Some people think that love means making sacrifices, but there are some things you just don't have to give up — no matter how much pressure you're under. Sometimes the pressure comes from a partner because they have unrealistic expectations of what a relationship means and feel entitled to everything you have, like all of your time, energy, and efforts. The idea of soulmates — and the belief that we can get everything from one person — only makes this worse, because it justifies a complete devotion and dedication even at the expense of your own happiness. And you should never have to give up your life for someone else's.
But sometimes the pressure has nothing to do with her partner and is more about the pressure we put on ourselves. If you're naturally a people-pleaser, then you may have the tendency to feel guilty even when it's not necessary. And you may find yourself making unfair sacrifices that your partner never even asked for. And I get it — I'm someone who's prone to feeling guilty and can set expectations for myself that are just unrealistic. But luckily, I have a girlfriend that puts as much emphasis on my needs and wants as she does on her own and encourages me to make myself happy.
Whether they come from internal or external places, it can be difficult to know what to do when there's pressure to make sacrifices in relationship — especially because compromise is such an important of being a couple. It's a fine line. "A relationship is really built on compromise," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "If you want to be able to do everything you want exactly when and how you want it, then you are better off alone! Being in a relationship with someone entails having to give some things up in order to gain them. But if you find that your partner is insisting that all the sacrificing be on your part then it’s an inequitable and ultimately unsustainable relationship." Here are seven things you should never feel obligated to sacrifice for love:
1. Your Alone Time
Some people feel like if you're in a relationship and both of you have down time, you should be together. But alone time is so important. For your own health — and for the long-term health of your relationship. Especially if you're an introvert and need your re-charge time. You should never have to give that up.
2. Your People
You don't need your partner and your friends or family to be besties — although they should definitely make an effort with each other. And even if they don't get along, that doesn't mean your time with friends should suffer. In fact, Hartstein explains that time with people you love is one of the most important things. "I do think that some things should never be given up — primarily your friends and your family," she says. "In fact, a partner who insists you give up your friends and family is one who is controlling and possibly abusive. That is never a good sign." Keep your people close.
3. Your Hobbies
Do you want to resent someone in the long run? Give up all of the things you like to do. You might not notice these things slipping away, but you'll definitely notice when they're gone. It's not worth it.
4. Your Money
Money is a huge source of tension in relationships. And if you have free money to spare that you're happy to spend on your partner that's one thing, but you should never feel obligated to support your partner or spend money you don't feel comfortable with. Talking about money is always difficult and awkward, but it's important to keep those boundaries clear.
5. Your Dreams
Not everyone's dreams come true, but if you feel pressured to give up something that's really important to you and get nothing in return, something's gone wrong. "The thing to pay the closest attention to is if the sacrificing feels equal on both sides," Hartstein says. "Obviously circumstances can be tricky. Maybe your partner has a fantastic dream job on the other side of the country and moving would require you to make some sacrifices. Let’s say you weight the pros and cons and decide that it’s worth it. That’s all fine and reasonable. It’s not going to be equal because you are giving some things up that he [or she] isn’t. Hopefully you are getting enough in the trade off to make it worth it. However, if you find that the sacrificing feels like it’s all coming from your side then something is wrong."
6. Your Ambitions
Our ambitions change and shift naturally as we grow older — and that's totally fine. Maybe you didn't really want to ever enroll in law school or maybe your high-powered job was getting to be a bit too much. But if one of you is giving up ambitions because your partner is dismissive or manipulative about the things you want, that should be a massive red flag. Dreams and ambitions can be the trickiest things to balance — and one of the most likely to come up. Be sure to listen to your gut.
7. Your Happiness
"I think that you know in your gut when something is too big or too unfair a sacrifice," Hartstein says. "If you get that bad feeling that you are giving up too much of yourself, you definitely want to stop and inspect the relationship very closely and make sure it still feels fair, equitable, and happy."
Bottom line? You should make as many compromises as you want as long as you feel happy and healthy. It is part of a relationship. But if there is a lot of pressure to make sacrifices that aren't reciprocated and you start to feel unhappy, strained, or just a bit uneasy, then it's time to make a change. Talk to your partner so they understand that you're an independent, autonomous part of the relationship. They should want you to be happy — or it's time to find someone who does.
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