Even the happiest of relationships isn't always a walk in the park. You have to work. And I mean work. But for all my blathering about compromise, sacrifice, and doing that work, I still believe there are some things you should never change for the sake of your relationship.
It's tricky ground to navigate. As two individuals come together, it can be easy to meld into one singular identity instead of maintaining individuality. I've seen it a million times as a former Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsibility Educator. It can be easy to put your goals and interests on the back burner for the sake of shared goals. And it can be hard to know when you're making a change because it's in the best interest of your shared future, or if you're making a change to appease one another.
And then there are the changes you make because you have to, either because you're in danger, you're being manipulated, or you're trapped in unhealthy patterns in an unhealthy relationship. Those changes are the toughest to swallow, because they're not always within your control, and they can happen so gradually that you don't even realize that huge pieces of your identity have slipped away.
While no one can decide if a change is right for you, except you, the following are typically things people in healthy relationships don't change. Gotta do you.
1. Your Individuality
The people who have the worst time surviving breakups are the ones who get lost in relationships. I've seen it a million times. Some people tend to just dive in, meld with another person, become almost (or completely) dependent on them, in a number of ways: emotionally, financially). They let their other relationships suffer. They lose some of their self-sufficiency. Then the relationship ends, and they feel like they have nothing left. No matter how in love you are, how healthy your relationship is, or how long you intend to stay together, you have to maintain some of your individuality. You have to be able to stand on your own two feet in the world, and to know who you are, even if you don't like or want it.
2. Your Personality
You can like shows your partner hates. Have hobbies or interests they don't understand. Wear clothes they don't like. Have views and opinions they don't share. Don't change all of those things to keep the peace, or to make yourself more desirable to your partner. Don't give up the things you love that your partner doesn't love. Your partner needs to love you for who you are, not for who they want you to be. Plus, we all need a little time alone sometimes.
3. Your Friendships
The relationships you have with other people are sometimes just as important as the ones you have with your partner. You need them. You will always need them. You should never lose contact with your friends because you're too immersed in your relationships. If you pretty much only have your partner in your life, that doesn't mean it's too late. You can always make new friends or reconnect with old ones. Creating a healthy squad is just as important as creating a healthy relationship.
4. Your Wardrobe
Changing the way you dress to appease your partner is kind of like changing part of your personality. Your style is your to cultivate, curate, and enjoy. I mean, it's not out of the question for your partner to ask you to not wear a tutu and a tiara to a serious work function, but as far as your day-to-day style, you have to keep doing what makes you happy, not your partner.
5. Your Families
Toxic or healthy, close or distance, the relationships you have with your family (or don't have) are for you to define. If a family member is truly toxic and you remove them from your life, it needs to be because you want to, not because your partner talked you into it. Your partner might be a big part of your decision making process, but they can't make you cut ties with anyone you don't want to cut ties with. Sometimes abusers use isolation from friends and family as a means to control their partners, as well.
6. Your Independence
Your inability to come and go freely, to make decisions and choices, and to do the things you like to do without permission is yours and not something you should sacrifice for your relationship. Being under the thumb of another person isn't healthy, whether you do it by your choice or theirs. You're allowed to maintain a piece of your freedom, including the freedom to leave a relationship, no matter who you are with.
7. Your Body
Your body is fine just as it is. Beautiful, even. It is not the sole purpose of your existence to curate your appearance (even if fashion is your favorite hobby, it's not the only thing you are), nor is it the sum total of your worth. It's also not something you should change for your partner. Changing for you, or for getting healthy, is a personal decision that you can make for yourself. But if your partner doesn't love your body, they don't deserve the privilege of it.
8. Your Interests
We all have that one friend (or we are that one friend) who seems to become a different person with every relationship. It's totally cool to discover new interests with your partner, and to show an interest in what they love. But you don't have to leave your interests behind and morph into a sort of secondary version of your partner. You gotta stay who you are and love what you love, too. Plus, in the name of equality, your partner should take an interest in the things you love, too. You have to have your own interests in order for that to happen.
9. Your Core Beliefs
You don't want to get into a relationship, then wake up one day and realize you've become someone who you didn't want to be. You have to keep in touch with your morals, values, and core beliefs. It's fine for those to grow and change, whether you're in or out of a relationship. As long as that happens naturally, and not because you're being forced or coerced, that's cool. But don't go changing all of your beliefs for the sake of someone else. You're likely to regret it one day.
10. Your Story
No matter who you chose to spend your time, or your life with, you still have your own journey. Your own lessons to learn. You own mistakes to make. You own personal growth. Your own truths to discover about the world. This totally separate from anything you can do or learn in a relationship, and it's yours and yours alone. You can't pause your story in order to help write your partner's story. You have to remain focused on your own story, including how being in a relationship changes you, and what it teaches you. This is among the best advice I was ever given in my life.
11. The Type Of Love You Deserve
If you have a vision in your head of what you want a relationship to be, and that vision is grounded in some kind of reality, you don't have to sacrifice it just because you meet someone you like. You can like a lot of people. Holding out for what you want isn't selfish. It's your choice. If you get into a relationship and you feel like it's not what you want, or not everything you deserve, don't feel like you have to stay in it to protect your partner's heart. You get to determine the type of love you have in your life.
If nothing else, just remember: you can fall in love, become a couple, and still remain true to yourself. Don't settle for anything less.
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