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I don’t want to be the most important person in your life

I’d like to be a team that supports each other in their individual pursuits without resentment

By Danielle Sepulveres

I don’t want to be the most important person in your life.

It feels rude to say that. Like I don’t care about my significant other. Or that I’m ungrateful for his love and affection. But I came to this realization after so many years of downplaying what I wanted personally or professionally because it seemed that’s what was required. That love should trump everything else in my life. Blame it on social pressure, or on rom-coms where the characters quit their jobs and run to the airport at the very last minute. For most of my life, I let a bit of myself get lost while trying to be a “good girlfriend.”

Any self-help guru or relationship expert seems to spout the same philosophy: Settle into your professional life first, then you are ready for your romantic relationship. Which also insinuates that your career ambitions can remain static while your courtship and potential mate take precedence as your top priority.

Regardless of how far we have progressed, society still tends to dictate that you’re not fully settled down until you’re paired off. If that weren’t the case, singles wouldn’t be met with that same question at family functions and friend get-togethers: Have you met someone nice?

What if you have met someone nice? Does that mean that the majority of your attention must be devoted to them? That you quietly tuck away some of your own aspirations because something has to give? I think that the most attention should be focused on yourself — partner or not.

We can be important to each other without being the most important. Instead I’d like to be a team that supports each other in their individual pursuits without resentment.

I don’t want to be the most important part of your life because you’re likely not the most important part of mine. It might sound narcissistic, but it’s more layered than that. I can still be someone’s true love and let my own life and aspirations hold more weight. Many of my dreams for my life have motivated me for years, only gaining in strength and momentum in time. A man I’ve dated for a year or two cannot compare to that. Nor do I expect my presence to surpass his plans for his life simply because he calls me his girlfriend.

I once dated a guy who filtered all of his career goals around making sure that nothing on his path to success detracted from the time he could spend with me. Anytime we talked about where we saw ourselves in the future, “we” reigned supreme in all of his plans. I wasn’t even sure that he was being sincere. He seemed to think he should be following some kind of a romance caste system: People in relationships sit at the top. Your person vs. everyone and everything.

Seeing him act this way reaffirmed that I’d done the same thing in the past. I’d gently abandoned certain goals to devote that energy to my boyfriends. To making us work long-term.

I don’t think it’s easy to maintain this kind of relationship, where you come first and your person second. But it does seem to fit with how millennials are already approaching their love lives. We may never feel truly settled or satisfied professionally, and in the meantime, we still deserve love. I don’t think we should have to prioritize — establish career first, look for love second. We just need to respect each other’s pursuits equally.

Two people can agree that they have things to accomplish; that they can do it together and support each other’s endeavors while not being each other’s sole focus. Love shouldn’t have to mean there can’t be something in your life that’s more important.

So if we’re going to date, you should at least have a hobby. I will totally support all your Pokemon-hunting dreams, as long as you don’t make me feel like I need to squash mine.


This story originally appeared in The Washington Post’s Solo-ish blog.

Danielle Sepulveres is a freelance writer based in New York. She is the author of “Losing It: The Semi-Scandalous Story of an Ex-Virgin” and co-author of “Too Old to Have a Major Too Young to Have a Minor.” Follow @ellesep