“Where does my willing to change for my partner end, and his willingness to accept me for who I am begin?”
My Dearest Bad Biddie,
Today is my birthday. I don’t say that in attempt to diminish the magnitude of your question because at thirty-three, I’ve lost my appetite for big birthday celebrations, and really, I wanted to answer your question today because instead of a day to indulge in excess, I’m taking this day to reflect on the abundance of my life and how none of it would be possible without the support of those around me. I don’t know the specifics of your situation, but what I can say is this: not once, in my entire five-plus-year relationship with my husband, have I ever felt the need to change for him.
I was a twenty-something struggling actress making a reasonable living as a realtor in NYC when I met Dave, then I became wholly unemployed during the pandemic, and after that, failed spectacularly at social media and blogging for two years before I found any measure of professional and financial success. I was, in my own view, completely not the kind of girlfriend or wife you could brag about to your friends. Dave was single for four-and-a-half years before we met and I can’t imagine those around him understood why he held out so long only to settle for a woman who’s resumé resembled one of those all-you-can-eat buffets where the pizza is next to the sushi and neither is very good.
If you ask Dave, he’ll tell you that despite my erratic career path, he believed in what I was trying to achieve even though I hadn’t achieved it yet. [As an aside, lest any biddies think I’m advocating for staying with a man for his potential, please remember that your partner also needs to be actively working towards his potential. You cannot wish someone into the person they’re capable of becoming.] I don’t know what it is about you that your partner is asking you to change, but to some extent, it doesn’t matter.
There are are a lot of old houses in New England where we live. Some of them have floor plans so nonsensical that you wonder if the builders of yesteryear even realized that real people needed to live there. Over the years, some of these old houses have been knocked down to create functional new homes for today’s families and others have had additions and alterations added onto them to create what we call “Frankenstein houses.” I sometimes look at these older houses with new additions and wonder if the land would have been better served by knocking down what existed to create something new from scratch. And, while I believe some houses are worthy of historic preservation, I don’t believe that just because a house is old, it needs to be saved. Not all histories are worth preserving, and not all existing relationships are worth salvaging.
I think trying to change yourself for your partner feels like putting a bedroom addition onto a house that really needs a bigger kitchen. Yes, you’ll get more space with the addition, but, in the end, the kitchen is still tiny, there’s still a random room with only a toilet in it and no sink, and the extra space in the new bedroom doesn’t really resolve the fundamental issues with the house. The fundamental issue of your relationship is that your relationship hinges on changing into the person your partner wants, which likely makes you uncomfortable because why else would you be soliciting the advice of a wholly unqualified individual on the internet?
I may not have a degree in psychology, and I’m certainly not a licensed professional of any kind, but as a human being, I would like to advise you to find someone who loves you for everything you are and also, everything you are not. I’m a terrible athlete and my basic arithmetic skills are abysmal. These are the flaws that my strengths were built upon. If you were to evaluate yourself, you might find that every facet of who you are is both your biggest asset and your greatest weakness. Life is not so much about finding someone who is blind to our weaknesses, but finding someone who understands that our weaknesses are inextricably tied to our strengths.
I would have spent less time in the (decidedly less cool) theater program in high school if I showed any sort of promise on a soccer field or tennis court or, I might have majored in a math-based degree in college if I could have finally figured out how to calculate tip without my phone. Not being good at sports or math allowed me time to hone the side of me today that talks to my phone and writes to strangers on the internet for a living.
Every year, since I could remember, I’ve wished for the same thing on my birthday: to make a living doing what I love so I could provide for my family in the way they have provided for me all these years while I’ve been chasing down a dream. It took me thirty-two years to get there, but I might not have gotten there at all if I had married the ex I dated in my early twenties who wanted me to forego a creative career and go into tech sales because “I was good at talking”. My birthday wish this year for you, and perhaps anyone else reading this, is to forego the comfort of what you have so that one day, you can get what you want.
See you when you get there.
Your internet hype woman