How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship

Relationship Rules
02 Jun 2023
15 min read
How To Maintain Your Individuality While In a Relationship: 7 Tips

When we truly fall in love, we make that other person the center of our universe. We want to spend all our time with them and prioritize their wants and needs. Most importantly, we want them to love us just as much as we love them. So, what we often do is put their needs above ours, make their interests our interests, and become a completely different person. That’s how it becomes hard to maintain your individuality in a relationship

You start watching TV shows you hated before and cooking meals that you don’t eat because they like it. Even worse, you spend less and less time with our friends or our hobbies. That’s how your whole world begins to revolve around him.

Related reading: Relationship Advice for Women That Will Help Your Love Life

If this is you, congratulations. You are a “giver.” Even though that is an admirable trait in this selfish world, you risk losing yourself in that giving, especially in a dating relationship. This way, you will ultimately develop resentment, anger held within, and possibly depression. Does this sound like a healthy way to live? Of course not.

How do you maintain a healthy and loving dating relationship with someone while not sacrificing who you are and what your needs and wants are? Here are some expert tips on maintaining relationships that will help you connect with your partner while also being your own person in a relationship.

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1. Find Out If You’ve Been Neglecting Your Individuality

Naturally, you can’t solve a problem if you don’t admit that you have one. Especially as a woman, you might have grown up thinking that relationships and marriages are all about sacrifice. Besides, who you are as a person has been largely influenced by people around you, so how do you know who you really are?

Why do we lose our individuality in relationships?

This may be the hardest part of all of this. You have been giving up yourself gradually for a while now. And maybe at a subconscious level, you have an idea that this is what you are supposed to do. You may have been conditioned for such sacrifice by what you observed and learned growing up.

Just remember that losing yourself in a relationship is not completely your fault.

“Perhaps it’s from romcoms that you watched growing up that may have socialized women to sacrifice their interests for their partners. Or maybe you were socialized by your family to become one for your family/relationship, meaning you lose your personal interests. Whatever it may be, recognize that a large part of losing individuality can be a result of conditioning or socialization.”

Divya Robin, psychotherapist and relationship counselor

How do you know you’re losing your individuality in a relationship?

Here are some signs that you might be losing who you are in a relationship:

  • You’re drifting away from your friends. It’s gradual at first. But look back over the past year, maybe before you began your relationship. Are you missing happy hours? Are you coming up with excuses to decline meet-ups with them? Are they not calling you as often?
  • You find yourself saying ‘we’ and ‘our’ much more often than ‘I’ and ‘my’.
  • People around you say you’ve changed a lot.
  • You stop what you are doing when your partner indicates they want or need something so that you can take care of that.
  • You never let your partner’s calls go to voicemail or fail to respond right away to their texts, no matter what else you may be doing.

Why is maintaining individuality important in a dating relationship?

A person who is in touch with themselves, their needs, and emotions, is ultimately a happier person. When you’re in harmony with yourself, you can focus on giving instead of taking in the relationship, since you can take care of yourself and know exactly what you can do for your partner.

Realise what's holding you back to maintain your individuality in a relationship

2. Realize What’s Holding You Back

Many of us are preconditioned to prioritize our relationships and our partners’ needs above our own, but only some of us forget the importance of individuality when we get into a relationship. So why does it happen to some people and not to others?

Early conditioning and relationship anxiety

It may be because of that early conditioning you were exposed to, especially if you are a female. But even males who have grown up in a female-dominated environment in which their fathers catered to their wife’s every whim, can be conditioned to be overboard givers and sacrificers.

When losing yourself in a relationship, relationship anxiety can also be the case that can be difficult to overcome. When you’re been hurt by being dumped in previous relationships, you become held onto the belief that maybe you just weren’t good enough, good-looking enough, or giving enough.

“One of the biggest reasons people struggle to create space in their relationship is due to relationship anxiety. If the motive behind your desire to spend time with your partner and take on their hobbies is due to fears that they may leave you, not enjoy your company otherwise, or find someone else, you may be experiencing relationship anxiety.”

Divya Robin

Maintaining individuality is the key to maintaining a relationship

When we feel insecure in our relationships, we try our best to please our partners and be perfect for them. So when you are preoccupied with how to not lose your girlfriend or boyfriend, you actually risk losing yourself. But as the song goes, “When I lost myself, I lost you by extension”. When you focus on your partner instead of focusing on yourself, you stop being the person they fell in love with in the first place. Very often, that’s the reason people decide to end a relationship.

3. Have a Heart-to-Heart with Your Partner

As we mentioned earlier, maintaining individuality in a relationship will benefit both you and your partner. If you know how to focus on yourself while in a relationship, you can work on becoming the best version of yourself, a better friend, and a better partner. Still, it’s important to communicate openly.

