No two individuals are made the same. We are all different, whether it is in looks, personal traits, habits, and/or passions. So why do many people lose a piece of themselves once they are engulfed in a relationship?
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A relationship is a beautiful thing, but many people forget who they are or what they are able to achieve once they get in to a relationship. Maintaining your own personal life outside of your relationship is an aspect that I believe strengthens your relationship, but those who are influenced by tradition may think differently.
I recall the day I got engaged (culturally “married”) and I was told by an elder, “At this point you have no other friends except for your husband. He is your mother, your father, your friend, your lover, your everything.”
I was taken aback, because realistically, my friends include my mom, dad, sister, brother, and friends who have shaped me into the person I am today, so how could someone DARE tell me I have no friends just because I am now “married.”
I believe that there is a misconception about individuality once you get in to a serious relationship, especially in African culture.
You cannot stop doing what you were previously doing to appease the other person, because realistically, you are not being true to yourself. Don’t get me wrong, yes, you have to curb some of your extracurricular activities to spend time with your significant other, but being up under each other ALL THE TIME becomes boring.
Where is that sense of self? When do you focus on yourself for the sake of growth for your relationship? When do you have time to say to yourself, “I miss her/him?”
It is very easy when you go from a regular relationship to the point where you are living with an individual to you lose a sense of self. I am not sure why this may occur, but my theory is that fear, lack of self-esteem, and lack of trust within the relationship all have something to do with it.
But in the end, it all balls down to maturity.
A mature relationship is not needy or dependent. Mature love means that both individuals in the relationship have room to be themselves — even while being together. An interdependent relationship is the opposite of a mature one. In those relationships, one person is driven by the need and fear that their partner will leave. Also in an interdependent relationship, one has or attempts to have power over the other and one partner gives up a significant part of himself or herself in order to maintain a peaceful relationship.
But lo and behold, the interdependent relationship is unhealthy and comes with severe consequences: the loss of individuality. If you are able to be yourself, you wouldn’t have to worry about losing yourself. Unfortunately, for most people it is easier to roll with the punches and be the type of person your lover wants you to be, but whom are you being true to if you have to live in such a manner?
In all honesty, you are being dishonest not only with your partner, but also yourself.
Your partner should accept you for who you are and what you stand for. Your partner should support you in your decision-making when it comes to individual choices. Let’s be realistic, we are not children anymore, and although we could use input or guidance from our partners, when it comes to becoming a better you, no one knows the right answers except for yourself.
When you enter in to a relationship, it does not mean that your personal life stops!
Your life does not totally change because you are with another person. You have to have your own personal goals and aspirations. You need to maintain the friendships, hobbies, and interests you had before you met your partner. If you give these up for the sake of your relationship, you are giving up your life and you might as well be deceased, because at this point what or who are you living for?
When your partner first met you, they were attracted to you as an individual. You should never change who you are for someone else. Maintaining your individuality will enable you and your partner to build a mature, loving relationship.
In order to avoid the loss of self and preserve your individuality, you should always remember to:
- Love Yourself
Many relationships fail today because one partner has given up too much of himself or herself for the other. You have to love yourself first before you can love anyone else. If you enter a relationship and give up all the things that define you as a person, you are not giving yourself the love that you deserve or need. Sooner or later you will lose your identity if you stop giving to yourself and will be unable to give to your relationship.
It is very important not to confuse individuality with flexibility in your relationship. Individuality is about the traits that make you who you are. Compromise will always be necessary in any relationship that you have whether it is a partner, friend, or family member. In order to compromise, you must be willing to sacrifice without any qualms.
- Have Honest Communication
Talk, talk, and TALK! Don’t yell or have a screaming match, just talk respectfully to each other. You should never be afraid to say how you feel or express an interest in something that interests you. Open lines of communication may cause some drama here and there, but everyone goes through rifts. It’s just how you deal with it that can make or break your relationship. If you cannot honestly and effectively communicate, you and your partner have a lot of things to work on and evaluate.
Bottom line is, neither one of you should give up anything that makes you the unique person that you are. It’s up to you all as a TEAM to find the balance that you both need to succeed in a healthy and loving relationship. Love is the gift that keeps on giving if everyone is happy, but you are responsible for your own happiness. If you don’t make yourself happy, who will?
Harriet Bensaah, 34, relationship contributor for Face2Face Africa, got her start providing relationship advice once her best friend made her realize that irrespective of whether they were close friends or strangers, people reached out to her for sound advice. On Facebook, she is known as “Lady Godiva,” where she posed interesting relationship topics that drew tons of attention. Currently, she is working on becoming a certified life coach to strengthen her love of advice giving.