“Your partner should love you for who you are… as you are…”
“You can’t enter into a relationship with the idea of changing your partner… if you can’t love them as they are, then you don’t deserve them forever”
Raise your hand if you have heard one or more of these before…
I certainly have. It’s easy to believe that change, when explicitly requested in a relationship, can be bad. Often this conclusion is a result of deciding that when change is requested, nay, required, it is somehow an attack on who you are as a person— like a direct hit to your identity. Then the idea of changing at the request of someone who should love you as you are, feels contrived… almost like “Was this your plan all along? To woo me and then force me to transform to suit your fancy”?!?!
But sometimes changing for your partner… and for the health of your relationship is good.
Let’s look at Ginuwine.
As he said back in the day… even though he may be on TV, he is in fact the same ol’ G. Fast forward to 2014, him and his wife are fighting on instagram as he foolishly posted a picture of their daughter with a caption implying she was a stripper— or whatever. I mean, I wonder how much Sole was telling him, “Babe, you actually can not be the same ol’ G… you should find a new G status to acquire that includes not being so faded on television that you are slurring your words in a live performance.” Perhaps if Ginuwine was a new Ol’ G, his marriage would be in a better place (and even maybe his career).
Perhaps that example is egregious… because he should obviously change for his own good. But so… is that the standard? If your partner requires certain changes of you before you can move along in the relationship, is it ok as long as these changes are constructive? What if they seem constructive to your partner but may not be to you (as in, they are not destructive but you don’t find them particularly valuable)? Is it unfair of you to acquiesce and are you doomed to a life of sadness if you do?
Will all your friends judge you and say you’re whipped?
I remember casually dating a guy in college that had been a childhood frenemy (I hated him until I was like 18… on everything, I wished death upon his life twice.) The fact that we were even casually dating was a feat. He was very headstrong, and I was very dogged in my beliefs, but we somehow clicked. I remember we had this long conversation about trust and what it means to really be vulnerable and show affection. He would always say that I was so hard. I thought I was doing really well with my smiley faces and the fact that I made a lot of time to talk to him. Over time, I became increasingly comfortable with him but I was still guarded. When it came time to go back to school, I told him straight up that I knew that this relationship was going to wither into the wind because we were in different time zones (Cali love #noTuPac) and he was a guy… so… we shouldn’t fool ourselves. He said we should just see what happens, and stay connected. I obliged. We tried to stay in contact but the time zone difference was killing us softly. I knew this would happen. I remember telling him that I knew this would happen. Even though we knew the time zone factor was an issue, he said it came back to me being
an ice queen “hard”:
“You can’t ever just say how you feel Amma. If you miss me, tell me you miss me. Don’t be afraid to be affectionate. I mean yeah, we always seem to be busy but you’re just not vulnerable”
“How can I be vulnerable when you are never around!?” I thought… crying on the inside but maintaining my nonplussed attitude on the outside. If he couldn’t handle my love…well… then… good riddance.
Fast forward ten years later, and in a number of relationships I have received a similar critique. It could be the case that I just attract these really soft, romantic types that do not reflect the archetype of the hard, emotionless African man I understood. Or it could be that I was in fact an
African man Ice Queen. Upon realizing that the latter was closer to the truth (though the former is not mutually exclusive), I decided maybe I should try something different. Maybe I should change.
Here’s the thing… none of my friends take issue with my “lack of affection”— neither do any of my family members. They all love me as I am, and completely accept the way I show love (read: smiley faces and acts of service). Any changes I would make, therefore, in my propensity to show affection, would be at the strict request of the person I was dating. Thus: I would, in fact, be changing, for my man. Setting pride and ego aside and looking at this as purely wanting to make sure the person I am with is happy, one would be hard-pressed to find fault with my actions. Furthermore, these changes do not make me less “me”… in the ways that people know my character and general sensibilities. Yet, talking to friends about it… even in the abstract is often met with hesitance. “If you start now, will it ever end… what else will you have to change… blah blah blah”…
No one really expects to be the same ol’ G forever… but I think people take issue with the change being done for someone else, as opposed to for yourself. But what is really wrong with that? Am I less independent? less intelligent? less— anything because of it? And if the changes don’t make me unhappy (though… a bit… uncomfortable in the short term— open affection takes getting used to, I am fighting years of desensitization, allow!), isn’t it worth the effort?
All in all… I am happy with the changes I have made. Aside from making the other person in the relationship happy, there are also spillover effects for other relationships with friends and family. At the end of the day…I just cannot be the Ginuwine to someone’s Sole… it could never be me, me, me (*cue track*)
What are your thoughts? Should you change for your partner? Is changing for your partner a slippery slope?