How to Be in a Relationship and Keep Your Sense of Self

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Have you ever felt like you became so absorbed in your partner and your relationship with them that you began to forget who you are outside of being their significant other? Maybe you're experiencing this right now. I find it's pretty common and happens to most of us at one point or another, if not perpetually.  

So what's the problem with getting lost in a relationship; with losing your sense of self and individuality? Well, a whole host of things, but let's start with the most obvious. 

1. You can become codependent

To be a whole and healthy person you need to avoid codependency, or as it's more recently called, ineffective dependency, which is an excessive reliance on another person emotionally or psychologically. When this happens, your self worth and happiness come from someone outside yourself, like your partner or some other person. People who are codependent experience high levels of insecurity and anxiety, as they are at the mercy of the approval, direction, and attention of their significant other. 

2. Your other relationships weaken

Your relationships with others and with the things you once loved to do will suffer. A critical component of wellbeing is having a deep sense of belonging and knowing you are supported. Maintaining close bonds with friends, family members, and your greater community enables you to enjoy feelings of belonging and happiness from quality time spent with people you love and who love you. Getting lost in a relationship can make you feel lonely during times of struggle in the partnership or like you have nowhere to turn if the relationship ends. It can also make the people in your life feel abandoned and unloved when you stop putting effort into those relationships.

 3. You give up your power

While we are all dependent on our partners, enjoying interdependency or effective dependency which is normal and healthy, losing yourself in a relationship often means you can no longer fully function independently of your partner. For instance, you may not commit to go out or make plans until they say it's okay because you fear speaking up for your needs might disappoint or alienate them. Essentially, your world revolves around them and their schedule and feelings, not around your own calendar, needs, and desires of which they, like everything and everyone else, are a part. 

4. You don't grow as much as a person

When you are spending all of your free time with one person and likely doing the same things over and over again, you become less exposed to new people, things and ideas. This also stunts your creativity. Personal Growth requires time and space for reflection and contemplation, learning new things, having new experiences, and getting out of your comfort zone regularly. While romantic relationships are normally a powerful source of growth, when your whole life revolves around your partner and the relationship in this extreme way, your personal development is likely to be stunted quite a bit. 

But your relationship with yourself and people outside your partnership aren't the only relationships that suffer. 

5. Your relationship with your partner suffers, too

We all know that relationships are built on trust and respect. Healthy individuals will respect partners who maintain interests and relationships outside of their relationship. If you want to earn and keep your partner's respect, it's critical to continue to pursue your hobbies, make time for your friends, and spend quality time with yourself. This also fuels passion and desire. We remain sexually attracted to our partners when we have to work a little for their time and attention, sometimes waiting our turn. A little bit of mystery goes a long way in keeping the chemistry alive. And finally, by maintaining a full life outside the relationship, there's a lot more to talk about and learn about each other when you are together.

So how do you be fully invested in a relationship and not lose yourself in it? 

Here are 8 things to commit to:

How to maintain your sense of self in a relationship

1. Remember the Value of Quality Space- While it's tempting to spend all of your free time with a new love, remember that the best way to form a healthy relationship is to maintain quality space by continuing to work out, have guy or ladies nights out, and enjoy alone time. This will foster long-term respect and excitement in your relationship and deepen your level of self-respect as well.

2. Know Your Priorities and Communicate Them- Remember that you can make your partner and the relationship a top priority without them being the only priority. So what else matters? Hopefully your health and fitness, hobbies, and friends are on the list. Let your partner know what you want to have time for as well as the goals you want to achieve.  A good partner will support you and help you live your best life rather than feel threatened by you other priorities and try to get in the way. 

3. Focus on Quality Over Quantity- When Austin and I moved in together it was a challenge not to default to spending every evening together at home and we'd end up doing the same thing every night- coming home, making dinner (or going out), and then watching something and going to bed. Boring!! We quickly realized this wasn't what we wanted to be doing so we then decided that we will spend 2 nights and 1 full day a week together doing something we plan for and the rest of the nights we plan things with our friends, spending time alone, work, or anything else we enjoy doing apart. Be deliberate about how you spend your time and use that time to have fun and create experiences. A couple I know who have children each take one night a week to stay home with the kids while the other goes out with friends or alone. Then one night a week they hire a babysitter so they can have a date night. Awesome! 

4. Understand What Relationships Need to Thrive- Often we jump in to relationships without really knowing how they work. Yes, we know trust and communication are important and, well, often that's pretty much it. People often say things like 'relationships take work' but what does that actually mean? Find out! Do some reading, watch videos or take a workshop on how to deeply connect and maintain that connection with a long-term partner, how to resolve conflicts, how to keep the passion alive, and anything else that is required for long-term happiness together. It's easy to fall in love. Relationship, though, is harder and worth intentionally learning about. We like to think we naturally know how to be married, but the truth is we don't. 

5. Know What You Need- Being clear on your own needs will also play a huge role in your ability to maintain a strong sense of self. How? By clarifying your needs you'll hopefully contemplate how those needs should be met and by whom. Some of them you'll be responsible to meet yourself. Some of them are met by friends and family members. Some by your pets! And others by your partner. Planning your time and activities around your needs will help you keep a healthy balance in all ways, including in your relationship. 

6. Have Clear Goals- I can't overstate the importance of having goals. When you're lost in a relationship and focusing only on it, all the other areas of your life begin going stagnant. Having clear goals for all the different areas of your life- spiritual, professional, emotional, physical, and relational- will help you keep a healthy life balance that keeps you deeply grounded and rooted in your sense of self, and will give you a sense of fullness to your life that is empowering and deeply fulfilling. It keeps you aware of all the possibilities that exist for you and excited about life now and in the future. 

7. Support Your Partner's Goals and Dreams- Encourage your partner to pursue their interests, their own personal growth, and to nurture their other relationships. The less resistance there is to live a fully on both sides, the easier it is to accomplish. Talk about your goals and interests often. Come up with ideas together for trying new things apart and as a couple. Be curious and ask lots of questions to help each other get clear on what it means to each of you to live your best life. 

8. Surround Yourself With People You Admire- Who do you admire? Likely those people are living true to themselves and are a good influence on you! Spend time with them. Research shows that we are much more influenced by those we spend time with more than we might be comfortable acknowledging. So, if you want to live a balanced life, hang out with people who live balanced lives. If you want to have a healthy, flourishing relationship, hang out with people in healthy, flourishing relationships, and so on.

Your wellbeing and the health of your relationship are dependent on your being able to maintain a strong sense of self by living a full and balanced life and continuing to grow and evolve as a person. I hope these tips help you achieve that! I support many of my clients in creating balance through my Life Balance Coaching program. If living in a balanced way has been a struggle for you, I can help! It all starts with a cost and obligation-free 45 minute consultation and strategy session. If you're ready to develop a strong sense of self, have better life balance, and create a happy, healthy relationship with a current or future partner, we should definitely talk!

Questions, comments or thoughts?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments or you can email me directly at dara@mudcoaching.com to keep this conversation going. 

Thanks for reading!