Is it ever okay to change yourself for the sake of a relationship?

With Cupid’s arrow still hanging around following Valentine’s Day, love and relationships remain in the spotlight. The proliferation of social media posts displaying images of ‘happy couples’ can lead to the temptation of wanting to get into a relationship quickly which can lead to changing aspects of yourself to make this into a reality. In an age of female empowerment and a greater focus on gender equality, the idea of changing yourself for a potential partner can be seen as a mistake. Self-discovery is an important part of youth culture, but how important is it to fix your sense of self in a relationship? Can all change be considered bad?

Imitation is prominent within popular culture. Whether it’s in the way of appearance, clothing, music, we tend to imitate and take on aspects of those we admire. The changing of identity can, however, be a continuous cycle and changing yourself to make things work with a partner can often be a dangerous line and something we are often advised to avoid in the world of dating and relationships.

Whether it be in terms of superficial aspects, personality traits or interests, changing things about yourself may lead to an unhealthy relationship as it is one based on half-truths and assumed ideas and interests. Sacrificing passions unwillingly can lead to future resentment and a loss of a personal identity outside of the relationship. In other words, changing parts of yourself for the sake of something else, or someone else, is likely to be more detrimental to a relationship than helping it to flourish.

In support of this philosophy is the rise of online dating. With now one in five relationships starting online, we are connected and connecting to more people than ever before which suggests that there is little need to change for a relationship as there are so many options. Online dating permits you to be pickier and to find someone to suit you exactly. Refusing to change yourself isn’t just a testament to your individuality and authenticity as a person, but in the evolving landscape of the dating world, there is little need to.

Speaking to Man Repeller, the motivational speaker Jim Rohn says, “we are the average of five people we spend the most time with.” If what Rohn says is true, then we are all an amalgamation of the people we regularly interact with. Thus, in his view, changing for a relationship, platonic or romantic, is inevitable.

While the the idea of change does suggest that we are no longer what we were before, this very notion fails to take into account the idea of growth. Self-expansion can be a positive thing. Discovering new passions, personal qualities, habits – these can all be beneficial changes and can come about through exposure to other people and their interests.

We are constantly evolving our personal sense of self so, allowing ourselves to open up to the possibility of change and development in a relationship may not be entirely negative. Perhaps the simplest way of deciding whether a change is negative or positive is to ask yourself whether it is a natural change. Forcibly compromising or twisting aspects of yourself to suit a partner may be a sign that a relationship does not allow you to be freely yourself.

What is interesting to consider is whether attitudes towards change in relationships are dependent on who they happen to. Is it more acceptable for a man to change than a woman? On our screens, male protagonists often seem to suggest that change in the name of love is a romantic notion. Think Danny Zuko giving up his T-Birds jacket, or Patrick Verona giving up smoking along with his bad boy bravado. Movies consistently tell women that it is possible to change their partners. In contrast, women changing for a relationship is commonly presented as counter-productive.

Many rom-coms, such as ‘The Duff’or ‘She’s All That’, instead indicate the message that it is always better to be true to yourself, though after receiving a make-over, of course. Boys become men and women remain faithful to their quirky personalities. Change for the sake of a relationship is a notion presented to audiences as both romantic and as wrong.

To change or not to change. That is the question. Examing relationships in such a way can be detrimental and emotionally taxing. Searching the origins of each minor alteration in life, ascertaining whether it came from you or not, is also impractical. No matter the reason, it is important to open yourself up to new experiences and to challenges. So, whether it be for Valentine’s Day or just any other day of the year, it is best to take love as it comes and just do you.

Image: StockSnap via Pixabay 

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