Maintaining the "I" in Relationship: 5 Ways to Honor Your Independent Self

Despite the fact that 4th of July is more than a week behind us- not sure how that happened- the words freedom and independence having been ringing in my head ever since. Typically, this month stirs up thoughts about freedom in reference to our citizenship. In the United States, there are approximately 300 million free people. We have fought hard to get here so why should we stop celebrating this independence on the 4th of July? It should be celebrated daily and with great enthusiasm- particularly in new relationships.

Ahhh the infatuation phase. We’ve all been there. The start of a relationship when sleep suddenly doesn’t matter- until its morning time and you decide it’s more important to stay in bed and cuddle with your new honey than it is to get to the gym. Lounging on the couch and ordering take out feels like the most couple-y thing to do, despite the fact that it's hurting your bank account and the food you’re eating is far more rich than you would if you were still living that single life. Date nights replace girls’ night and suddenly, one day, you look in the mirror and ask yourself where you went. Or, if you are me, you have a family member tell you that you seem less like yourself- less sparkly. Ouch.

I’m writing this blog because I’ve been there and I know how easy it is to get there. Getting out- not so much. So read on and think of this as preventative medicine. Follow these guidelines to keep you and your sexy new stud healthy as individuals so you can be better together- cue the Jack Johnson song.

1. Honor Your Soul

Identify and engage in activities that you have to do to keep you-you. It’s what a therapist, such as myself, would call your self-care. Working out, taking that yoga class, meditating, gardening- whatever it is, do it. And some of you might gasp when I say this: prioritize this over your bae. This is not being selfish. This is you taking care of your needs so that you can be more attuned and present when you are with him. Plus, your hobbies are probably part of the reason he was so attracted to you in the first place. We wouldn’t want him to lose those feels, now would we? 

2. Honor Your Body

Think back to when you were single. How were you eating? What were you eating? When were you eating? Try to mimic this as best you can with your significant other. With another person in the picture, it can be easier sometimes to ditch the meal prep, order a pizza, put on Netflix and call it good. While this is lovely to indulge in, trust yourself to know if this is sustainable. This same mentality goes for exercise- do your best to stay true to your routine. Invite your BF to come to the gym with you or scope out outdoor activities you can do together to ensure that you are still getting your fix of endorphins.

 3. Honor Your Mind

Ultimately, if your soul and body are nourished, chances are your mind and emotions are feeling pretty balanced. If not, take a step back and think about what needs are not being fulfilled and what adjustments could be taken to correct them. For some, space from your partner can feel scary and you may need more reassurance. For that, find ways to reassure yourself. Think of all the things going right in your relationship and you’ll feel that fear ease up a bit. If your thoughts are feeling jumbled, assess your daily schedule- is it filled with meaningful work? Often times when we are bored, we can create problems that aren’t there. Stay busy and focused on what is directly in front of you. Your relationship isn’t going anywhere.  Your mind is a complicated beast, but with proper nourishment there is no reason it can’t thrive.

 4. Honor Your [Other] Relationships

Girlfriends, family members, coaches, therapists, trainers- they all play a vital role in maintaining a whole you. Keep your connections strong. While it is tempting to want to spend all of your free time in romance land, stepping away from it is quite healthy. Not only does it provide you with additional time to be yourself, it also gives your man some time to nourish his bromances, hit the gym, or do whatever he needs to do to take care of him.

5. Honor Your Work

I know, for some of you, honor and work do not belong in the same sentence. Even so, your career can still be taken care of. This means creating a boundary with your job so that it doesn’t interfere with your relationship. What that looks like will differ with each person. Some may choose to leave their work technology at the office; others may need to process what happened with their partners or co-workers; some may need to get everything done before coming home or beginning the weekend. Whatever it may be, doing so models that your career is important- and what smart man doesn’t find that that sexy?!

The truth is simple and cliché: Fill up your cup first so you can fill up others. Put on your oxygen mask before helping the person next to you. Love yourself first before you love someone else. To be in relation with another person often means compromises, sacrifices, and changes. That is part of the package that accompanies the nights out, inside jokes, extended social circle, and ultimately, the companionship of someone that you care about and cares about you.

 While all of these guidelines sound relatively easy, I will be the first to admit that it’s not. It is scary. It may feel selfish and at times, maybe even mean. I promise you, its neither one of those things. It is vital for the vitality and longevity of your relationship. By honoring yourself in these areas, you are simultaneously showing him that it is important for him to do the same and that can only lead to a happy and healthy relationship.