Have a “come to Jesus” conversation with yourself

“You can both make more of an effort to celebrate each other’s individuality.”

Saba Lurie, therapist

Before having a conversation with your partner, have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Why is your individuality important to you and to this relationship? Here are some points to consider:

  • Ask yourself why your partner fell in love with you in the first place? See yourself as that in personality again.
  • Recognize what are your fears and insecurities that make you feel bad about your current relationship.
  • Before coming to your partner, focus on yourself. Embrace everything you need to become the best version of yourself, not only the traits needed to become a better friend or a better partner.

Explain to your partner why individuality is important to you

When you come to talk to your partner, be careful not to distance yourself without warning. If you need more space, it’s important to make it clear in advance so that your partner can understand what’s going on and help you on your self-exploration journey.

Discuss your intentions, tell them that you are learning how to separate yourself from others, and reassure them that they did nothing wrong. It might be a big change for your relationship so it’s crucial that you navigate it as a team.

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Remember what makes you unique

Remembering how to be an individual in a relationship can enhance your relationship and keep the spark alive for a long time. That’s why it might be a good idea to spend more time away from each other. When you make new memories, experience new emotions, or develop new skills separately, you will be able to keep surprising and exciting each other no matter how long you’ve been together.

4. Dedicate More Time to Self-Discovery

There’s hardly anyone who doesn’t understand the importance of individuality in society as a whole. But when it comes to relationships, most of us don’t realize just how crucial it is to stay in touch with our true selves.

What is the importance of individuality and self-development in a relationship?

“If you notice that you’ve taken on many of your S/O’s interests, take a moment to reflect on this and answer these questions honestly. Do you enjoy the activity? Would you do the activity without your S/O present?”

Divya Robin

When you mirror your partner’s behavior and take over their interests, they will be pleased and flattered. You, on the other hand, risk burning out from doing activities that don’t fulfill you. Maintain the golden mean: celebrating your partner, their success, and their interest as long as appreciating same things for yourself are just as important as celebrating the relationship itself.

How to rediscover yourself in a relationship?

So, you realized that your interests aren’t really yours and admitted that you’re losing yourself. How do you go back to the things that truly excite you? It’s not that hard – just try think back to the time when you were single.

“Think about what excited or was interesting to you before the relationship and ask yourself where those things are in your life now. Are you still making room for them?”

Saba Laurie

If those things aren’t a part of your routine now, talk about it with your partner and create time for them in your schedule. Chances are they also have a hobby they would love to go back to.

5. Don’t Shy Away from Healthy Arguments

We all know that one couple who claims they never fight. While you might be jealous of them, you shouldn’t be. A relationship is a combination of two individuals. Sometimes it’s a match, and sometimes it’s a clash, and that doesn’t mean your relationship isn’t working.

Why is arguing healthy and important?

When two people are close, maybe even living together, there are bound to be disagreements. Does this mean the relationship isn’t working? Of course not. It’s natural.

“When we avoid conflict, we create resentment where there could’ve been clean disagreement, and we create emotional suppression where there could have been free expression. To hold on to your true self, practice not being afraid of conflict.”

Dr. Lindsay Jerningan, relationship expert

But when the fights become more and more frequent and a relationship is falling apart, we start looking for ways to minimize the fighting and go back to normal. We ask ourselves, can sex save a relationship? Or maybe a child? Would an expensive vacation help you make peace?

But no matter which option we choose, the fights resurface soon enough. So instead of trying to eliminate the fights altogether, reconsider the way you fight.

How should you fight?

Self-preservation in relationships is a common enemy that prevents us from getting hurt but also from opening up and resolving misunderstandings in a meaningful way. To have more productive arguments, you should carefully consider both how you express yourself and how you react to your partner’s  words.

As you engage in self-discovery, it will be hard to avoid some conflict. Your SO will experience change, and some of it may be difficult to “swallow.” You go out with friends after work and that means they are eating dinner late or alone. You have decided to take that college class, and taking time for homework takes time away from them.

When you are upset about something, frame it from the perspective of how it made you feel and how you see it instead of blaming your partner and stating your perspective as a fact. No one likes being blamed, so if you accuse a person of something, they will try to protect themselves and prove their point instead of focusing on your feelings.

On the receiving end, it’s important to not get too caught up in little details and focus on the bigger picture. For example, an argument about washing the dishes is probably not about the dishes. It’s about unseen effort or lack of gratitude. So listen to what they have to say and remember that no one is right or wrong. You both have feelings that are equally valid, no matter how meaningless the argument is.

