never experienced before.

Raise your awareness, release what no longer serves you and reconnect.

Remember, relationships are your greatest teacher.

And if you are waiting for permission to be who you really are… you just got it.