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Relationships are wonderful things. They can empower and inspire us, they can bring us joy and they can challenge us. They are even one of the elements on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a motivational theory of psychology that talks about our basic needs in life. There’s no doubt they provide us with intimacy, they make us feel loved and wanted and they can motivate us to achieve our wildest dreams…
But this strange thing happens when a relationship starts. We go from being single and often confident in ourselves to being in a relationship and totally vulnerable.
Now don’t get me wrong – being completely vulnerable with someone is an amazing aspect of a relationship and has it’s own benefits. Another topic for another day perhaps. But what I’m referring to today is how we can so easily become lost in another person’s identity.
It happens without us even realising it. You go from being ‘Kate’ to ‘Kate and Tim’. You’re not even referred to as your own self anymore – you are you, plus someone else.
So with all of this happening, how do we maintain a sense of self in our relationships? How do we hold on to the traits we love about ourselves and keep true to who we are?
Make Time For Yourself
You’ve gone from spending a fair chunk of time on your own to spending (and wanting to spend) all your time with your new hunk. This is perfectly understandable. They are all you can think about, you love spending time with them and you just want to be around them all the time.
It’s so important that you still schedule in some ‘me’ time. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as going to your favourite café with a magazine and sitting there for an hour drinking coffee and eating cake. Yum!
Just taking this little bit of time to yourself can make all the difference in the balance of your relationship.
Remember Your Friends and Family
One of the things we tend to do when we start a new relationship is disappear. We don’t plan as many outings with friends or dinners with the family because we are so involved in our new relationship.
We also tend to spend a lot of time talking about our new relationship with our friends and family when we do catch up with them. While our friends and family are usually quite happy for us, it’s also important that we are still there for them.
Take some time to schedule in a catch up with your friends and family and make sure you ask them how they are going and what’s happening in their lives.
Encourage Your New Partner To Join In On Your Hobbies
While most men wouldn’t call shoe shopping a hobby, perhaps there’s something you love to do that they haven’t tried before. This is a great way to keep up with what you love and engage your new partner in your hobbies too – rather than doing whatever it is they want to do.
Perhaps you like seeking out buskers on a Saturday morning or hitting the local fresh produce markets. Maybe you like going for a hike or going to yoga. Let him choose what he wants to join in on. Then make sure you do the same for him.
Be Confident In Saying ‘No’
So many people paint ‘no’ out to be a bad word, but it’s not. It’s encouraging and empowering and it’s absolutely okay to use it!. If your new partner is asking you to do something and you genuinely don’t want to do it, for whatever reason, it’s okay to say no. If they are moving too quickly and want you to move in after two weeks, you can say no. If they are always asking you to go to their house and they rarely come to yours, you can say no.
Learning how to establish yourself in a relationship is a skill and takes a little practice but it is necessary to lay a strong foundation, for yourself and for your new partner. It’s so easy to get caught up in wanting to make your new partner happy, you can forget your only responsibility still is to make yourself happy.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
There’s a reason why every single person tells you how important communication is in a relationship… because without it, the whole thing falls in on itself. Usually, when we first start dating we are pretty good at communication, we text, we email, we talk for hours. But somewhere along the line we stop doing that and it takes more effort to actually talk. Which is totally normal.
Be sure to keep talking to your partner about what’s happening in your world, how you’re feeling about situations, what your goals are, how you see things to be. And ask them for their version too. This keeps your thoughts and opinions established in your relationship as well, rather than just falling into the trap of assuming what each other want, think and feel.
Remember, you are in this relationship because you fell for the person you’re with just the way they are and they fell for you. You didn’t get together to be one entity, you are still individuals and maintaining your sense of self in a relationship is important.
A version of this post originally appeared on The Daily Femme.