When you fall in love with someone, it can be easy to lose yourself as an individual and take on a single, combined identity of a couple. Maintaining your own individual identities is important for maintaining a healthy relationship, and staying true to yourself can preserve your identity if you break up in the future.
A Sense of Yourself
When people are in a relationship -- especially marriage -- their self-identity becomes too closely linked to their partner and their relationship, explains Anthony Giddens in his book, “Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age.” When the relationship ends, they find that they have lost a sense of who they are, and that they then must go back to find themselves. You must have a good sense of who you are before you and your partner can be in a healthy relationship, according to Dianne Gilmour, a counselor with an M.A. in counseling psychology. It is important to know your self-worth and to establish your self-esteem outside of the relationship, she says.
Don't Depend On Your Partner
Your partner is expected to fulfill psychological, sexual, material and emotional needs, as Frank D. Cox writes in his book “Human Intimacy: Marriage, the Family, and Its Meaning.” But don’t expect your partner to fulfill all of your needs -- it’s not realistic, says Gilmour. Putting pressure on your partner to fulfill needs he or she cannot meet can put a strain on the relationship and cause you to lose your independence. Being able to maintain some independence outside of the relationship is healthier -- for yourself and the relationship -- than solely relying on your partner for everything, says Gilmour.
Embrace Time Apart
Don’t give up your passions, Gilmour advises. Some people tend to give up their hobbies if their partner does not share the same passion, in order to spend more time together. It’s really important to pursue the activities that bring meaning into your life and don’t get resentful towards your partner because he or she doesn’t share our passions,” says Gilmour, who uses the Venn diagram as an example of a healthy dynamic of a relationship. The middle part represents the relationship, and the two outer parts are the individuals; all parts should be equal sizes, she says.
Some people lose contact with their friends once they start seeing somebody new. However, keeping old friendships outside of the relationship can help you maintain your identity because it was a part of your life before you met your partner. Gilmour suggests making time to meet up with friends and family members who you can talk to about things you might not be able to talk to your partner about, or participate in activities he or she may not be interested in.
- Dianne Gilmour; Gilmour Group Counselling; Vancouver, British Columbia
- Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age; Anthony Giddens
- Human Intimacy: Marriage, the Family, and Its Meaning; Frank D. Cox
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images