It's easy to become swept up in a relationship. The first date, the first kiss, the first time you declare yourselves boyfriend and girlfriend. The first time you meet each other's families. The first fight.
You become attracted to the most random and seemingly trivial aspects of your partner: her smell after the gym, the way his jeans hang, his hands, the fact that her room is always just a little messy, the way he says certain words. All of these things amount to something bigger: love.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that love involves another person. Suddenly, there's somebody else to worry about. There are other wants and needs to take into account.
Everyone has a unique definition of the word. However, I've had enough experiences in the romance department to know that when someone doesn't recognize the selfless nature of love, the relationship fails.
But what happens when selflessness toes the line between healthy and unhealthy?
How do you know if you're just selfless in your relationship, or if you've begun to revolve your whole life around your partner's wants and needs? At what point does making someone else's happiness your own become detrimental to your wellbeing?
This distinction can be difficult to make.
One minute, you're compromising with your partner on everything: planning weekends accordingly (maybe you'll both hangout with friends on Friday and have date night on Saturday); giving each other's favorite music or movie a try; doing each other's favorite things.
All seems fair and balanced. You do something that makes him happy, and he does something for you in return.
But the changes come gradually. Slowly, you find yourself ditching your friends to hang out with his. You find yourself only listening to her music and watching her movies, and not doing the things you once loved.
You make your partner the center of your universe, and you give excuses for your partner's neglectful behavior because you think you're being selfless when it comes to his or her needs.
He cancels a date with you to play video games with his friends... whom he lives with and sees every day? No big deal. Those are his best friends.
She oversleeps and misses your breakfast plans... for the sixth time this month? It's fine. She had a long week; she needed some rest.
He excites you when he says he scheduled a night next week to celebrate your birthday or Valentine's Day... and then doesn't know what you guys are doing until 9pm the night of, leaving you unnerved and waiting in your dress for hours? It's okay. The restaurants were just all full.
Friends are important, right? She had a big test this week, right? It's not his fault that every restaurant was booked, right? Throughout all the excuses, you're becoming a doormat, and you don't even recognize that it's happening. You are simply not being taken into account. It becomes all about your partner.
All of this seeps into the everyday life of your relationship, where you do things for your partner without him or her doing much for you in return.
You ensure that you're always available when she's ready to hang out, instead of compromising a plan together and then sticking to it. You watch his favorite TV show with him and realize that he has never watched yours with you. You make an effort to get to know her friends, but she makes zero effort to get to know yours.
When did this relationship become so one-sided? When did your selfless efforts to make your partner happy cause you to lose yourself?
This isn't to say people don't make mistakes in relationships. Yes, people sometimes oversleep and miss a meal or two. Yes, sometimes a new video game comes out and your boyfriend really, really has to play it with his roommates.
But, if there's a constant, obvious one-sidedness in your relationship, it's no longer about making someone else's happiness your happiness. Where did your happiness go?
Before you know it, you'll reach a point where you don't even value your happiness at all. You've become so insecure in your interests and desires that you start turning into the female (or male) version of your partner, even if that's not who you are, and it's not why he or she liked you in the first place.
You think that this version of you is better. You think you should ignore your wants and needs and focus all of your energy on your partner. He or she becomes more important than you.
There is, however, some kind of twisted beauty when this happens to both people in a relationship. True selflessness occurs when both people value each other more than they value themselves, and when both people make each other's happiness more important than their own.
True selflessness in a relationship is about maintaining your sense of self while doing something for someone else, without shortchanging in the process. True selflessness is a tough thing to achieve.
It takes a lot of work, communication, open-mindedness and a keen sense of self-awareness: How much have I changed? Do I still take care of myself? Is he putting in the effort to make me just as happy as the effort I'm putting in to make him happy?
Do I truly, in my heart, feel that this relationship is balanced?
The first step to getting there is recognizing that love is, indeed, about being selfless, but the next step is navigating the ups and downs of such selflessness together.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It