During her appearance on the “Loose Women” talk show Wednesday on the U.K. television channel ITV, Priscilla Presley revealed that Elvis never saw her without makeup during their six years of marriage. “He taught me, even in having a relationship, about always having a mystique — never revealing everything,” explained Priscilla, who met Elvis when she was 14 years old and married him eight years later, in 1967. “There are things you keep to yourself.”
She added: “Some can’t have the truth. I always had a little bit of makeup.”
Maintaining that air of mystery for Elvis didn’t only apply to wearing makeup at all times. “He never wanted to see me getting dressed,” the 71-year-old said. “He wanted to see the result of getting dressed, and I still to this day believe that. Men don’t want to see what a woman has to go through to get where she is, they want to see the product, the result.”
Kat Van Kirk, a marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist, says that while maintaining some mystery on occasion can be fun, feeling that you can’t ever be makeup-free or get dressed in front of your husband raises some relationship red flags. “You want to be sure that you aren’t creating unrealistic expectations for yourself or your partner, or putting on ‘the mystery’ out of poor self-esteem,” Van Kirk tells Yahoo Beauty.
Elizabeth Lombardo, author of Better than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love, agrees, arguing that Priscilla’s experience with Elvis is actually a good example of perfectionism. “It’s an all-or-nothing mentality: Look perfect or don’t be seen — or look perfect, or I don’t want to see you,” she tells Yahoo Beauty.
Lombardo explains that perfectionism is rooted in what’s known as conditional self-worth. “Conditional self-worth means you believe in yourself if certain external conditions are present,” she says. “In this case, it may have been ‘I believe in myself if I look perfect/am put together’ or ‘I feel good about myself if my wife looks perfectly put together.’”
She adds: “In my clinical practice, I find that a lot of successful people — those who the public might think ‘have it all’ — struggle with conditional self-worth. Being in the public eye and often scrutinized by the public can negatively impact their self-worth. There is a tendency to crave more and more external validation, such as people to compliment them.”
Van Kirk notes that for some couples, however, retaining an element of mystery can be sexy. “Feeling like we don’t know everything about our partners sometimes can up arousal, because of the unknowns involved,” she notes. But that need for novelty can seriously backfire. “This is oftentimes why people have fidelity issues. They look for this uncertainty in a new partner, because it is arousing to be exposed to someone new — not to mention the endorphin rush. But mystery can be utilized, even in long-term relationships, as long as you are doing it for the right reasons.”
For other couples, though, maintaining mystery and trying to appear perfect is exactly the opposite of what they’re striving for in a relationship. For them, a healthy marriage means showing who you really are — without makeup and all — and being accepted for it rather than trying to create the exhausting illusion of perfection. “It can be a source of endearment and validation in knowing that someone accepts you no matter what,” says Van Kirk. “There is nothing you are holding back. Some couples believe this is an important part of their relationship when it comes to trust-building.”
Lombardo also points out that couples shouldn’t confuse mystery with novelty, which she believes is important for relationships. “If you do the same thing together every day, every week, if you always wear sweats and eat chicken for dinner in front of the TV… that can lead to discontent within the marriage,” she says.
Adds Van Kirk: “Research has shown that spontaneity can be an important factor in maintaining happy, long-term sex lives,” she says. “This goes with the idea that comfort equals boredom.”
So how can you inject some novelty into your relationship? “No need to put on your ball gown,” says Lombardo. “Just look for new ways to interact with your partner — try a new meal, take a class together, go somewhere different, eat dinner in the dining room instead of the kitchen. Surprise your partner with a fun outing.” You can decide whether or not you want to wear makeup while doing it.