Rules of a “fair” fight

Here are the things to consider before engaging in a conflict with your partner:

  • Focus on how you are feeling and your perspective.
  • Don’t resort to blaming or accusations – as soon as you do this, your partner will become defensive and more aggressively defend their position rather than listen to yours.
  • Watch how express yourself – the language you use can be hostile or conciliatory.
  • Listen to your partner’s perspective and give it validation.
  • Look for compromises.
  • Stick to the bigger picture, not the nitty-gritty details that are just that – details.

Neither of you is right or wrong. This is why negotiation and compromise work. And it’s important to understand that poor communication is often listed as the #1 reason for marriage and relationship failures.

6. Set Your Personal Goals

Individualism in marriage and relationships has always been a difficult topic. This is especially true in Western society where we idealize monogamous relationships and prioritize individual success, sometimes above anything else. It’s not easy to maintain that picture-perfect relationship and reach your individual goals at the same time.

Why should you put yourself first in your relationship?

“As your vocabulary shifts from “I” to “we”, you may find that a lot of your trips, plans, and life events center around your partnership. Yet, you are still your own person and worthy of prioritizing the goals that you have for yourself — both personally and professionally. Keep a list of the things you want to accomplish solely for yourself to check in with occasionally. Remember, healthy relationships provide support and encouragement for both people to take strides towards their individual goals.”

Meredith Waller, a licensed therapist

And as you and your partner move from “I” to “We,” a lot of what you do is together – trips, socializing, family events, etc. But you are still your own person and have a right to your own personal and professional goals. So keep a list of your prioritized goals and check in with that list regularly to ensure that you are making progress on them.

How to maintain personal growth while in a relationship?

No matter how perfect you are as a romantic partner, your relationship can’t be the only area of life where you grow as a person. To make sure it doesn’t happen, find one thing in which you want to achieve or improve and make it your top priority for the next few months. This one thing must be just for you.

It can be your job, your health, or even your relationships with other people, like setting up three meet-ups with your friends (one each month) or taking a new class. The most important thing is that it’s something you care about and working on it doesn’t feel like a chore.

Start by setting small goals and rely on scheduling and self-discipline rather than on random bursts of inspiration. It should be something that you achieve for yourself, above all, and hopefully with the support of your partner.

How to maintain individuality in a relationship

7. Don’t Expect Your Partner to Fulfill All Your Needs

It’s funny how relationships work. You swipe on a dating app like Hily on a random Wednesday night, meet up with a stranger, exchange information about yourselves, and next thing you know, they are the center of your universe. This is common and pretty normal in new relationships.

But as time goes in your relationship, you expect them to be your best friend, a shoulder to cry on, a great listener, a passionate lover, a reliable partner, and an agreeable roommate. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Yeah, maybe not.

How to be realistic with your expectations from a relationship?

One way how to not lose yourself in a relationship is to lower your expectations of how much one person can give you and change your life. Of course, you shouldn’t settle for someone who isn’t worth it, but you also can’t expect one person to be your perfect match in all areas of life.

“It’s impossible that one person can meet all your needs, and expecting this of one person is unrealistic and you will likely end up disappointed. Know that it is normal and in fact, healthy to do things without the other person.”

Divya Robin

How to balance your romantic relationship and other relationships?

So how to not care so much in a relationship when your partner turns out to be not so perfect after all? Firstly, admit that it’s normal, and perhaps your expectations are way too high. Secondly, invest time into relationships with other people. Maintaining other friendships is important in a healthy dating relationship.

Even in the beginning of your relationship when you want to spend all your time together, don’t forget about your friends. Sooner or later you will feel the need to connect with other people, and if you’re not careful, it might be too late to reconnect with your old friends.

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Wrapping It All Up

So why is maintaining individuality important in a dating relationship? Ultimately, you and your partner shouldn’t be two halves that make whole. You are two individuals with your own needs, qualities, and interests, and it’s those differences that make you excited about each other.

While it’s great to do things together and hang out with the same people, you shouldn’t change who you are as a person for your partner. To maintain a relationship that’s healthy and wholesome, you need a partner who loves you for who you are and wants you to become the best version of yourself.

If you feel like you’re losing yourself, talk to your partner, do some soul-searching, and consider reading some books on the topic, such as Loving Him without Losing You by Beverly Engel or How to Love Others Without Losing Yourself by Analay Souza Campos.

And if your partner doesn’t value you as an individual outside of your relationship, it might be best to let them go. Spend more time on your own, rediscover what you want and like, and when you’re ready, download Hily app, hang out with friends, go on dates, and find someone who will love you just the way you are.

Relationships Author
Geoffrey Williams
After taking a required Intro to Psychology course as an undergrad, I have never looked back. Since my doctoral program, I have specialized in adult relationship therapy. Through my studies and clinicals, I wrote several articles for professional journals and currently in the midst of writing a book.
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