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Dating Advice: How Not to Lose Yourself in a Relationship

Posted: 07/25/2012 7:50 am

If you're anything like me, the minute you commit yourself to a partner, everything starts to revolve around him or her. You want to make sure you meet his or her needs, but you're also unconsciously always thinking of ways to make him or her happy. You genuinely like striving to be the perfect partner. Totally understandable. But while you're submerging yourself in the life of this other person, you may not be making your own the priority it should be.

How do you find the balance between giving to your partner and holding onto yourself in the process?

Here's a list of 16 ways to date someone you're really, really into without losing yourself.

DO:

1) Spend time with friends -- without your partner. It's great when your significant other and your friends like one another, but your friends don't always want your other half around when they are trying to spend time with you. The way you interact with your friends when your boyfriend or girlfriend tags along is necessarily different -- and less intimate -- than when you show up solo. It just is. So plan -- and show up for -- a standing after-work happy hour or weekend brunch that's just for you and the people who were there for you before Mr. or Ms. Wonderful came along.

2) Identify hobbies and interests that you don't share -- and keep doing them. You and your significant other are not going to enjoy all the same activities. Don't stop nurturing your pottery skills just because your partner doesn't especially love ceramics. It's important to support each other's interests -- even and maybe especially when they aren't shared.

3) Speak up for yourself. While committing to another being is a great thing, giving up your needs and feelings up for that person isn't. Don't compromise or undermine your own desires just because a) you want to give the other person everything they want or b) you're scared that you'll lose him or her if you need something different. A functional relationship makes room for what both of you need, and your partner can't know what you need if you don't voice it. If he or she walks when you do express yourself, better that than losing yourself to someone unwilling to hear you and meet you halfway.

4) Map out plans for your future irrespective of your significant other. It's fine to make plans with your partner and even discuss a possible future together, but it's just as important to establish for yourself what you want out of your career and work toward the things you want in your personal life. Spend some time charting short-term and long-term goals that have nothing to do with your significant other. Make sure you're aware of what you won't give up for anyone.

5) Disconnect electronically. Spending time "apart" while constantly chatting and texting with your partner isn't really taking time for yourself. To retain your sense of who you are, you need to set aside time to do your thing -- work, exercise, read, journal, pursue personal projects, whatever -- without checking in with your partner every five minutes.

6) Remember that you don't have to experience everything with him or her. That movie you've been looking forward to is finally coming out? A friend in another city invited you to visit for a weekend? Have a chance to go skydiving for the first time? It's tempting to invite your partner to come along, but realize that you don't need to experience these things with him or her, especially if it's something you've been wanting to do since long before you met. It's okay to enjoy them by yourself or with friends -- you're not required to share.

7) Get inspired. If your partner doesn't motivate you to be the best version of you, it's worth asking whether this is the right relationship for you. If you're well matched, both of you feel free -- and encouraged -- to reach your full potential.

8) Be open to new things. Part of maintaining your sense of self is knowing you can try something new without sacrificing your core values and tastes. Give your partner's hobbies and interests a shot at least once. If you enjoy them, great. If not, don't do them again, and be confident in that choice.

DON'T:

1) Become too dependent. Being in a relationship doesn't mean you're off the hook when it comes to taking care of yourself and your own feelings. It's easy to look to your partner to shelter you from the world and distract you when everything else makes you want to crawl into a hole, but continue to fight your own battles. It's nice to have someone who wants to comfort you, and it's perfectly all right to let him or her, but make sure you don't need it.

2) Talk about your relationship nonstop. You do not want to be the person who brings every conversation with friends back to the time your partner said this or did that. Chances are you saw, talked to, texted, Skyped with, IMed and/or emailed with him or her very recently. Your time with friends is an opportunity to discuss other things.

3) Talk to each other all the time. If you're in constant contact with your partner throughout the day, what are you going to talk about when you actually see each other? Leave some topics for when you meet up for dinner or come back home to each other or talk on the phone at night. Also, you can't live your own life if you're always talking to someone else.

4) Let the status of your relationship affect your whole outlook. It's never fun or easy when you and your partner fight, but do your best to compartmentalize. The less you let what's going on in your relationship affect your work, friendships and interaction with family, the better. If the state of your relationship entirely determines your mood, then you are probably too consumed by it.

5) Neglect other important relationships. If you have plans with family or your best friends, don't flake last minute to stay in with your significant other. A good relationship will definitely withstand you taking the time to honor commitments to people outside it.

6) Depend on the other person to complete you. "Jerry Maguire" was a movie. Fiction. In reality, your partner should make you happy, not make you whole.

7) Shrink yourself. Don't resist success, a promotion or making more money than your partner to boost his or her ego or spare his or her feelings. Someone who truly loves you and who is worth loving is secure enough to cheer you on.

8) Go immediately from one relationship to another. We all know that person who never seems to take any time for herself between breakups to grieve, mend and remember who she is independent of the person who was such a huge part of their lives for however long. Don't use relationships as an excuse to never focus on yourself, your flaws or your personal growth. It sounds schlocky, but liking who you are is important. If you don't, it's worth working on a) being kinder to yourself and b) becoming a person you love. The fact that someone else loves you doesn't rescue you from the project of loving yourself.

You can follow Sahaj Kohli on Twitter.

How do you avoid losing yourself in your relationship? Tweet your thoughts @HuffPostWomen using #KeepingMyself and we'll include them in a slideshow below.

 
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