Is Your Relationship Stunting Your Emotional Growth?

December 14, 2011  |  
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The scariest thing about being in a state of arrested development is that we can rarely see when we’re in it. Want to know why? Because it feels good. Because being allowed—even encouraged—to stay just where you are, not to grow, change, learn or push yourself feels good. They are called growing pains for a reason. And a little part of all of us wishes we could just opt out of those pains. And some of us do, by staying in relationships like these:

You never go out:

Going out as a single girl felt like constantly being on the meat market. You had to prove yourself. You had to look good. You had to hold up your end of conversations. You had to be judged every time you stepped out. But now, you’re addicted to having someone who just thinks you’re perfect. And you don’t want to subject yourself to the judgment of others. But guess what? It’s healthy to deal with the ups and downs, the insecurities, the awkward and unpleasant bar conversations of your single youth. The backbone you grow out of that—that is a solid one. There is something to be said for being able to come home after every night out, and all those strange/offensive/pervy comments from random guys and being able to say “I love me because I love me” not because “he loves me.” The backbone you grow just because one guy is gaga about you isn’t quite the same. It’s a cop out.

You aren’t allowed to have male friends:

If you can’t have male friends, then you have no one to compare your boyfriend to. And you should be able to compare him. You should see how other guys treat their girlfriends. Otherwise, it’s too easy to accept certain treatments because you assume “this is just how it is in relationships.” Also, your man has serious insecurity and control issues if he isn’t allowing you to have male friends.

You have to do the things you love alone:

Going to the opera, volunteering at a soup kitchen, going on long drives—whatever it is that you love to do, your boyfriend won’t do with you. He doesn’t ask you not to do it, but he won’t accompany you. And whether you want to admit it or not, if your partner won’t do your favorite activities with you, you’ll inevitably do them less, and you’ll lose the enrichment you used to get from them.

He is behind you in life:

He is still struggling to get his first solid, career-oriented job (aka not a serving or bartending position) while you’re already established in your work. This might be opportunist but so be it: you could be with a man who is advanced in his career and can not only date you, but mentor you and provide you emotional and mental support that your bartending boyfriend just can’t, because he just doesn’t know what the pressure is like at that level of life. He means well. But sometimes, it’s not just the thought that matters. It’s the capability.

You’ve based big decisions on him:

You chose the grad school closest to him. You stayed on the side of town that he could afford, even though your salary could afford you the side of town with all of the restaurants, bars, museums, theaters and other cultural and social scenes that invigorate you. You do need to make sacrifices for relationships. But, you shouldn’t sacrifice your own shot at a great future.

You zone out:

You feel so content in your relationship, that when you’re out with friends, you zone out while they are talking. You think going out is for your single friends who secretly all hope to meet a man. That’s why you used to go out. But now, you’re just waiting for the night to be over so you can return to your man. But, you could be missing out on great conversation. Not to mention, you’re offending your friends by zoning out.

It’s your first relationship:

I hate to say this to any of the young, sweet naïve years listening up but…your first relationship should not be your last. I don’t even think your third relationship should be! Do yourself a favor—accept a few heartbreaks in pursuit of the best suited relationship for you. Discover all the possible ways a man can treat you. Explore the different types of sexual compatibility out there. See as many possible ways that a relationship can look like before choosing the one you want to stick with for life. If you’re in your first relationship now, it’s not necessarily stunting your growth. It’s a learning experience like everything is. But, the second you’re only in it for fear of being alone, it’s time to go. You’ve gotten all you can from it. And that heartbreak is only a step towards your happily-ever-after.

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