Maintaining Your Identity
To enhance your relationship while maintaining your identity
You should know, early in a relationship, you and your partner might want to share everything, do everything together, and develop common interests to create a strong foundation for the future. Gradually, you “merge” into a couple, and that sense of merging might lead you to feel like you are losing your identity—or losing yourself in the relationship. You might let go of passions, hobbies, or goals you had prior to entering the relationship. As time goes on, you might begin to grow resentful, anxious, or even hopeless, causing you to express yourself in unhealthy ways, and ultimately threatening the connection.
When each partner supports and respects each other’s different interests, personal growth is enhanced and the relationship flourishes. Ideally, you create an interdependent relationship, where you and your partner are reliant on each other while maintaining autonomous identities.
Your relationship goal is to maintain an identity as a separate person, while creating intimacy, closeness, and connection with your partner. Research indicates that partners who maintain their identities within their romantic relationships are happier and more optimistic. They also have a stronger sense of themselves, allowing them to be capable of more intimacy, love, and passion.
These suggestions can help you maintain your identity in your relationship:
• Pursue your own goals for professional development.
• Continue connections and friendships you had when you were single.
• Make time for your own hobbies and interests.
• Encourage your partner to maintain interests and connections.
• Recognize the things you enjoy and the things that matter to you.
• Ask your partner for what you want.
• Say no to your partner regarding things you do not want (or do not want to do).
• Spend time with your friends and family—without your partner.
• Take time alone for yourself.
Maintaining your identity is critical to establishing a long-lasting, healthy relationship, so focusing equally on both abending to yourself and making the relationship work is necessary.
What to Do
• Identify activities, hobbies, friendships, or goals you have neglected or let go of since entering your relationship.
• Have you noticed any changes in yourself as a result?
• What interests, causes, and values do you find the most rewarding and meaningful?
• Do you feel comfortable expressing your needs and desires with your partner? Why or why not?
• Are you able to find other sources to get what you want if your partner cannot, or will not, provide them?
• Do you feel comfortable rejecting a suggestion or request from your partner and then explaining your reasons? Why or why not? Are you able to find ways to compromise with your partner?
• With whom would you like to reconnect or spend more quality time? How might these people enhance your life?
• What new activities or interests would you like to try? What steps can you take to make that happen?