Being in a healthy relationship with a committed life partner is, to many, the biggest goal in life. Eventually, like most couples, you and your significant other may start to refer to yourselves as a single unit: “We love that new French Bistro!” “Our favorite Netflix show is…” “Let us know if you’re free tomorrow.”
Unfortunately, when you don’t have a clear sense of self before you get into a relationship, “we” can become whoever has the more dominant personality. And if only one partner speaks in the first-person plural, you may have a problem.
An imbalance can cause frustration and anxiety and ultimately threaten the relationship. The good news is by setting boundaries when you are single, you can easily maintain your identity when you are in a relationship.
Let’s explore how to get to know your “I” before becoming a “we,” and how you can recover your sense of self.
Signs You’re Losing Yourself
No one wants to think that they are lost in a relationship, but you wouldn’t be the first to be consumed with thoughts of your partner – whether you’re in lust or the initial blushes of love. If you’re suspicious that you might be losing your identity to your life partner’s, look for the following common behavior. You:
- Allow your life partner to make all the decisions
- Can’t remember the last time you did anything on your own
- Leave social events early so that you can spend time with your partner
- Haven’t seen your friends and only socialize with your partner’s friends and family
- Aren’t following your dreams anymore
If you strongly identify with any of the above scenarios, you may need to check in with yourself.
How to Find Your “I” & Have a Life Partner at The Same Time
You can simultaneously reconnect with yourself and foster a healthy relationship. Here are a few ways to find your way back to “I” after you’ve gotten lost in “we.”
Schedule time for you. Time alone can be as simple as taking a relaxing bath, going for a walk, or reading a juicy novel under your favorite tree. Schedule regular me-time as a non-negotiable meeting in your calendar.
Spend time with loved ones. Talk to people who knew and loved you before the relationship. Reminisce about old times, and remember how you used to have fun.
Meditate for 10 minutes a day. Slowing down and relaxing your body is like medicine for your nervous system. Only when calm can the brain properly process thoughts and help you see clearly.
Pick up your hobbies again. Remember how you used to spend your weekends before you met your life partner? Join a soccer team, take an art class, or dust off your model airplanes. Whatever used to make you happy probably still will.
Never Get Lost in a Relationship Again
There are several proactive steps you can take to prevent yourself from getting lost in a relationship before you get into one:
- Write down the warning signs from the past to keep yourself from falling into the same destructive patterns in the future.
- Get a loved one’s perspective to help hold you accountable.
- Set clear boundaries about what’s okay and what’s not while you’re single to give yourself a lifeline to follow in case you find yourself getting lost in the next relationship.
The reality is that allowing yourself to be consumed by your life partner is often exactly what makes a relationship fall apart: The person your partner originally fell for is no longer there. By prioritizing yourself, you’ll be able to maintain your identity and ultimately have a healthier, more fulfilling relationship going forward.