The poet Maya Angelou is known for so many beautifully worded ideas … after all, she’s a poet! One of my favorites of hers is,
“When people show you who they are, believe them.”
Note, she didn’t write, “When people tell you who they are …” she deliberately used the word “show.”
This is her version of the old saying “Actions speak louder than words.” So, what does this mean for relationships? Well, pretty much everything.
If your partner says your needs matter but doesn’t try to meet them, that’s showing you who they are.
If you say you’re not possessive or jealous, yet question every phone call, text, unexplained silence, or sideways glance at another person, that’s showing them who you are. If you say “I’m fine” when you’re clearly not, that’s showing who you are.
Recently, I had a long, reality-checking session with a couple I’ve been seeing for about six months now. They came in crisis, as so many do, and are now in a more stable place.
For the past 3 months, they’ve not made any real progress, and the man called me on it in my office.
“We’re stalled and stuck,” he said, in an accusatory voice.
I agreed they were. He looked challengingly at me and said, “So, what are you going to do about that?” I calmly asked him the exact same question.
They’d both said they wanted a more connected, loving, healthier marriage.
They agreed they needed to spend more time together and make that time more meaningful. They committed to half an hour every day to check in, catch up, touch base…whatever words you want to use to describe a couple connecting. And, they didn’t do it. At all.
Not once, in three months, had they spent 30 minutes together more than two consecutive days. I quoted Maya to them, and said they were really showing each other how much their marriage meant to them, no matter what they said. That silenced them both.
Trust is key to all healthy relationships, and one important way to build and maintain trust is to show up authentically. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and back it up with congruent actions. Congruence is SO important. Your words and actions need to match, and they need to do it consistently. When they do, you’re showing who you are: someone who can be trusted, relied upon, and believed.