In many relationships two things tend to happen: you change over the course of it, and you will find you need to respect the opinion of your partner.
This is the nature of life in partnerships. I’m not going to argue that either of these things are bad. Really, they don’t have to be.
Change can be a good thing—a sign of growth and development. And respect is absolutely necessary in creating a happy and harmonious social environment.
But, that being said, I do have a growing pet peeve when it comes to relationships when I hear the following comments:
“I wish I could change my hair but my boyfriend won’t let me,” or, “I can’t go out tonight. My boyfriend won’t let me,” or, “I don’t really hang out with that person anymore…my boyfriend doesn’t like him/her.”
This sort of comment usually earns one of two responses from me: “Dump him,” or, “He’s your boyfriend not your father.”
These comments trouble me a bit more than I tend to let on. Not because I think of it as a sign that the relationship is abusive, or that either party in this relationship are bad people, but it does reflect an attitude that I find troubling: the idea that one partner can and should control the other.
And, although I focused primarily on women in the given examples, this can happen to men as well. And, I’m sure that this happens in many different ways, taking several different forms, depending on who is involved.
The way we tend to think about most often, stereotypically speaking, is an intentional attempt from the female partner to “change him”—to make him spend less time playing “Dungeons and Dragons” with his buddies—and more time being suave and cool or whatever it is that she intends for him to be or do.
I can’t personally speak to how accurate this stereotypical example is, but I think we’ve all heard the tropes that when it comes to women, they “like a project,” or want a “fixer-upper.”
I take issue with this idea for two reasons:
1) Maybe he likes playing “Dungeons and Dragons” with his buddies. Maybe that makes him happy, and yes, you also make him happy, but differently. You aren’t the entire source of joy in this life, and you aren’t making him a better man by taking the other sources away from him.
2) Chances are, you entered into this relationship knowing who he was—shouldn’t you love him for that? I mean, yes, we are all flawed, and he might have some habits and hobbies that are kind of annoying, but asking him to stop doing something that he enjoys is entirely different from asking him to pick up his dirty socks off the floor; one matters to him and the other doesn’t. You don’t have to join him in the hobby, you don’t have to understand it…you just need to respect that it matters to him.
Let’s get back to the comments that I’ve heard women make about what their boyfriends will and will not let them do.
Because, these two examples are similar—both of them present an issue of control.
The latter example is overt and it does require consent on the changed partner’s side. How rational and well-informed that consent may be is another matter as the person might be agreeing to go along with everything just because they’re “so in love” at the moment. Nonetheless, consent must be given to make this obvious, blatant change. The first example is much more subtle.
The first example is limiting what the other partner can and can’t do in small ways, ways that can easily be ignored or brushed off at first—but that build up over time—encouraging one to ask for “permission” instead of an opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, it is perfectly fine to consult with your partner about making plans or changing your style or hanging out with a specific person. You can ask them if they have any plans, what their opinion is, but at the end of the day, the decision should always be yours.
This is your life, your body, your friends.
You have the ultimate say in what happens with all of it. If your partner is outright angry with you because you have respectfully made plans with someone else, or because you got a haircut, then that is a totally separate problem, and it isn’t fair to you.
I am of the belief that neither party should be in control of the other.
Too often we romanticize the idea that a couple is two halves of a whole that is only completed when they’re together. This simply isn’t true.
Every couple in this world is made up of two complete, whole individuals who are just trying to make all their quirks and weirdness mesh together. Both parties should be treated as though they are whole and capable of making decisions for themselves.
You do not need your partner to make decisions for you. You are a partnership. You need to work together. You need to respect one another and part of that respect comes from respecting who they are as a person.
While you’re together, you very well may change, but your partner should not be the one in control of that.
Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Movie still/Imdb
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Khara Jade Warren