How we act and react within relationships is typically influenced by the dynamic between the two partners – whether it is the types of personality or the context and history of each person, there can be control exerted that may not be in your best interest. And one of the quickest ways for your behaviour to be influenced is through the use of guilt.
As an emotional response, guilt is a powerful ally to a partner who wants you to comply with their wishes. It wraps up what they need from you and presents it as evidence of your affection and love. If you don’t understand what or who you are (and who you want to be) it is easy to get sucked in to being the person they want you to be, without realising that soon, you will be unable to make decisions for yourself, having to continually look to them for validation and approval.
But relationships should be about more than this. In a healthy relationship, partners work together to find some common ground, understanding and accepting that if this middle ground cannot be found, then maybe the relationship is not destined to last long term. Compromise is the ability to declare your wants, desires and wishes, listen positively to those of your partner and see how you can settle on something in between. It might be that you will agree to have days or evenings apart in order to pursue your own interests, or that you agree to a date night once a month to spend time together to reconnect as a couple. Whatever is decided, it has to work well equally for both of you and make each of you feel seen and appreciated for who you are.
But who are you? Sometimes we fail to see how much influence others have on how we define ourselves, and it is not just our partners that do this. Family, friends and society at large all have the ability to define you to such an extent that you don’t feel able to make independent choices or decisions without consulting others first. The freedom to be our unique self, and make our own choices, is the ultimate freedom and – somewhat paradoxically – makes us even more valuable as a friend, family member or partner. Because it is in our ability to know ourselves that we can fully appreciate and love others.