Growing up, I wasn't like all the other kids my age.
I was raised by a single mother, my father wasn't in the picture in any sort of way, and I didn't have many friends. My mom was a public school teacher, and when I was young I actually attended the school she taught at. Because of my lack of friends, and my close proximity to my mom, I spent a lot of time with her, and her colleagues and friends, rather than with kids my own age. My long exposure to adults during crucial years of development quickly churned me into an unbelievably mature kid. I was holding intelligent conversations and meshing in well with my mom's friend group to the point where I felt like one of them.
On top of this early-onset maturity, being raised by a single mother gave me my single best and worst attribute: my independence. My mom taught me that although it may be nice to have a man or some sort of other romantic attachment in your life to help you, it is absolutely not necessary.
She was right then, and she still is, but as I got older and began dating and considering romantic relationships, I realized that mindset had festered in my brain to the point where it almost becomes toxic and selfish; rendering me unable to be in a relationship because the once positive independence that my mother taught me as a child has now morphed into a negative, selfish aspect of my personality. I was so fiercely independent that I was basically impervious to compromise and sacrifice at every turn.
Of course, it proceeds that I've never been good at relationships. Up until this past year my longest relationship was five-months-long; I'd always been too focused on my own needs to accommodate someone else in my life. I knew what I needed to change and the behaviors I needed to adopt, but I was young and dumb, and I wasn't ready to give up my independence. I didn't want to put myself in their shoes and stop to think before every single decision I make. I always heard 'Well, how would you feel if they did that to you?', and my initial thought is always that I wouldn't because the independence that I have I always end up projecting onto others.
I assume that the independence I so fiercely value is shared by others, but it's not – and my current relationship is a great example of that fact. My boyfriend is constantly willing to make compromises and sacrifices for our relationship, he very rarely does anything without at least letting me know first and he's always putting himself before me.
Those few things felt like a prison sentence to me, until I had a conversation with my boyfriend about it and really considered what giving up my independence meant. It meant just giving him a heads-up before doing things, it meant sending him a text, it meant having dinner with him even if you don't want to go out. Little things like that are all it takes, and as much as I hated having to 'answer to someone' and doing things outside my comfort zone, I cared about him so much that I didn't care – if that's all I had to do to make him happy I was more than willing. And, the cost to my independence, truly, in all reality was slim to none.
At their core, relationships are all about compromise. Humans are incredibly complex, strange, autonomous beings and bringing another human into your life in a romantic, emotional, spiritual, sexual tone that most relationships breed is unbelievably difficult. It has taken me a long time to break down my walls and bad habits, and in reality, they're still not completely broken yet. I still find myself hitting roadblocks every day, but as I sit here writing this, watching my boyfriend of over a year sleeping peacefully in our apartment, I know for certain that every compromise and sacrifice I make at the loss of my independence is worth it time-and-time again for the amazing, beautiful, rare thing that I get back.
Not needing someone is great, but when you have someone that you care about and want to be with, putting your independence aside and allowing a bit of vulnerable dependency in will do nothing but help your relationship grow.