We say “Don’t change yourself for a relationship” as if it’s the 11th commandment. In one sense, this warning is merited, but in another sense, it’s completely off base.
There is a change we all need for successful relationships: growth of character. Mature relationships cannot exist without character growth, and that growth requires a change of heart, spirit and even personal habits. Not only will you change before the relationship, but you will change within it as well. Yet if you’re changing yourself to make a guy like you or being untrue to your personal values, that kind of change will result in relationship issues down the road.
So should you change yourself for a relationship? Yes and no. Here are some dos and don’ts to guide you.
- DON’T change your values. This is all about being “equally yoked.” Paul—under the inspiration of God—commands us not to form intimate relationships with unbelievers. This isn’t intended to be exclusive and rude; to the contrary, Paul repeatedly admonishes the early church to love the unbelievers in their midst. But if a relationship with an unbeliever causes you to change your core values and compromise God’s standard of holiness, you’re stepping into the danger zone. No matter how great the guy might seem, if he’s asking you to compromise biblical standards of holiness, he is not God’s intended man for you. That’s not the kind of change you should pursue.
- DO change your comfort zone. As I counsel young women through the uncertain years of singleness, I get one question more than most: “Why don’t I get asked out?” I always reply: “Start by looking at the common denominator.” As uncomfortable as it is to say, it’s possible to perpetuate singleness longer than necessary by cultivating bad habits and personality traits. Smiling, approachable girls are asked out more often than those who hide in the background. If you want a relationship (and it’s not wrong to desire one, if your priorities are in the correct order), you will need to step out of your comfort zone. You will need to grow into the best version of yourself, learn to communicate well and expand your circle of friends. Developing a new comfort zone is a change you’ll need for the rest of your life.
- DON’T change your personality. While we should change bad habits—poor manners or inability to hold a conversation—and pursue growth of character, we shouldn’t change our personalities for a relationship. If you really love to read, don’t put that part of yourself on hold in order to appeal to the guy who loves sports. Be honest about your interests and passions. To do otherwise is to present a false version of yourself, and even if the guy you like ends up dating you, it’s not the real you he’s dating! Eventually the façade will fall away and you’ll be left with even less in common than you had before. Stay true to who you are and trust that God will bring the right person, the one who appreciates your genuine self.
- DO allow God to change your heart. The center of true change is a teachable spirit. By following God closely on a daily basis, your heart will be changed to align with His priorities. You need Him to have a successful relationship; only He can show you how to love unconditionally, forgive when you are wronged and give even when nothing is gained in return.
Relationships require a “meeting in the middle” of two hearts willing to make sacrifices for love. But what is sacrificed is selfishness and immediate gratification—not the truth of Christ. The love of God (our example) never sacrifices values or truth, or it would not be love at all. If you’re changing your values for a relationship or compromising God’s truth for a pseudo-love, you’re being deceived by the world’s version of romance! But if you align your heart with God’s Word, you will grow into a woman who walks in His priorities, changed by the grace of her loving God—and unchanged by anything else.