When you're with someone as long as my partner and I have been with each other, it's easy to lose sight of the defining elements that make you, you. Part of living live is evolving so to say I'm the same woman I was (nearly) thirteen years ago when I met my husband would be a lie. Part of our relationship and marriage comes with compromise, sure, but there are some things I refuse to sacrifice for my partner in order to retain the pieces of me I deem most important.
While my partner graduated high school and went on to graduate college only to return to his roots to get a job, I took another path. One month after my high school graduation, I married my high school sweetheart. Against everyone's wishes, we thought we knew what we were doing and just four years later, that marriage rightfully dissolved. We tried our damnedest to make it work but aside from serious issues (such as infidelity and mistrust), the truth was, we wouldn't survive because there were things I couldn't sacrifice for him, just as there aren't things I'm willing to let go of for my partner now.
In 2004, as a young woman still trying to find her way, I moved to another state — away from my family and all that I knew and loved — to be with my (now) husband. I didn't have a solid plan for my life or where I was meant to go, only a vague idea of where I wanted to be ten years into the future. Our relationship was one lesson after another, filled with all the usual drama and antics two sprite kids in their early twenties might experience. We couldn't have been more different and, well, more perfect for one another. However, that doesn't mean the road to where we are now would be an easy one (hint: it wouldn't).
It was a risk I was willing to take because I know myself, what I'll settle for, and what I absolutely won't. It's not selfish; in fact, I think it's self-love. In order to be everything my relationship needs, I have to be everything I need, first. Through the years of growing up in misguided, volatile situations in regards to my divorced parents and their relationships after, my ideals had been ingrained so early on I couldn't veer from them even if I wanted to. (For the record, I didn't want to.) I wanted to be so vastly different from all I'd been raised around and I knew I'd be stronger for it whether I was with someone, or alone.
Now that my marriage is approaching its 10 year anniversary, I can honestly say, in holding onto the things I value most, we're strong and I like to hope our children will see this and put their own personal values first in any relationship they encounter.
I am a strong believer in alone time. Not only does it "recharge" my batteries, so to speak, it's necessary for my personal and public persona. I'm an introvert so in order to clear my mental clutter, I'm putting me first. Whether that means taking the car, alone, to my favorite coffee shop before my partner goes to work (and lingering in the quiet just a bit), or literally sitting on the bathroom floor with the door locked for five minutes while my children scream in the next room, I've learned having this personal time is of the utmost importance for me to remain remotely sane.
When I married my high school sweetheart, I knew I wanted to write full-time but had no concrete plan of how to get there. I flailed from job to job, working everywhere from a veterinary office to a mortgage agency, with no sense of direction or purpose. I also sang and played guitar at bars and coffeehouses on the weekends, hoping I could get into songwriting (update: that didn't go so well).
Now that I've paid my writing dues over the last decade, having had my writing hand in everything from ghostwriting to company tag lines and everything in between, I'm finally at the place I've always dreamed of — working from home through means of writing — and I will not sacrifice any bit of it. I've come way too far and worked way too hard to give all that work away. Luckily, I have a partner who not only supports this, but champions it as well.
My Political And Religious Stances
This one's tough. The recent election forced my partner and I to look at our beliefs and how they're connect to both our partnership and our place as parents. What we found through this is that our views have shifted over the years — in opposite directions. While both of us were raised conservatively, we had talks in those early years to determine where we stood on certain topics. We seemed to be on the same page, even having voted the same in the last two presidential circuits. I'm not sure where things changed with him, but I can say with all honestly, the last couple of years opened my mind and heart so widely, I can't even facilitate the thought of going anywhere near a conservative view or raising my children under the same political umbrella.
My own life experiences may have brought me to this place, but I also think the hostile tone of the whole event forced me to come to terms with all the things I believe, versus the things I've been told to believe. Having said that, once election day came and went, my relationship went through growing pains (and continues to do so every day since). I've come into myself as a Puerto Rican woman, a feminist mother of a maturing daughter, and compassionate human in this country, and I'm not willing to meet my partner's political needs whatsoever.
Of course, this is a heated topic in our house that's not easily summed up in a few paragraphs because my opinions are so strongly held and closely guarded. But with that said, even though my partner may not hold the exact same beliefs on some levels, just as how he supports my need for a career he also supports my politics and the way we co-parent. It's confusing, I know. I'm learning that at you can love someone who doesn't see the world the same as you, however ridiculously difficult it feels at times, as long as you're having respectful, honest conversations about what it all means.
The bottom line is, he can't take this one away from me (and to be clear, he's not trying to). It's more important to me our children are raised with the same compassion I have, because I truly believe they'll change the world someday. Ain't nobody got time for misogyny, bigotry, or any other platform or rhetoric we're currently enveloped in. As a mother, it's my sole job to raise strong, independent minds who fight against all that.
I've battled depression and anxiety for as long as I've been alive. Part of it is learned, and I'm sure the bigger part is genetic. There isn't a female in my family who isn't going through the same battles so it's lifelong and, at times, exhausting. My partner knows taking care of my mental health is a priority because if not addressed, I can spiral pretty quickly and that's no good for any of us.
My Physical Health
I discovered my love of running just four years ago. Never having been active growing up, I knew after two children it was time to take control of my health before something terrible happened. The birth of my second child left my weight at an all-time high and I was absolutely miserable. After I found running (multiple marathons, half-marathons, 5ks, 10ks, 15ks, and even a 50k later), I lost the weight, began to really love myself, and felt better than I ever have. My parter might attest now that those days I don't get a run in are not my best days so to give it up isn't in me. Not only does it keep me physically active, it helps me manage those days my mental health takes a nosedive.
Disclaimer: I understand and accept how important sex is in a relationship. However — and this is a big one — it's still my body, my rules. I hate having sex when I don't want to because forcing it interferes with the whole point (to connect). It's taken some years for my partner to completely understand my complicated past (that involves sexual traumas), but now, if I don't want my body touched, he doesn't touch my body. This is the exact thing I want both my daughter and son to learn about a woman: if she doesn't want touched, don't touch her. Period.
Who I Am
What all of this boils down to is that I'm not willing to sacrifice or change who I am for my partner — or anyone. It may have taken me 34 years to figure out everything I stand for and all that's important to me, but I'm here (finally).
Relationships are complicated and what I've learned in these (almost) 13 years is that if you find someone who isn't trying to change you, or asking you to sacrifice things that matter to you (just like my partner hasn't), that's probably the one worth holding onto. But likewise, I can't expect him to sacrifice any of the above for me. And maybe that's why we're still together.