Has this ever happened to you?
You’re with a man who says he loves you. You believe him.
But his behavior doesn’t match his words.
He says he wants to be with you, but he blows hot and cold.
He says he loves you, but he won’t break off contact with his ex.
You, on the other hand, are totally committed to him.
You won’t even talk to other men. He is your future.
So why does he keep pulling away?
Haven’t you shown him you’d do anything for him?
There’s a concept in psychology called congruence.
Much simplified, it means that the way you like to see yourself matches the way you behave in the world.
Most of us like to see ourselves as loving people.
We feel good when we see ourselves as loyal, caring, and committed.
But sometimes we don’t act in ways that match that ideal self.
We find ourselves in a situation that arouses our defensiveness, anger, or self-righteousness.
That mismatch between our actions and our self-image is incongruence.
Now, all people have some level of incongruence. None of us are perfect!
But a lot of congruence can be very difficult to deal with.
Imagine a person who thinks they are a great leader and completely committed to the welfare of their community…
Except that they’re bad at listening and refuse to compromise.
We expect people to be more or less congruent…
And it’s really hard on us when they’re not.
When Words And Actions Rarely Match
When a man says he loves you but then goes on to behave in ways that aren’t loving, what you’re noticing is incongruence.
Incongruence is confusing.
Surely, when a man says he loves you, he is making a promise to behave lovingly.
When women who are in this situation come to me, they often ask, “Is he lying to me, James? Does he even love me?”
Sometimes that can seem like the most obvious answer. If he’s not acting in a loving way, he must be lying about how he feels.
But then I ask them if he shows incongruence in other areas of his life.
Does he ever say he wants something, only to sabotage himself or never make any effort to pursue it?
Is he unclear about what he wants in life? Does he change his mind regularly?
If so, then don’t be surprised that his words and his actions don’t match up.
An incongruent man may believe that he loves you and wants to be with you, but then he sabotages the relationship and hardly makes any effort to pursue a future with you.
On the other hand…
When you are with a man who knows who he is and what he wants…
A man who’s disciplined and committed in pursuing the life of his dreams…
Then you should expect that his words will match his behavior.
No Congruence Without Clarity
At this point, women often say to me, “Great! So how can I make him more congruent?”
Congruence is often a result of maturation and coming to knowyourself. It’s a personal journey. No one else can do it for you.
But what you can do is keep having conversations together about what you want in life and what it will take to get there.
You can’t have congruence without clarity.
If you don’t know who you are or what you want, if you’ve never spent the time to get clear on what you value and what matters most to you, you’ll never be congruent.
Bringing greater congruence to your relationship means committing to clarity and honesty.
If he’s not going to do that, it’s up to you.
If you’ve never shared your expectations and your dreams for your relationship, it’s not surprising that you feel like two ships passing in the night.
Often couples have different expectations. She assumes that saying, “I love you,” is the first step on the road to building a life together. He thinks that saying, “I love you,” just means that you feel passionately about the other person.
You’ve also got to know yourself really well.
Not just that you love him and want to be with him, but also what your values are.
Where are your boundaries in a relationship? What can you tolerate? What can’t you tolerate? How do you need to be treated?
Often women will avoid having these difficult conversations. They believe that clarity and honesty puts their relationship at risk, because they have to put all their cards on the table.
But if you love a man and he says he loves you…
And you’re afraid to tell him what you want and what you dream of, for fear of scaring him away…
Then you’re behaving in an incongruent way.
You think of yourself as a woman who loves him, but your actions are fed by fear.
If what you want is a loving relationship that’s mutual, then take action with that goal in mind. Talking about your expectations is more likely to move you towards that goal than showing him you’d do anything for him.