For most of us, the relationship ideal is to be in love, merge with, and dedicate oneself to another. A common vow which exemplifies this notion is “to be as one.” In this oneness many of us slowly lose ourselves, sacrificing our wants and desires to our partnership. I’m not writing this article to shoot down anyone’s idea of the ideal relationship; I’m simply hoping to bring some balance to our values and make that ideal relationship more obtainable . By maintaining our own desires, friends, interests, and sense of self, we nourish both ourselves and our partner.
Nature teaches us this truth. Look at any system that ceases to receive nourishment: it wastes and withers away. We as people work in the same way. When our social, mental, and emotional needs are fed by the world around us, we are happier; we are whole. Being permeable, we have a capacity to give and take, which allows us to accommodate and include the other person in our new relationship. Yet one person alone is just not enough to give us the nourishment we need.
We often get elated during the honeymoon phase of a relationship. It may even be natural to spend most of your time with someone you have just met. Where most of us fall short is not seeing the importance of and reclaiming our personal life. Here are some of the most common reasons:
* Desire to merge, enmesh, and be as one, which is internalized from movies, books, and childhood fantasies
* Fear that you will lose your partner’s interest if you don’t give them what you think they want
* Perception of outside interests as a threat to the relationship, either through lost time or the chance of meeting someone better
* Fear that if you go out on a Saturday with your friend, your partner may be alone and upset
* Fear of being alone and not in a relationship, which leads you to hold on too tightly
* Lack of trust: if you don’t make plans and do things outside the relationship, you’ll have a right to ask your partner to do the same
* Perception that, after your initial excitement, any reversion to your original lifestyle and outside activities indicates you’re not that into them anymore
To maintain balance you need to be mindful of your unique patterns of losing yourself. If you tend to spend five nights a week together in the beginning of a relationship, try reducing the nights. If you are already in a long-term relationship, re-examine your needs and desires and re-establish the things that nourish you. Although you don’t have to, it can often be helpful to include your partner in this decision-making process. It can be a sign that you are healthy and wanting to take care of yourself, which gives permission to the other to do the same. If your partner finds your desire for healthy boundaries threatening, you may need to hold firm. Although initially, someone may feel threatened, over time, if you are still loving and attentive to them, they may begin to see that you are happier for it and not going anywhere. This is the balance that feeds the both of you.
By: Sevin Philips, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist