Before you met your partner, you probably had a life totally outside of them. Friends, hobbies, travel—things that you thought would keep happening, even when you got into a relationship. But no matter how good your intentions are, over the course of a long-term relationship, the line between you and your partner can become blurry. If you feel like you’ve started to lose your sense of identity, don’t worry—in some ways, it’s totally natural. The longer you’re together, the more your lives become enmeshed and the more you’ve experienced as a team. It's easy to see how you could come to feel like a unit, rather than two people.
But, no matter how much you love each other, lean on each other, and know each other, maintaining your sense of independence is crucial. If you’ve started to lose it, that's OK—because you can get it back. It’s all about making space for yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally, that is separate from your partner. Here’s what you need to do to maintain your independence in a relationship.
Pursue A Hobby Without Them
This is a really basic step that you can—and should—take, but it’s one that a lot of people let slide as time goes on. It’s great if you and your partner like the same things. If you like to go to plays together or workout together or play board games, that can be a great bonding opportunity in your relationship. But you also need to do things separately.
Spending time apart is good, but spending time apart pursuing something you love is even better. It helps remind you of your separate identities. But often, as time goes on, we either start doing more and more together or life gets so busy that we tend to default onto the couch with Netflix rather than chasing our hobbies and passions. So whether it’s an activity you’ve always loved or something totally new, find something that you can really sink your teeth into—that has nothing to do with your partner.
See Your Friends (Not As A Couple)
Couple socialization can be lovely, but if your entire calendar is filled up with couple time, then it’s time to rethink. Spending time with your friends on your own is so vital to your sense of well being. You need time to relax, maybe even time to vent about your partner—which is totally normal—and time to just remember who you are without them. Plus, if you have friends who are single, then you don’t want to be that friend who brings their partner everywhere and annoys everyone. Respect everyone's need for one-on-one time.
Watch Your Language
Language is important—and the words you choose can often reveal a lot about your mindset. You may have noticed that some couples, the ones who tend to be more codependent or attached at the hip, tend to use the word “we”—a lot. Sure, if you’re saying “we” went on vacation or “we” tried a great restaurant, that’s a totally appropriate use of the word. But if you always use “we”—”we want”, "we think”, “we’re very excited”—then that’s really telling. Try to reclaim your “I”. You and your partner are separate people and, even if your thoughts are in alignment, it doesn’t mean that you’re having the same thoughts. Even by just using the word “I” more than the word "we," you’ll keep that sense of identity alive.
Try Making More Space For You
If you’re lucky, you may be able to make some literal space for you—a separate room, nook, or closet that’s your own. If you don’t have that luxury, look at other ways you can create your own space. Maybe you can make some extra money through a side hustle that’s just for you to have fun with. Maybe you can schedule a bath date with yourself once a week when you commandeer the bathroom and go full-on rose petal and bubble extravagance. As much as hobbies and friends are great, carving out something that’s all you—solitary, independent you—can be incredibly healthy.
Talk, Talk, Talk
It may seem counterintuitive that more talking with your partner can help you achieve independence, but communication is everything. If you want to keep your separate identities alive, then both you and your partner need to be on board. Let your partner know that keeping your independence—or getting it back—is important to you and something you want to pursue. If they see how much it means to you (and hopefully they also want to keep that independence alive) you can both make a conscious effort in how you arrange your lives and divide your tasks. You can start booking more alone time, friend time, and hobby time into your lives, while working together to make it happen.
Some people drop their independence right away when they get into a relationship, while for others it's a slow slide over time. Make sure that you don't get complacent and lose sight of your own personality and identity. Having your own independence will make you a better partner and a happier, more fulfilled person—and that's something your partner should get behind.