Most of us are familiar with the term “ride or die.” Ride or die is used to describe a person (usually a woman) who is willing to do anything for their partner, friend, or family, even in the face of danger. A ride or die is often praised for their relentless loyalty and commitment to their partner, but ride or die relationships are all too often code for unhealthy relationships.
Being a “ride or die” normalizes unhealthy behaviors and rewards people for staying in unhealthy relationships where they are routinely neglected and mistreated by their partner.
Staying in a relationship out of a sense of duty or blind loyalty, as many ride or dies do, is unhealthy. Losing sight of your own values because of a manipulative partner is a common thread among people in these types of unhealthy relationships. Before you enter a relationship, you should know how you want to be loved and what your deal breakers are so that you can clearly communicate with your partner about your values and never feel like you have to give up a part of yourself for your relationship.
When one partner is allowed to control the relationship, they may expect their significant other to support their every action or decision no matter the consequences. In healthy relationships, you aren’t pressured to prove your love or take the fall for your partner. You also aren’t required to endure unfair treatment of any kind.
Examples of an unhealthy partner include those who:
Consistently puts their own needs and desires first.
Controls you through verbal abuse, threats, or acts of physical violence.
Isolates you, forcing them to keep secrets and lie if necessary.
Manipulates you through emotional abuse.
Uses guilt to get their way.
Blind loyalty is not necessary for any type of relationship. Healthy couples value compromise and a sense of independence that lets both partners grow as individuals. Anyone who discredits your decision-making abilities or forces you to cover for them and knowingly puts you in harm’s way does not have your best interest at heart. In healthy relationships, you’ll never be pressured to prove your love to your significant other because that’s not love.
Even if you don’t proudly consider yourself as a ride or die, you may be in a relationship that falls into this category.
Signs that you’re in a ‘ride or die’ relationship:
You explain away your partner’s bad behavior.
You feel the need to hide your partner’s actions or the things you do together.
You follow your partner without question.
You wear things that are a symbol of your loyalty.
You’re willing to engage in activities that make you uncomfortable and that you normally wouldn’t do.
You’ve already accepted blame or consequences for their negative or illegal actions.
You’ve been confronted by a friend who sees your relationship as controlling.
Your partner encourages you to take one for the team.
Your partner is a priority over your family/friends.
A Break-up Does Not Equal Failure
Promoting blind loyalty essentially makes break-ups synonymous with failure, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every relationship offers valuable learning experiences and brings us closer to understanding who we are and what’s important to us.
The person who was “perfect” for us at one stage in our lives may no longer fit later on, and that’s okay. Evolving as a person sometimes means change is necessary; those experiences aren’t failures. That’s why we shouldn’t endure through toxic relationships.
If your partner tries to push a ride or die mentality on you, it’s time to set boundaries or walk away from the relationship.
Consider these options:
Be honest about what you will and will not do.
If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts.
If you’ve shared how you feel, and your boundaries aren’t respected, it’s time to move on.
Leave if you see or experience anything that puts you in danger.
Remember that it’s healthy to take time away from the relationship if you need it.
Take responsibility for your own actions, not your partner’s actions.
When you’re asked to do something you’re not comfortable with, speak up right away.
Whoever came up with the idea that love is pain was not in a healthy relationship. So many women are under the assumption that in order to fully accept someone, you must find your partner’s unacceptable behavior acceptable. You’ll find them making excuses, reminiscing only on the good times, and justifying terrible behavior.
At a young age, we're taught to expect pain from the people who love us. We’re taught that the boy who ignores us is the one who secretly has feelings for us. We shame women for complaining by telling them that if they speak out, they are always nagging and ungrateful. As a result, women begin to lower their expectations.
Your feelings are valid, and you are not responsible for staying when your pain is dismissed because a relationship is not one-sided. At no point does being loyal mean allowing someone to become comfortable disrespecting you.
A man cannot say that a woman is not loyal if she leaves when he has made it impossible for her to stay. Through it all, the most important thing to remember is you deserve true love. Real love feels good. Love builds you up. Love is the highest vibration there is, so there is no way that it can tear you down. You shouldn’t have to reduce yourself for the fear of being left. The big things to you that are little things to other people should always be discussed and doing so actually creates a healthier relationship, a relationship that is filled with love.
