If we are in an intimate relationship where we can truly be our broken self, and still loved despite all of our contradictory impulses, fractured parts, fears and phobias, we are deeply blessed. Relationships usually begin tenuously and warily with both parties protecting themselves from feeling vulnerable and exposed. The concept of personality comes from the Greek word for mask, persona. We might wear one mask at work, another with our families of origins, another with our friends. We feel the need to wear masks to hide our inner selves. When we were young and completely vulnerable, we would be our true selves happily and innocently; this led to criticism and censure from our teachers, angry attacks from our parents, and teasing from our peers. Is it any wonder that we quickly learned to construct a series of masks to camouflage our true selves and protect our souls from hurt and pain?
By the time we are mature enough for a relationship, we have been hurt, wounded, damaged, misunderstood, rejected and criticized many, many times. Even when we meet someone whom we are physically and emotionally attracted to, our memories of all of the pain inflicted upon us makes us wary and defensive. When we first draw close to someone, we are both on guard. We learn to gradually drop our masks and expose our vulnerable inner selves slowly and slowly and slowly. Intimacy is a courageous act in the face of a lifetime of past hurts and disappointments.