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, we want to be like them, and 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 new person. But then time passes, and we realize we don’t set our own goals anymore, we forget our friends, and our new hobbies don’t really excite us.
So why is maintaining individuality important in a dating relationship? And how to not lose yourself in a relationship but still be the best partner you can be? Keep reading to find out some expert tips on maintaining relationships that would help you connect with your partner while also being your own person in a relationship.
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?
Divya Robin, a psychotherapist and mental health educator based in NYC, says that if you loose yourself in a relationship, it’s 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.”
Here are some signs that you might be losing who you are in a relationship:
You’re drifting away from your friends
You find yourself saying “we” and “our” much more often than “I” and “my”
People around you say you’ve changed a lot
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.
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?
“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”, says Divya Robin.
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.
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.
Be careful not to distance yourself from your partner 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.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Saba Lurie suggests thinking of some ways “you can both make more of an effort to celebrate each other's individuality”. Indeed, celebrating your partner, their success, and their interests is just as important as celebrating the relationship itself.
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.
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.
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. “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?”, suggests Divya Robin.
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? Saba Laurie says you should 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?”
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.
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.
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.
“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,” says relationship expert Dr. Lindsay Jerningan.
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.
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.
Individualism in marriage and relationships has always been a difficult topic, especially in Western society where we idealize monogamous relationships and prioritize individual success above anything else. It’s not easy to maintain that picture-perfect relationship and reach your individual goals at the same time.
“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,” says Meredith Waller, a licensed therapist specializing in relationships, anxiety, and self-esteem. “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.”
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 improve and make it your top priority for the next few months.
It’s funny how relationships work. You swipe on a dating app like Tinder or 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.
Since you are in a 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.
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,” says psychotherapist Divya Robin.
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.
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.
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