“I’ve seen so many women give themselves up for men who clearly don't give two hoots about them. I’ve seen so many women settle for crumbs. But now I know that a relationship built on real love feels good. It should bring you joy, not just some of the time, but most of the time. It should never require losing your voice, your self-respect or your dignity. And whether you’re 25 or 65, it should involve bringing all of who you are to the table and walking away with even more.”—Oprah Winfrey
If your partner is not able to provide you what you need, then you need to leave.
A woman with a “ride or die” mentality often ends up becoming a doormat instead of a girlfriend. The other facets of their personality and all that makes her unique gets suffocated by her partner’s needs.
The girl who isn’t a rider will be a mirror, the person who shows their partner everything that’s holding them back, the person who challenges them, and if you hurt her too many times, she will leave you.
When she’s been hurt, she won’t focus on staying in a relationship just to have security; she will focus on her integrity and self-worth first.
You don’t get a badge of honor for sticking through bullshit. You are not exhibiting strength by holding on to a person who treats you like shit and/or disrespects you consistently. You don’t earn points for this at all, just a lot of pain, frustration, emotional damage, and more time that you are not getting what you truly deserve.
Too many women think they are doing something special or commendable by holding on to situations that do not work in their own best self-interest. Queens, do not use the label of a ride or die chick to hide the fact that your motivation to hold on to that relationship isn’t really about how loyal you are. Most of you are scared and acknowledging that may help you see what you might need to do next.
This expectation of women to suffer in silence is passed from generation to generation. We feel pressure to remain loyal to the people in our lives—no matter what it costs us.
What’s the real issue though?
Signs you’re being too passive:
People take advantage of your kindness.
You apologize for things you didn’t do or didn’t cause.
You avoid conflict.
You compromise your values if it means people will be happy with you.
You don’t take care of yourself because you’re too busy taking care of everyone else.
You feel burnt out on giving and not receiving.
You feel guilty.
You say “yes” when you don’t want to.
You spend time with people you don’t like.
You’re not appreciated.
Why are some people so focused on pleasing others that they sacrifice their own needs? What makes someone so anxious to fulfill other people’s expectations that they end up sabotaging themselves?
The typical people-pleaser is someone who lacks an internal compass to gauge the value of their own actions. As a result, they spend their lives looking for validation from others.
The seeds of people-pleasing are usually planted in childhood. Often, parents will simply tell kids what to do and never encourage them to assert themselves. When the kids obey, the parents give them conditional love. Such an environment sends a subconscious message to children: The only way to feel valuable is to comply with others’ demands, give others what they need, and just go with the flow. This pattern only solidifies as children grow up, fearing that if they do not strive to please, people will not love them. They respond to this perceived threat by becoming obsessed with meeting others’ needs.
Once established, such behaviors become self-reinforcing which makes them difficult to uproot.
People-pleasers expend so much energy meeting others’ needs that they lose sight of what they want from life. They’re often seized by the disorienting feeling that they’re not in control of their own lives, which leads them to lash out. If you’ve been a pleaser for a long time, you’re going to get more and more resentful of the person you’re pleasing, and that can lead to passive-aggressive behavior.
So, how does a people-pleaser end the cycle?
While perpetual pushovers often lack self-worth and clear direction in their lives, breaking the cycle is complicated. The cure is not to neglect others’ needs entirely. Rather, the key is a well-thought-out policy of temperance. Retain positive people-pleasing traits like friendliness and sensitivity but clarify your own needs and assert them more. If someone asks you for something, ask yourself if it’s feasible and consider your own needs too.
Take a close look at what situations trigger your pleasing behavior and why. People-pleasing behavior comes from fear, from an assumption that others are in control of you. Healthy behavior comes from genuinely wanting to be connected to people. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Is it because I really care about this person or because I’m afraid I’m going to lose them?” This kind of questioning can help you uncover the source of the fears underlying your people-pleasing habit. Did your parents’ conditional love lead you to dread abandonment? Did the pain of a past heartbreak make you overly anxious about offending or disagreeing with your new partner? Consider the answers and discard fears that don’t make sense anymore.
People-pleasing is a coping mechanism; it’s something we’ve learned because it was reinforced, or it worked for us in the past. Just the thought of saying “no” can cause a lot of anxiety at first, but after a while, you get a feel for it. Even if you cave on the spot, there’s still time to set things right. If you say “yes” too quickly, call the person back and tell them you can’t do it after all. Remember, Queen, you always retain the right to change your mind at any time.
