Relationships can be healthy. Sharing your time with someone can give you a sense of fulfillment and happiness. Making a commitment brings on a sense of deeper love and responsibility. When someone is ready to be in a relationship, it can be a great part of their life.
Unfortunately, many people, both men and women, tend to get so caught up in a relationship that they lose their own separate identity. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your life with someone else. However, many fall into the trap of giving up many of their own opinions and beliefs for the sake of their significant other. They also tend to give up their social life, forsaking time with good friends to devote their hours to the new love of their life.
Can this be harmful? Generally speaking, yes. When people get so caught up in a relationship that they neglect not only their own friends but their own interests, they risk losing what made them attractive in the first place. They lose a part of themselves. Later down the road, if they realize that they gave up so much to make someone else happy, there’s bound to be feelings of bitterness or resentment.
Losing your identity can also lead to a lack of a support system. While some friends will stay by you no matter, many who are neglected in favor of a relationship will find other avenues and other friends. When the going gets tough, you may find that those you would have turned to for help have moved beyond the realm of your friendship, put out by the fact that they were long ago abandoned in favor of your relationship.
How do you overcome this? There are ways to invest a good portion of yourself into a relationship while still maintaining your own identity. If you’re at the beginning of a relationship that seems to be getting serious, try some of the following tips to keep from getting so wrapped up that you forget you who are.
1.Don’t give up your own opinions – Whether they emerge on the first date or the tenth, you’re bound to find some things that you and your significant other don’t agree on. Many of these things could be as simple as different tastes in restaurants or music. In many cases, they can also be a little more serious, like differing political opinions or religious beliefs. Don’t change your own beliefs to make them happy. They were part of you before you were in the relationship and they should stay part of you well into it. Respect their opinions while being true to yours. If problems arise because of your differing viewpoints, it might not be worthy of a long term commitment.
2.Make time for your friends – The first few weeks or so are going to be spent adoring each other. In this honeymoon phase, it’s very easy to forget about a social life outside of your relationship. Make a concerted effort to continue talking to your friends. Usually they’ll understand a couple weeks of not hearing from you. After all, you’re in the throes of new love. But when weeks turn into months and they feel all but abandoned, you’re at risk of losing an important support system. Set a weekly date to go out. Stay in and watch movies sans the boyfriend or girlfriend. Call them regularly and keep them up to date on what’s going on, or set up a lunch date for a face to face chat. If and when you hit a rough patch later, you’re going to be thankful for the support that those friends will be willing to give you.
3.Pursue your own hobbies – It’s great if you have similar interests with your significant other, but even in a relationship, your own hobbies don’t have to be compromised. Be open-minded and try some of the things they like. Make sure they do the same for you. Whatever you don’t find fun or stimulating, don’t continue to put yourself in a position where you have to “endure” them. Everyone has different likes and dislikes. If you find you both like watching movies but prefer different genres, pick different nights for each. Take a class. Find time to knit, read, play an instrument, paint, or do whatever makes you happy without worrying that your boyfriend or girlfriend is being neglected. Encourage them to do the same. Give them the space and time to do what makes them happy…besides spending time with you, of course.
4.Maintain your independence – Especially in the later stages of a serious relationship, many things go from being independent to a joint venture. Finances, household care (if you live together), and even your social lives tend to meld together. It’s important that you both maintain your independence. Even if you have a joint bank account, keep one for yourself that no one else, including your other, has access to. Go to the movies alone once in awhile. Buy things for yourself as long as cost stays within budget. Have your own circle of friends and your own favorite places separate from those you visit as a couple. Learn to do things for yourself. Having independence will help you keep your sense of self.
Realize that a relationship that forces you to compromise any of these may not be a healthy one. Maintaining your identity in a relationship will ensure that should anything ever happen, you’ll not only have friends and finances to fall back on, but you’ll be able to cope with the ache and get on with your life as the strong person you know you are.