Oh, falling in love. There’s nothing better. Being in love releases happy hormones like dopamine and oxytocin. It makes us feel alive and seen like we’re not alone in this dark, cruel world anymore.
But one downside to falling deeply in love is our tendency to lose ourselves in another person. Scientists call it “relationship-contingent self-esteem”—human beings’ propensity to look for personal worth and fulfillment in a romantic relationship. It’s when a person’s happiness and sense of value is contingent upon the state of his or her relationship. This might be especially tempting in a pandemic since we’re spending more time at home with our significant other than ever before.
Some signs that you’re losing yourself in your relationship include:
- Losing your voice and the ability to say the words “me,” “I,” and “mine.” It’s when you’ve lost the ability to express your desires, beliefs, and preferences; your agency, and your right to speak and choose for yourself.
- Losing your hobbies and interests. This happens when all you ever do for fun are activities that your significant other has chosen for you.
- Losing friends that you’ve had for most of your life. A new romantic relationship shouldn’t get in the way of your other healthy relationships, especially with your friends and family.
While healthy relationships are always marked by compromise and give-and-take, it shouldn’t preclude a person’s freedom to live his or her life. A healthy romantic relationship is one where both parties grow and thrive independently, so they can love each other better.
Here are some tips to stay yourself while in a relationship.
Maintain your hobbies and interests.
Studies show that engaging in leisure activities and hobbies can help improve our mental and physical well-being. Hobbies allow us to have time for ourselves, can be a healthy way of emptying our minds, and can boost our self-esteem.
The problem when we allow our significant other to dictate our hobbies and interests is that we can no longer call that hobby our own. There’s nothing wrong with taking an interest in our significant other’s pastime and enjoying it together, but you are still your own person.
Do you love music? Go and take that guitar class you’ve always been interested in taking. Into photography? Go for a nature walk alone and take photos of the trees. Believe it or not, having space and spending time apart can actually be good for your relationship. Being a happy individual can turn you into the best possible partner for your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Go out with your friends and family regularly.
Losing other significant relationships can be a huge red flag in romantic relationships. Your significant other should be the first person to encourage you to maintain healthy friendships and relationships with other people, as he or she should desire your highest good. If your friends and family are good for you, your partner shouldn’t keep you away from them.
Most of us had had friends who suddenly dropped out of our lives when they started getting seriously involved in their romantic relationships. Don’t be that person. Intentionally spend time with your other friends and family—they will be the people who will have your back if your romantic relationship falls by the wayside.
Be open with your significant other about your fears and your needs.
If you find that your partner is overbearing, don’t be afraid to kindly and calmly speak about your fears and your needs. We can’t get what we need and want if we don’t ask for it. Believe the best in your partner—that he or she will listen to you and that you can meet halfway about your concerns.
Listen to your partner, as well. Chances are, he or she is also experiencing the same anxieties as you. Try to understand where he or she is coming from and the pains and traumas he or she has experienced to get to this moment. Assure them that you can be fully present in the relationship without losing who you are and what makes you, you.
Set healthy boundaries in your relationship. Identify what areas in your life you can negotiate (e.g., where to live) and what hills you’re going to die on (e.g., spirituality and religion).
An Addition, Not the Totality
A romantic relationship should be an addition to your life, not the totality of your life. You are not the state of your relationship. You have intrinsic worth regardless of your relationship status. So work on your own healing and be the best, happiest version of yourself. Work on your self-esteem apart from your significant other. It’s the best way to love your partner or spouse well.