What are the signs of people-pleasing?
Failure to stand up for yourself.
Feeling uncomfortable when you have to express your likes and dislikes (particularly dislikes).
Saying “yes” to everything, including the unreasonable (and usually dreading it or feeling resentful afterwards).
Taking criticism to heart.
People-pleasing is all about putting other people’s value above our own. It’s about feeling so anxious about what other people think or feel that we self-sabotage our own hopes and dreams in the process. This slowly chips away at our sense of self, and we might start to question who we are underneath it all.
What’s so wrong with being nice all the time?
It’s exhausting! Being on-call all the time spends all our energy to keep others happy, so it’s easy to lose sight of our own goals. This can leave us feeling out of balance and burnt-out.
A desire for control Far from the selfless act it might seem, people-pleasing actually stems from a feeling of powerlessness and the need to be in control.
Unexpressed emotions. When we bottle up difficult thoughts and feelings, they tend to just reappear elsewhere (and often worse). You can’t give relentlessly without feeling it somehow in the long-term. Most people-pleasers will find themselves feeling grumpy, angry, and burned out…or even worse—resentful, a very different picture to what’s being portrayed on the outside.
You can never be the real you. Not being true to our own needs can leave us feeling disconnected and lost. When we’re constantly putting on a face for the outside world, it can make us wonder whether the people in our lives choose to be there because we spend our time doing nice things for them or because they truly love us.
You end up being walked over (intentionally or unintentionally) People-pleasing leaves you open to being taken advantage of. We need to teach people how we want to be treated. When we fail to set boundaries, others will never know how far they can push us.
You overwork yourself at the expense of others. Over-committing ourselves will always come at the expense of something else. Despite how hard we try, it will never be possible to do everything. A failure to prioritize the things or people who are important to us means we can end up putting our time and focus towards the wrong things.
You’re passive-aggressive instead of expressing things fairly. Anger can easily transform into passive-aggression when it’s not expressed. Communicating how you feel is the only real way to prevent resentment. Talking about uncomfortable things might feel difficult at first, but it’s a risk worth taking. And, most people will respect you more when you do.
What’s holding you back?
If you’ve spent a lifetime pleasing other people, you might be worried about what’s going to happen when you start making the necessary changes.
Here are a couple misconceptions:
I don’t know how to say “no”. Breaking old habits can be a challenge, but it’ll be worth it in the long-run. Learning how to become assertive means having a strong sense of self and your values. It doesn’t mean trampling all over someone else’s; that’s aggression. Being assertive is all about learning to express your needs in a positive way, and that takes practice. Stick with it until it becomes a habit.
My friends won’t understand. If the people around you have got used to you saying “yes” all the time, it’s true that you might come up against some resistance at first. But, you should never feel guilty about putting your own needs first. The people who really care about you will love and respect you for it. Think of it as an opportunity to see your friends’ true colors.
How to be more assertive in life:
Buy time before making a commitment. Learning to be assertive is a skill, and it takes time. When someone asks you a favor, take a step back, and say you’ll get back to them later to give yourself time to see whether it’s within your own personal limits.
Call yourself out when you feel guilty. Being assertive can feel unnerving when you’re used to taking a backseat. Anytime a negative thought creeps up, try replacing it with something positive instead. An example might be thinking, “I deserve to be happy, and what I do with my free time is up to me.”
Change your language. Words are powerful. Changing your language can make a big impact, not only to others, but it will also help reshape how you see yourself. Try making the following changes in the way you express yourself: -Instead of “I need,” say, “I want.” -Instead of “I could” or “I should,” say, “I will.” -Instead of “have to,” say, “I choose to.” Stand your ground. Remember that it’s only you who can give your power to someone else.
Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Some people like to push and push and push…when that happens, standing your ground can feel tough but never be afraid to sound like a broken record if someone isn’t listening to you.
Get clear on your goals to find your boundaries. If you don’t know what your boundaries are, you can be sure that no one else does either. Take some time to think about your own personal goals. What do you see yourself achieving in the next few months or the next year? What will it take to achieve this? Once you know where you want to go, you can look at setting your priorities and know what you need to do, or not do, to get there.
Make self-care a priority. Taking care of yourself is an act of self-love. We inevitably end up losing sight of our own needs when we choose other people’s happiness instead. Taking time to indulge in the things we love is a healthy practice to help bring balance back again.
Say “no” and move on. Saying “no” might be so foreign at first that you feel compelled to come up with excuses to justify your decision. Never be afraid to state your limits but do so and then move forward. Try to avoid tactics like justification, complaining, eye-rolling, or passive-aggression.
Think long and hard about why you do it. Do you like to be someone’s crutch or to take the role of “the fixer”? It might feel like you’re being the epitome of niceness, but most people-pleasers turn to service out of their own fears rather than kindness. If you decide to do someone a favor, make sure you’re doing it because you really want to, not because you’re expecting something in return.
What is assertiveness?
Sometimes, the barrier to assertive communication is confusing assertiveness with aggression. Assertiveness isn’t lashing out in anger. It’s not yelling or nagging. It’s not arguing. It’s not letting irritations and hurts build up and then dumping them all at once.
Assertive communication respects you and other people. It clearly, directly, and respectfully communicates your thoughts, feelings, and needs.
Tips for practicing assertive communication:
Check in with yourself regularly to find out what you’re feeling and what you need. You can’t ask for what you want if you don’t know what it is.
Ask for what you want. You have to be clear and direct in asking for your needs to be met. We often make the mistake of expecting people to just know what we want. No matter how long you’ve known a person, it’s not fair to expect them to know what you want or need. You have to ask directly. Remain true to your feelings and needs. Asking doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your needs will be met. But, remember that you still have the right to ask.
Prepare for difficult conversations. Plan and practice what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. Writing a script can be helpful.
Use “I” statements. This technique helps you express your feelings and needs without blame. There is a simple formula for an “I” statement that sounds like this: “I am feeling ____________ (blank) because __________ (blank), and I’d like ___________ (blank).” Respectful communication isn’t just about asking for what you need; it also requires active listening to understand the other person’s point-of-view. Assertiveness is a skill. The more you practice, the easier it will become.
The benefits of assertive communication:
Assertive communication increases the chances of getting your needs met. This might be your need for more rest or your need to explore other interests or your need to feel accepted and loved for who you are within your relationship. Assertiveness also increases relationship satisfaction because you’re being authentic and creating balance in your relationships. Quality relationships take both people’s needs into account; they aren’t one person always taking and one person doing all the giving.
Assertive communication promotes respect. People don’t respect passive, doormat behavior. They respect people who stand up for themselves and ask for what they want or need while also respecting others. Assertiveness also increases self-respect because you’ll feel good about yourself when you value your feelings and needs rather than ignoring them.
People-pleasers often have very low self-esteem and become addicted to fulfilling other’s desires to make themselves feel better. To remedy this, make sure you cultivate love within yourself so that you will attract loving, supportive people into your life who won’t try to take advantage of your kindness. Love yourself now, as you are in this moment, and your self-worth will slowly increase as you shed negative thoughts about yourself.
Suppressing your feelings, opinions, needs, etc., isn’t going to do anything but help you be emotionally available and honest. You’re doing too much pretending for that.
Being indispensable in your relationships, romantic or otherwise, is the fast track to becoming responsible for everything in the relationship. Unsurprisingly, you’ll be expected to be indispensable on the blame front too. Plus, because you’ve practically broken your back and it’s still not enough, you’re bound to feel like there must be something that you’ve done because, of course, if you’re doing all of this stuff, you should be appreciated, right?
Once you’re more honest about why you feel and act this way, you can acknowledge and address any issues plus it’s the first step to acting with self-care because you shouldn’t be putting yourself through an emotional roller coaster in order to feel worthy or to cling onto a relationship that may actually be compromising you. Love is an action, but if your action is people-pleasing, you’re cutting the self-love out of your life. That and you’re sheltering the other party from their responsibilities and their own actions, and that’s not love either.
If you wouldn’t do what you’re doing if you didn’t think that there would be some sort of reward at the end, fall waaaaaay back. Examine what you’re doing all this stuff. To avoid conflict? To avoid being vulnerable? To avoid being alone or single? To fit in? To avoid having to see what’s actually going on? To avoid being responsible for your own happiness and life?
Often, we do this stuff because, on some level, we believe that it ties us to the people in our lives.
“If I’m doing all of this, they have no reason to leave.”
Sometimes, we think, I did ________ and put up with _______, so they can’t leave. They owe me!
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