Ask Marzipan: How Do I Retain Individuality Within my Relationship?

May 27, 2009

Dear Medicinal Marzipan,

Your response to last week’s Ask Marizpan post was very helpful! Here’s my issue: When I’m in a relationship I tend to throw all my energies into it and into my partner? I get so enraptured in all the intense, romantic, and intimate feelings, but sometimes forget to love myself and lose who I am as an individual. What are some tips to maintain myself as my own person while still showing my partner the kind of love that I like to give? I also would drop everything for the other person…but realistically, shouldn’t I be setting up some sort of limitations or boundaries? I know that a balance can exist…how can I reach or practice some sort of balance? Thanks!

Oh friend, I more than sympathize with this problem! I cannot tell you how many relationships I have lost myself in so deeply that I emerged post-break-up to find that I had ignored my best friends, put all my favorite projects aside, and forgotten about anything and everything other than smooching and making my lover’s life as beautiful and happy as possible.

That said, it is very important to learn how to set up and hold fast to some boundaries so that you can remain true to yourself even in the most whirlwind of a loving relationship.

  1. Know your own worth. (And this goes for pretty much everything, in every situation, across the board.) It is important not to focus on pleasing your partner because you feel you are constantly making up for your inadequacies. You are lovable. There is a reason your partner is with you.  You do not need to constantly go the extra mile because you want to prove yourself as valuable and ultimately indispensable.
  2. Give out of love and generosity. I once posted about giving out of a genuine desire to give, and not out of the need/want for guaranteed reciprocation.  I think that’s applicable here too.  Giving with the expectation of receiving an equal measure of commitment in return is setting your self up for disaster. Stay true to yourself, and give when you are genuinely inspired to, not out of some misdirected desire to manipulate your partner into acting a certain way.
  3. Keep up with your friends. And sometimes this can be hard, even though it really shouldn’t be. Even when you are obsessively, head-over-heels, can’t stop thinking or talking about your lover, madly, truly, deeply in love, and all you can think about is staring into their eyes, it is tremendously important to maintain your relationships with your friends. Not only might they take it personally if you drop them every time you fall in love, they also provide a much necessary portal into your life outside of your relationship. Make dates with them. Do ordinary friend things. And talk about being in love, if that’s what’s on your mind (of course it is), but remember that you have other interests too!
  4. Don’t forget about your needs. I have been a people pleaser from day one, and find nothing more natural than taking care of everyone around me to the best of my abilities. But every once and a while I get upset with my partner for ignoring my needs. This is really misdirected anger, because how on earth is anyone supposed to give me what I need when I am completely inept in identifying/conveying what those needs are?!  One huge key to maintaining autonomy in a relationship is to really take care of your needs. A) This is important whether you are in a relationship or not, B) When you take care of your needs your partner will be more likely to assist with these goals, and C) A happy, healthy girlfriend is much more fun to be around and will safeguard against some, if not most, unnecessary squabbles and general drama/hysteria.  

As I am writing this I am almost laughing out loud because I feel like I’m giving you the advice I give myself nearly everyday. It is really difficult to remain completely autonomous when you’re in love! So please don’t be hard on yourself. Each day is a new day, and all is not lost if you wake up from a several month tornado of love/lust/obsession to find out you haven’t returned any of your phone calls.  Your friends will understand your absence and so will whatever project you put down when you were too busy scribbling hearts while day-dreaming about how happy you are.

In other words, it’s never too late to become your own person again.  It really just takes a little bit of reminding and tough love, but ultimately is was who you are that made your partner fall for you to begin with and staying true to yourself can not only benefit you, but also benefit the continuation of your happy union.