Why Being A Ride-Or-Die Partner May Not Always Be A Good Thing

Ride-or-die relationships are nothing new. Infamous law-breaking duo Bonnie and Clyde, who carried out numerous robberies and murders together before being killed by police officers in 1934, are the quintessential example of ride-or-die lovers. They stuck together even when it meant putting their lives on the line, and they died together when their crime spree finally got the best of them.

Ride-or-die partnerships continue to be a cultural staple in movies, TV shows, and real-life celebrity pairings. Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who not so coincidentally named a song after Bonnie and Clyde, are often thought to have a ride-or-die relationship, particularly after Jay-Z admitted to cheating in 2017 and Beyoncé chose to stay with him. More recently, the reality show "Vanderpump Rules" brought to light a ride-or-die love gone wrong after one of the show's stars, Ariana Madix, discovered that longtime boyfriend Tom Sandoval had been unfaithful. "I choose Tom over everyone, like, 'I ride or die for you,'" Madix said in one episode via E! News. "So I look like an idiot being Tom's number one stan when he's not mine."

While undying loyalty might sound romantic, it often doesn't end well — even if you're not a wanted criminal or a famous couple caught in a cheating scandal. There are several reasons why you might want to think twice before committing to becoming someone's ride-or-die.

You might lose your sense of self

Part of what's so exciting about starting a relationship is learning about your unique identities and how they work together. However, ride-or-die relationships can start to muddle your and your partner's individual characteristics, especially if you make it your duty to complement your other half. "In a relationship, there are three key parts," Neil Wilkie, behavioral psychotherapist and founder of The Relationship Paradigm, told Stylist. "There's the 'you,' there's the 'me,' and there's the 'us.' And my view is that those are three very different things, and that for it to be a good relationship, all three need to be nurtured. If a couple starts to be what's called 'fused' together, or become co-dependent, then the 'you' and the 'me' starts to get mixed into the 'us,' and that's not healthy, particularly if one of the individuals has unfulfilled needs."

This fusion can easily form in ride-or-die relationships where self-sacrifice is part of the assignment. And according to Chip Knee, assistant professor of psychology and researcher at the University of Houston, people who experience low self-esteem are especially likely to take on the ride-or-die role. "Individuals with high levels of [relationship-contingent self-esteem] are very committed to their relationships, but they also find themselves at risk to become devastated when something goes wrong — even a relatively minor event," says Knee, via ScienceDaily. This can lead to a loss of self and a drive to preserve the relationship, no matter the personal cost.

You may be more accepting of toxic behavior

In many ride-or-die relationships, power is unevenly distributed between partners. One partner is the instigator, while the other is along for the ride and vulnerable to the needs and decisions of the other more powerful partner. The Bay Area CBT Center calls this dynamic the "Entitlement/Self-Sacrifice Trap." Ride-or-die partners are much like those with a self-sacrifice schema — that is, they put other people first, ignore their own needs, and take the blame for others' wrongdoings. Those with a self-sacrifice schema are highly likely to attract romantic partners with an entitlement schema. In this schema, people feel entitled to get what they want and rarely take responsibility for their mistakes.

This pattern sets up ride-or-die partners to always take the fall while ensuring their S.O. remains strong and supported. At times, this can mean forgiving bad behavior (such as lying or cheating) that would otherwise be classified as a relationship deal-breaker.

Sure, forgiveness is an important part of a healthy relationship, but it can backfire when handed out too frequently — and for actions that shouldn't be excused. Research backs this up: A 2018 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology discovered that when partners forgave more and expected less in their relationships (typical of ride-or-die types), their significant others were more likely to continue behaving in harmful ways.

Love and loyalty can become blurred

Love and loyalty are two key ingredients for a thriving relationship, but here's the thing: You can love someone without always being loyal — and sometimes, the best way to love someone is to actually put limits on your loyalty to them.

But first, what exactly is loyalty? "People tend to define loyalty by what it is not (for example: not being betrayed, cheated on, or abandoned), but loyalty is much more than the absence of mistreatment," Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University, explained to Verywell Mind. According to Dr. Romanoff, being faithful, dedicated, and supportive are all ways of being loyal — in other words, the minimum requirements for being a ride-or-die partner.

So what's so wrong with being loyal? Besides the loyalty not always going in both directions (looking at you, Jay-Z and Tom Sandoval), staying devoted can be detrimental when the other person puts you in emotional or physical danger (that's the "die" part of "ride or die"). As certified counselor and relationship expert David Bennett told Bustle, "While it is good to stand by your partner when it's the right and just thing to do, you are under no obligation to stand by your partner if your partner is doing the wrong thing."

You may feel pressured to abandon your boundaries

Ride-or-die partnerships, in a way, are the antithesis of today's confusing situationships, no strings attached dating, and ghosting culture. "To be a ride or die, the relationship should be seen as sacred," Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola, relationship experts and authors of "How To Keep Your Marriage From Sucking," shared with Bustle. "A ride or die will never sacrifice their partner or their relationship, and will always sacrifice themselves for the safety and security of the relationship or their partner."

That sounds noble and kind of refreshing, given how flaky some daters can be, but this approach can quickly lead to a dissolution of boundaries. And FYI, boundaries can actually foster a stronger relationship. According to Choosing Therapy, boundaries communicate your needs and what you're comfortable and not comfortable with. They also illuminate the actions you're willing to take versus those you don't want to partake in.

Boundaries are an essential part of creating a safe relationship, but if you pride yourself in being a ride-or-die partner, you might give up personal boundaries for the sake of the other person. You might feel pressure, whether internal or from your S.O., to do things you otherwise wouldn't do, which can put you in some pretty compromising situations. Even if it doesn't sound as catchy, consider replacing "ride or die" relationship goals with "ride or don't ride" — because you should always have the option to say no.

You might stunt your own growth

Life happens, events shape us, and people change. These are just facts of life, and many couples have to reconcile with them at some point. "We are never the same people we were years ago because we experience different things through life and we respond to them in different ways," Rebecca Lockwood, a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) positive psychology and hypnotherapy specialist, revealed to Metro. "We all have different personalities and act in different ways, [and] sometimes this can mean that we can outgrow relationships with friends, with loved ones and with the person we once thought we were."

However, ride-or-die loyalty is all about staying committed to the other person, regardless of how you've each evolved. In some cases, your partner might even try to stunt your growth to keep you around. And if they don't, you might subconsciously limit yourself (such as by avoiding new hobbies or stopping yourself from pursuing the career of your dreams) to maintain your supporting role as their ride-or-die partner.

To grow, sometimes you have to put yourself first, not the relationship — you have to be your own ride-or-die. If standing back and propping up your partner means surrendering your own growth and success, it might be time to rethink the relationship and how it fits into your future goals.