When I was 12 years old, one of my good guy friends asked me out.
I told him I’d get back to him; this was clearly something I needed to discuss with my girlfriends first.
They all vehemently agreed I should accept, even after I told them I wasn’t interested in him like that. That didn’t matter. He was a boy, and he liked me: end of discussion.
Something similar happened when I was 16. A boy in my class relentlessly pursued me, despite my constant dismissal of his advances. My friends all insisted that I should give him a chance: “He’s such a nice guy.” Whether or not I liked him wasn’t the point.
Finally, when I was 19, a friend broke it down for me. It didn’t matter if I was attracted to the person I was dating; I just shouldn’t be alone.
My suspicions were confirmed by another high school friend when she told me about a date she’d just been on. He had taken her to dinner and paid. She explained, “And you know after they pay for you, you have to give them something in return.”
I was horrified. “Even if you aren’t ready for that?” She replied matter of factly, “Well, yeah. If they pay for you, then they expect it.”
The message was loud and clear: I was expected to do whatever the man in my life wanted me to, whether I wanted to or not.
Growing up, this was reiterated multiple times. Women needed to compromise their needs so they could keep their men happy or refrain from making them angry. Women needed to compromise their careers so the men they loved could pursue theirs. If the man was unhappy in the relationship, then it was the woman who needed to change; she was the nag, the bitch, the ball-buster, the crazy ex, the prude, or the slut. If the relationship ended, it was the woman’s fault.
This idea of never-ending sacrifices eventually morphed into my fear of commitment. I didn’t want to give up everything—my happiness, ambitions, and comfort—so I could keep a relationship going. The way I saw it, there was no way I could have both, and the idea of having a man wasn’t more important than my happiness.
I’m sure some think I’m a rigid, non-compromising, prudish b*tch. That’s fine; I’ll own that title if they need to give me one. But I love myself too much to give up my life and happiness for someone who expects that of me.
I recently watched an interview with the Eartha Kitt. She was asked if she would be willing to compromise if a man were to come into her life. Her response was brilliant: “A man comes into my life, and I have to compromise, for what? A relationship is a relationship that has to be earned. Not to compromise for.” When asked if she even wanted a relationship, she replied, “I fall in love with myself…and I want someone to share me with me.”
When I first saw this interview, I watched it three times in a row. It was incredible to hear a perspective that was so different from everything I’d heard before. This wasn’t the usual “accept the first man who will take you and hold on for dear life” or “sacrifice everything you need and want to make him happy.” This was a clear message to love me first and foremost and accept no less than what makes me happy.
I believe relationships should build us up; not hold us down. The latter is what I see too often. So please, love yourself enough to never settle for someone who doesn’t fulfill your needs. If he truly loves you, then what matters to you will matter to him.
And he will take whatever steps necessary to meet you half way.
Author: Ciara Hall
Editor: Brooke Breazeale
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton