Part of the excitement of being in a relationship with someone is learning about them and finding all the things that you have in common with each other. As the relationship progresses, you learn to incorporate this person into your life and share with them the things that you would have otherwise done on your own. We learn to include the other person in our decisions, especially major life decisions as well as the smaller, day-to-day decisions as we know they could be impacted by any decision that we make. We’re reminded to communicate with our partner and to make sure that he or she feels taken care of, needed and loved. It’s all part of being in a relationship.
However, we don’t find as much support or help for maintaining our own identity separate from our partner. Once our “me” has become “we”, all that we possess becomes shared with the other, including our identity. So what do you do when this happens? You turn to the one person that knows you best: You. Being in a close, committed relationship offers a unique opportunity for you to begin exploring your inner world and become more acquainted with yourself. No matter your age or the length of time you and your partner have been together, you can start building and expanding on your own identity today.
Here are 5 key ways to do this starting now:
- Write your Bucket List. Sit down and write out the things that you would like to do before you leave this planet. Next to each item, describe what having that experience means to you. This will validate the desire to accomplish or pursue it as well as give you some clues as to what makes you “tick.”
- Wave a magic wand! Ask yourself “if time and money were not factors (as in, I have all the time, money and freedom I need), what would I do?” Pay attention to your answer and again, examine how you feel about it.
- Create a Life Vision. On a sheet of paper, write your name in the center and begin to write statements about your ideal life around it. Be sure to make each statement present tense with a feeling word. For example: “I am so happy and grateful to have a fulfilling hobby that allows me to express my unique creativity in a fun and energizing way.” Or “I feel expansive and free after my morning meditation that I now practice each and every day.”
- Integrate your lists into your life. Take a look at the bucket list, the magic wand answer and your life vision. Is there a theme there? Are some things repeated? Do you find that you are attracted to activities that offer you a sense of freedom, joy, peace or exhilaration? Which emotions do you see as the most desired from these lists? Whatever those are, begin to write down activities that support or generate these emotions. For example, if freedom is an overwhelming theme, then you may write down “driving with the windows down and radio up with no real place to go” as something that provides you with a sense of freedom. Or perhaps “connection and belonging” is your theme. Then you might write down “having deep conversations with close friends, family or my partner.” Come up with at least one activity that you can start enjoying right away that takes you closer to your desired internal state (or yourself). If it’s one of the things on the lists, go for it! The more you can check off, the better!
- Go out and Explore. Join some groups, volunteer, check the community courses and classes in your town and sign up for one or just go out to community events and start some conversations. The more you can do on your own to explore what’s out there, the more you will gain an idea of what it is that you really enjoy and that fulfills you outside of your partnership.
Once you begin to engage in activities that offer you a sense of joy, fulfillment and happiness, you will begin to notice that your connection with your partner is actually enhanced. The reason for this is that you are showing love for yourself every time you meet one of your own needs, especially emotional needs. When you can meet your own emotional needs, it takes the pressure off of your partner to do so and you are able to drop certain (often hidden) expectations of them. This allows you to love them and connect with them on a deeper level since these expectations have been removed from your interactions.