I Didn’t Change; I Grew
Up to and including the moment I worked up the courage to contact J on the online dating site, I’d thought about changing myself in my natural form fairly often. I’d been told by my mother, and other relatives, and even some friends ‘what my problem was.’
‘My problem’ was different, depending on who you asked.
My interests were too masculine (I like sports and science and despite being an incurably hopeless romantic, I normally gravitate toward cerebral comedy and heavy character drama in my media tastes, not love stories…love stories rarely feel authentic or entertaining to me).
My personality and communication styles weren’t open enough. Or they were too abrasive (honest).
My appearance wasn’t feminine enough. (I never wore pink, and didn’t often wear skirts or dresses or really anything traditionally or revealingly feminine unless it was required…had to wear a dress to graduation and prom and other people’s weddings and formal parties… I don’t wear make-up except on very special occasions. I honestly don’t put much effort into my appearance beyond health, cleanliness, and hygiene, and I never have.)
<Here’s the big one though>
My expectations of other people were irrationally high and unrealistic.
(I seriously wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me to ‘lower my standards’ or that I ‘expect too much from people.’ I wouldn’t be rich, but I could probably at least take a nice, long vacation off that money.)
So I was extraordinarily nervous before meeting J the first time, worried how much of myself I should hide or delete or alter. I’d never been so imminently invested in a man. I LIKED J. Already. Before ever meeting. After only ten days of (mostly text) conversation. And I wanted him to like me back. I spent the entire six days leading up to our first date from when he said, ‘We should meet,’ wondering which of my irregular and damaged parts had to be shined up and mended or discarded before he saw me.
But I didn’t change anything. I thought about it a lot, but I’m just me. I’ve always been ME, for better or for worse, and no matter how much I thought about ‘what my problem was,’ the truth was, I liked me. I already liked ME. As is. Enough that I didn’t see any of my ‘problems’ as problems. I wasn’t hurting anybody with how I was, so why should I make an effort to change those things? And I didn’t. I was still extremely nervous about meeting J, because I *really* didn’t want one of those things about me to drive him away.
They didn’t. I’m still all of that stuff. ^^^^^^ Those things are still ‘what my problem is.’ But J has never asked me to change myself for him. He enjoys that we share some common interests, and that I understand him (usually) when he talks about ‘masculine’ things. He appreciates the honest communication style, and he earned my trust to allow me to be more open. Do I own a lot more pink things and dresses now? Yes. Because J likes me in them. He accepted me for who I was when we met, and I honestly don’t think he ever *expected* me to change anything at all though. I’ve evolved to suit his preference because I like seeing him happy, not to change a way he treats me. He doesn’t treat me any differently now, in a dress and make-up for Date Night, than he did when we first met, when I wore jeans and a (not form fitting) turtleneck sweater and not even Chapstick. We’re going on a date tomorrow night. I’ll wear jeans and a sweater. And we’ll probably leave the joint we’re headed to early because we were old people even we first met fifteen years ago and we were much younger. But all of that’s okay. J likes me for ME.
And he’s never told me my expectations were too high; he’s always risen to meet (and usually exceed) them.
While we’ve both since made tweaks to ourselves and grown as people, we are essentially, at our cores, still the same people we were fifteen years ago. I think that you’ve met the right person for YOU…that they accept you as you are and seek to grow together. They want you to be more of what you already are…a better version of what you already are. Maybe they have a vision of what that better version is, but they want to hear YOUR vision of what that better version is, and plan to help you get there. They don’t want to change you on a fundamental level. They want to see you grow. And they want to grow WITH you. They want to grow FOR you. They accept you for who you are now, and *also accept eventual, inevitable evolution.* That’s important to note. There’s this strange dichotomy in people, in that they never change, but they are also always changing. Like…an oak tree is always an oak tree. The branches and trunk will get bigger and/or change shape; the leaves change colors and fall and new ones grow the following spring…but it’s still the same tree.
That consistency and stability are comforting. But the simultaneous constant change can be (and often is) frightening, and is often largely out of our control. I know I’ve had thoughts in other relationships like, “I’ve grown/changed/learned something new…now this person won’t like me anymore.” I don’t feel that way with J, ever. He knows consistency isn’t always possible. In fact, sometimes it can become stagnant and harmful. A good partner knows and accepts that the person he meets today will not be the same person in a year, in ten years, in fifty years, and *they don’t want you to be the same.* They want you to be better…more…to adapt and become stronger and wiser. And they want to become better…more…to adapt and become stronger and wiser with you. They want to be a part of your growth, and they want you to be a part of theirs.
J is an amazing partner…husband, father, and person. I’m so happy and grateful that we’ve grown together, and we’re still growing together.