I’ve always revered the strong, independent woman archetype because of my upbringing.
Growing up, I often felt powerless and small, so I became determined to be the one in control my own destiny as I entered adulthood. Witnessing and experiencing some of the injustices imposed upon my family, I wanted to make sure that never happened to me or anyone else.
I knew that I ultimately wanted to change the world (I still do, in fact), but in my journey to do that, I also believed that I had to walk this path alone so no one could hurt me — especially a romantic partner.
I made a commitment to myself to put my aspirations first because of the negative preconceptions I had formed around relationships, especially as I witnessed how they affected my loved ones.
Instead of focusing on relationships that could potentially disempower me, I wanted to focus on learning, growing and being a better person so I could better achieve my ambitions.
I was satisfied with situationships because they’re low maintenance. Serious relationships take time, patience and vulnerability, and I didn’t believe I had the capacity to give this to anyone.
That was until I met my current partner.
The beginning of our relationship was dizzying.
We started talking literally a month before I was about to graduate college, and within that short span of time, I quickly grew to like him—a lot.
Next thing I knew, we went on our first date, were calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend, meeting each other’s parents, and a few months down the line, saying I love you.
I felt a mix of emotions throughout the beginning of our relationship. As cliche as it may be, I never knew I could feel this much love for someone, but at the same time, I felt like I was losing a degree of control being in an intimate relationship that I so often feared.
I was adamant about carefully treading the serious relationship territory because I didn’t want to lose my sense of self, but I had felt myself gravitating toward that despite my greatest defenses.
A month and a half after we started dating I moved to Washington, D.C. for an internship with a newspaper. Even though this was an exciting step in my career, I felt homesick and missing my partner was a huge component of that. I sometimes found myself thinking that I needed to head back home so we could be together.
I felt weak and dumbfounded by these thoughts because this was exactly what I’d feared when I entered a serious relationship. Was I really thinking about skipping out on this amazing opportunity because of a guy?
I was also worried because I was unsure if our lives would ever be able to truly converge. I felt like we were on two radically different paths career-wise and that a healthy relationship wouldn’t work amid that.
I recall one conversation we had where he essentially asked me about every dream and aspiration I hoped to achieve within the next 10 or so years.
I gave him the full rundown: I wanted to become a successful journalist, change the conversation around social justice in the U.S. on a mainstream scale, travel the world, write my own book, study Asian American studies, and ultimately change the world.
He was in awe but in the best way possible.
Not only did he acknowledge these ambitions, but he also respected them too. He was never afraid of these ambitions or thought they would somehow tear us apart. His utmost concern then and now is that he does what he can to help me reach these goals.
Here’s what I learned since being in this relationship: Your personal and professional lives aren’t two distinct entities that can’t coexist. And my partner has been more instrumental in me flourishing in both areas of my life than I ever could have imagined.
I thought that letting someone into my life so intimately would disempower me, but now I see that being in a relationship shouldn’t strip me of my personal ambitions. In fact, being in a healthy, loving relationship allows these ambitions to grow and flourish.
Over the past two years since we started dating, he’s never failed to remind me that I know exactly what I want, even when I lose sight of the big picture. Although I might fight him on it because I’m stubborn as hell, he has never ceased to be my sounding board, my biggest cheerleader, and the kind of support I never knew I needed.
Being in a serious relationship doesn’t mean that I have to give up any degree of my ambitions. I know I am the powerful woman I once aspired to be, and my partner respects and cherishes that. There is no divide here: only acceptance, love, and support.