Close relationships require sacrifice, compromise and humility. If you’re unwilling to give much of yourself for another person, to get hurt, to give up some of your wants and consider their needs and not just your own, you probably shouldn’t be in a relationship at all. However, though relationships require give and take, there are some things you shouldn’t completely give up for the other person.
1. Emotional Needs
One of our married Boundless writers, Suzanne Hadley Gosselin, comments that she and her husband share the love language of quality time and are intentional about getting a babysitter so they can connect. “Along these lines, one of my needs that we’ve discovered is questions!” she says. “And not just, ‘How was your day?’ But specific questions that show he’s paying attention to my life.”
Personally, my tendency is to completely sacrifice my own needs for the other person and never admit weakness, but then I end up feeling unloved. Emotional needs vary from person to person; other Boundless bloggers admit they need physical affection, tenderness, encouragement and someone who’s not intimidated by their goals. For me, if I don’t get quality time, words of affirmation and patience when I attempt to share emotions, especially after I’ve been clear that’s how I receive love, I don’t feel cared about. Constantly suppressing those needs without receiving encouragement and understanding ends up damaging the relationship.
Many people have a tendency to be passive-aggressive in their response when they don’t get what they need from a relationship, when oftentimes the other person would be happy to comply if they only understood what those needs are. We have this idea that an action means less if we tell the other person what to do (that’s my automatic reaction, too). But when I think about it, if my partner listens and understands my needs, then makes an effort to meet them because he loves me, that actually means more than randomly getting it right.
Good communication also involves taking the time to understand each other, learning how to argue well, not judging each other, valuing each other’s opinion even if they differ, and choosing not to lash out when hurt.
Changing your spiritual beliefs because you want to make your partner happy is unwise, and yet it’s tempting if the person you care most about is pressuring you to. Christian faith implies you have placed your dependence on God (probably after thought, consideration, prayer, and witnessing Christ’s work in your life) and accept His sacrifice for your own sins, not for someone else’s. That decision shouldn’t be forced because you want someone else’s approval. If being a Christian is core to your identity, which it should be, then swapping it out for something else doesn’t make much sense. Also, there are probably other relationship problems at work if someone is attempting to change a fundamental aspect of your identity.
4. Spiritual Needs
Related to faith, your spiritual needs are how your partner encourages you in your beliefs. “I need someone who isn’t legalistic, who genuinely wants to serve in church and is actively surrendered to God,” says fellow Boundless writer Michelle Plett. Your partner should encourage you in your faith and help you grow.
If you’ve ever had a friend go AWOL after getting a new boyfriend/girlfriend (or perhaps you’ve done it yourself), you know what I’m talking about. This can happen because we’re so wrapped up in our significant other we forget about the other people in our lives. Or because the other person is insecure and wants to be our only focus. In either case, it’s important, not only for a healthy relationship but for a healthy life, to spend time with other people, too. Our friends provide perspective, advice, mutual respect, love, spiritual guidance and companionship that we can’t get all from one person. When our friends have been there for us no matter what, we shouldn’t dump those relationships on the curbside.
Our relationships should make us feel valued. There’s nothing like caring about what another person thinks, sharing our thoughts, and being met with disrespect, judgment or emotional manipulation. This doesn’t mean we encourage pride and arrogance in each other, but a mutual love and appreciation demonstrated through sacrifice and a willingness to care for each other’s hearts. It’s also tempting to allow ourselves to be treated in certain ways because the other person has expectations about physical and emotional boundaries we’re uncomfortable with. Being in love, however, doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice our self-respect.
Relationships change us. When we are so close to someone and start seeing things through their eyes, we see our flaws more clearly and often want to improve ourselves. That’s not a bad thing. It’s when we try to change ourselves in ways we are not comfortable with because we want another person’s approval that it becomes dangerous. “The relationship should help you become the best person you can be rather than dramatically shift who you are,” advised one of my pastor friends. I shouldn’t change my appearance, personality, eating habits, opinions or anything else only because I’m afraid a guy won’t like me unless I do.