We’ve all been in relationships where we compromised on things that we clearly shouldn’t have. We’ve all bent our most fundamental principles for someone who was cute or cool enough. Somewhere in your life, each of us has all but pretended to be an entirely different person to seduce someone we thought was out of our league, and acted like we didn’t care about things that are actually super important to us.
But as we get older, and (hopefully) gather more self-esteem, it’s important to pick the things that are just not okay to bend on, no matter how attracted we are to the person in question. Never again should we be in relationships where we basically hate ourselves at every moment for someone else’s temporary approval. Here, the six things you should always stay strong about:
1. YOUR GROUP OF FRIENDS
It’s natural for social groups to evolve (and, ideally, improve) over the course of a relationship, but one of the most common signs of an unhealthy relationship is “isolation from people you used to love.” Being slowly encouraged to abandon friendships is shockingly common, and many of us have dated someone at least mildly emotionally abusive, who insisted that we not hang out with our old friends because “they don’t know you like I do.” It’s a good way for insecure people to exert their influence over their partner, by convincing them that they don’t really need the friends they’ve had in their life forever.
So, to prevent that awful grey area where you start cutting out friends for your significant other, know up-front that your social group is not a compromise. You have the people you love, you chose them for a reason, and leaving them behind because the person you’re dating is weirdly jealous or bitter about you being close to anyone else is Not. Okay.
2. YOUR BODILY INTEGRITY AND PERCEPTION OF BEAUTY
If someone doesn’t love the way you look when they start dating you, you shouldn’t date them. They’re not going to magically enjoy your body/appearance in a way they didn’t before, and even if they did, who would want to be with someone who had to get used to the idea of finding you attractive? If you are dating someone, and feel that you should constantly be losing ten pounds, or not be seen without makeup, or dressing in a way that feels uncomfortable to you, you’re never going to be truly happy. And if someone slowly convinces you over the course of a relationship that you are not okay the way you are, and you need to change your standards of beauty to meet theirs, that is simply a bad relationship.
3. YOUR CAREER
This one is less universal, because I know a lot of couples who have changed their career paths for the benefit of making a relationship work. Some of these couples are still together, some are not. But in general, even if the individual job/position/location might change, your overall dreams of what you want to do with your professional life should not be compromised. If your dream is to be a successful actress, while you might have to edit your pathway to success slightly to accommodate a long-term relationship, giving up on your dream entirely because of your significant other is a one-way ticket to resenting them, and hating yourself.
Ultimately, things change, and you might even find that you don’t want the same things you did five or ten years ago. But you want things for a reason, and you shouldn’t change those profound personal desires for anyone but yourself—because if someone truly loves you, they will want you to pursue what makes you truly happy.
4. YOUR SELF-RESPECT
If you are being talked down to in a relationship, or treated like they are doing a favor by dating you—and you know when that is happening—you need to get out. Yes, it can be intoxicating to date someone who feels way out of your league, but your self-respect, and the respect you demand from others, is not something you should be compromising on. If you do, you will quickly devolve into a needy, dependent-on-someone-else-for-self-worth, tragic person, which will (ironically) only make them respect you less. Only date people with whom you feel a mutual sense of deserving and appreciation.
5. YOUR HOBBIES AND INTERESTS (THAT DON’T INVOLVE BEING A COUPLE)
There is nothing sadder than people who have a lot of activities/hobbies that quickly fizzle out once they get into a relationship. Whether it’s a sport, a game, an instrument, or just a fun meetup that you do with friends where you read magazines together or whatever, it’s important to keep those things going when you find someone to date.
And sometimes it’s not even intentional; You just get caught up in this new person, and want to give all your free time to them and things that involve them—but it’s still not good. If you let everything fall to the wayside once your only new activity is “being a person in a couple,” you will soon find yourself in a relationship that has passed the honeymoon stage, and none of the fun things you used to take pure, platonic joy in doing. And that is no fun.
6. YOUR “ME” TIME
Beyond hobbies and interests and other friends, you need to just have your time to chill and be by yourself. If you can’t find time to just curl up in your bed and watch eight episodes of trash reality TV, or read a book, or eat the weird food combinations you don’t want anyone else to know about, you’ll go crazy. Wanting a healthy amount of “me” time has nothing to do with how much or how little you love your partner, and couples who get all weird about doing everything together are honestly just wrong. Compromising on the restorative, deeply personal life you live by yourself is a recipe for disaster, because no matter how much you love someone, you will eventually get sick of them if you cannot have a moment by yourself to just do the weird things only you can enjoy. You need the alone time to fully appreciate the together time.