When in relationships a lot of us have fallen into that trap of self-sacrifice to the point of losing ourselves in our partner’s needs, desires and expectations. Truth be told, we are not always asked or coerced into giving up our individuality; we just behave according to what we believe we should do to make a relationship work.
I’m not blind to the fact that our lives will merge when we are in relationships. But what’s also true is when you get involved with someone, you are two individuals who are choosing to be together. And as a couple, you both should always have space and the right to maintain your individuality/independence.
When you’re single, it’s pretty easy to do what you want whenever you want. There’s no one to answer to or even consider. However, when you get into a relationship you get consumed with your partner’s way of life, especially in the attraction and infatuation phase. I get it because I did the same thing. You want to do everything together and go everywhere together, and you become absorbed by the relationship.
The crazy thing is, your individuality is probably what attracted him to you in the first place, yet you eventually lose that thing.
Do you believe it’s possible to maintain a strong commitment to balancing love for yourself while simultaneously being committed to your partner?
A simple tell-tale that you are losing or have lost yourself in your relationship is this:
You find yourself pulling away from friends.
You stop making use of your free time.
You’re not engaging in your usual activities anymore.
You’re neglecting your needs.
You are withdrawing from your world outside of your new partner.
And life becomes more about the relationship and less about you.
If this resonates with you, it’s time to take a moment to re-evaluate and ask yourself if this is what you really want when experiencing your relationship.
As a couple, you should have common interests and activities that you do together but it is equally healthy to have time apart to pursue friendships, work relationships, and personal interests.
So, what’s the solution? Having a strong sense of self (S.S.O.S), which is one of the primary components of having a healthy relationship.
When you don’t have a S.S.O.S it’s easier to get lost in your relationship and the result can lead to this:
You can become resentful of your partner for having his own life.
It gets boring because there’s nothing new happening since your lives are so merged together.
You are at risk of becoming co-dependent on your partner to make you happy.
Sometimes that merge of identity is forced onto couples, especially in the celebrity world. Think about the celebrity couples’ nicknames. For example, “Kimye” for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Brangelina for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. This is a new one for me “Billary” for Bill and Hillary Clinton. It may seem like all fun and games but I bet the blending of names trickles into the relationship and creates issues for some. We’ve heard of those couples who are referred to as such-and-such’s wife/husband and no longer referred to by their own names. It can be challenging for the relationship to withstand that shift in dynamic and it doesn’t last.
What I know for sure is this. It is absolutely possible to have a balance between having a strong commitment and love for yourself and simultaneously be as committed to your partner.
There are three married women that demonstrate this relationship dynamic I’m speaking of. Two of them are famous couples and the other I know personally. These ladies have a strong sense of self and boldly maintain their individuality yet they are still very committed to their marriage, love their husbands deeply and are very supportive of them as well.
Jada Pinkett-Smith, Michelle Obama and my friend Akilah Richards. I know you are familiar with the first two women. Take a minute and think about how they show up. Do you think they have a S.S.O.S?
I have a disclaimer. Having a strong sense of self does not make you exempt from experiences of emotional pain. But a person with a strong sense of self is better equipped to participate in a healthy relationship because they know how to respond and not react to challenges in their relationship.
Here are a few characteristics of people that demonstrate a S.S.O.S:
They take full responsibility for themselves by knowing how to manage their emotions. When they are experiencing discomfort they know specific things they can do that will help restore them to their natural balance. They don’t blame others; instead, they take personal responsibility.
They follow through on the commitment they make to themselves.
They feel okay with saying no because they’ve created boundaries for their personal safety and they uphold them without wavering. They value their time and energy. When someone requests their time they objectively look at the requests, make their own decisions, and set boundaries.
They believe in and practice self-preservation by sustaining personal interests, even if their partner or close friends are not a part of it. They don’t depend on another person’s involvement in order to engage in something that may interest them. They place equal importance on exploring themselves.
They make their own decisions about their life. They are open to receiving support, information, and advice, but they do not depend on reassurance and approval from others. They take full responsibility for their decisions.
They are authentic, and being “real” is very important to them. They are not afraid to go against the “norms” that society has created.
They embrace personal leadership. They don’t get caught up in the hype of trends to the point of losing themselves. They only indulge if it makes sense to them.
They don’t depend on other people’s words to define who you are.
Losing yourself usually happens over time as you surrender your own desires and needs for the sake of the relationship. The longer this goes on the greater the imbalance and the more difficult it is to fix. You cannot expect the other person to be aware that you are losing yourself; therefore, it’s up to you to catch yourself.
Here are some suggestions on how to maintain a strong sense of self while in a relationship or even before you enter one:
Make time for self. Have a schedule and stick to it. Save your personal time for after you’ve handled your business. Take care of yourself first. If your partner respects you, he will be supportive of you handling your business.
Keep your routine – Although your routine will have to change in some ways to welcome the person into your life, make sure that you aren’t ditching the important things. If you don’t have one, develop one.
Stick with your personal activities. If your partner enjoys them bring him along, if they don’t then continue to engage in them and encourage him to engage in his own interests. Maintaining independence is important for both parties involved.
Maintain your personal relationships: Take some time to schedule in a catch-up with your friends and family.
Have a strong understanding of who you are and what you stand for before you set out to be in a relationship and even while you’re involved in one.
Knowing and being who you are is part of your personal power, don’t give that power to someone else. It’s all about finding a balance between time together and time apart, which is very possible.
Here’s a new perspective to take on this subject: You want your partner to be with you for who you truly are as an individual as much as for who you are as a couple. So, don’t disappear as an individual. Still be you!
About the Contributor:
Monique Allison is a Relationship Clarity Coach. Her personal experience, observation, and insight gained over the years allows her to help women release unhealthy relationships and heal from broken ones in order to love again from a more self-loving and authentic space. She is also the mother of 10-year-old son, Pharaoh. Monique’s background/experience is in the nonprofit sector working for United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta (UWMA) for 13 years; holding the position as the Quality Assurance Manager. She has achieved a B.A. in Psychology from Clark Atlanta University, is AIRS Certified as an Information & Referral Specialist, attained a Creative Writer Certificate from Kennesaw State University. Monique has also taught life skills to young adults for two years. Learn more about Monique’s work helping women build healthy relationships HERE.
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July 22, 2016 at 11:40 am
This was sooo good, and I can relate on so many levels. I love love love the feeling of new love. Getting to know one another and wanting to be under one another at every second of the day. It’s intoxicating and addictive and blissful, and before I know it, I’m spending more time with my new love than I am with my friends and family. And with myself. Then when I crave those things, it feels awkward pulling apart. While I’ve considered that on behalf of the woman who’s referred to as so and so’s wife, I never really thought about the blended names. “Don’t disappear as an individual. Still be you.” I plan to share this message with the students I work with.
Thank you. As always.