You ever have one of those relationships where you totally forget who you are? Your life becomes consumed by being one half of a couple, and suddenly you as an individual don't exist anymore. There are certain things every woman in a relationship should consider doing to help maintain her independence and individuality, because even unintentionally, we lose sight of these things once we find our match. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of caring only about building the perfect relationship. I call it a "trap" because despite how positive it may sound, obsessing over making the perfect relationship will end in disaster: any life solely focused on a coupling, while sacrificing the health and happiness of the individual self, is doomed to fail on both levels.
Instead, we need to look at our relationships as comprised of three facets: you, your partner, and the two of you as a couple. If one of the first two facets isn't what it needs to be, the whole thing threatens to collapse. Therefore, it becomes imperative to take care of you. Here are seven things you can do to keep things healthy on your end and contribute to what could be a beautiful, blossoming relationship.
1. Having Hobbies That Are Yours, And Yours Only
When we pair off, we're tempted to make our partners a part of everything in our life, including the hobbies that once belonged to us. Of course, this is going to happen, as it should; two people in love are supposed to share some things. Do you need to share everything? No. In fact, it's probably better that you don't.
Self-empowerment counselor, speaker, and author Daylle Deanna Schwartz wrote in an article for HuffPost, "Getting a life means pursuing passions that aren’t dependent on having a partner..." Psychology Today adds that hobbies can help build and strengthen social relationships and reduce stress — benefits that can spill into other areas of your life, including (yup!) your relationship.
While it might seem like you're excluding your partner when you have a hobby that they're not a part of, remember that there are plenty of other hours in the day for you two to share — and your time spent with a hobby you love benefits your SO, as well as you.
2. Making Time For Friends Without Your SO
We've all had at least one friend who fell off the face of the earth as soon as she met someone she really liked. Suddenly, her friends don't matter anymore, and all she cares about is saving all her time for her new lover. This is a common problem a lot of us are guilty of — and one we need to be a lot better about.
In the same HuffPost article, Schwartz adds how important it is to nurture "your own circle of friends who aren’t part of your couple activities," and it's probably more beneficial than we all realize. In fact, the Palm Breeze Girl Time survey found that 74 percent of women who make enough time for friends have better sex lives; 91 percent said they're happier in their relationships; and over 70 percent said that time with their friends makes them feel more confident and fulfilled.
According to licensed psychologists Janna Koretz, Psy.D., and Erika Martinez, Psy.D., friendship is a type of self-care that we should take more seriously. So, whether your relationship is new and you're having a hard time tearing yourself away from bae, or you've been together forever and this is simply your routine, make a point of scheduling some girl time. You'll both be glad you did.
3. Spending Time Alone
This might be tough if you live with your partner; but having adequate space and privacy might be even more important in your relationship than a healthy sex life, says psychologist and research professor Dr. Terri Orbuch. Since 1990, Dr. Orbuch has been a part of a study of marriages in the U.S., following 373 married couples (46 percent of which have since divorced). She found that 29 percent of the spouses said they didn't have enough privacy or time for themselves, and this was more common for women compared to men (31 percent to 26 percent). Out of the participants who reported being unhappy, 11.5 percent said it was because they didn't have the privacy or time they needed. As a comparison, only six percent said the reason for their unhappiness was sex.
You might think it best to spend every waking minute with your love, but rest assured that a little time on your own goes a long way in keeping your relationship happy and healthy. This might mean taking yourself out for coffee, shopping, or even just going into the guest bedroom, closing the door, and reading quietly for a couple hours.
4. Traveling Alone
Want to kick things up a notch? Really give yourself some alone time by traveling solo. This doesn't mean you have to pull an Eat, Pray, Love and leave the country, although you certainly can. Even just a quick weekend trip someplace nearby can do the trick. The reason for traveling alone isn't just so you can have some space, even though that's obviously a pro.
Also, you're reminded of what it's like to function on your own. When we get in relationships — especially for long periods of time — everything becomes intertwined, and there's always something there to help you when you need it. This is great! It feels good! That's part of the reason we get in relationships: companionship.
Does that mean you should forget how to do things yourself? No. Schedule a little getaway where you only have yourself to rely on. It's good for the soul.
5. Treat Yourself
Something happens once we pair off... Suddenly, treating ourselves (and only ourselves) every now and then becomes selfish. Women are natural-born caretakers. It's in our blood to do nice things for our partners and put our own wants and needs on the back burner.
Ignoring our own health and happiness is a slippery slope, though, and one best avoided. By constantly putting off the things that help you feel fulfilled, you're conveying one message: "I'm not important enough for this." You get used to treating yourself this way, and eventually, other people do to — and that could include your SO.
The solution is to make time for self-care, which has been found to help relieve stress and improve relationships. Go get a massage or manicure. Sign up for that hot yoga membership you've been eyeing. Schedule a spa day. Something. Anything. Love yourself.
6. Agree To Disagree
Disagreement has a bad reputation, much of it unwarranted. We're never going to agree on everything, and that certainly includes two people in a relationship. Although disagreement does not equal hate, we still hate the way it feels when our own thoughts and beliefs don't coincide with our partner's. Sometimes, to avoid an argument or just the sense of unease that comes from this discrepancy, we'll unknowingly adopt each other's opinions, or forget that we had our own to begin with.
Write this down: disagreement is normal, and it won't destroy you. Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today, "In my 30-plus years of doing therapy, I've found that helping couples learn to truly accept their inevitable dissimilarities — and to take them in stride — serves not only to protect marital harmony in situations of potential conflict but, even more, to help the relationship reach its full potential."
The takeaway? You can indeed survive disagreement without it causing waves in your relationship; so when you have an opinion, stick to your guns. It's OK.
7. Give Your SO Space To Do All Of The Same
All of this is well and good; but it means nothing if we expect this respect and courtesy from our partner but don't give it to them in return. Don't be hurt if they ask for time alone, or if they go out with friends without you. Even though relationship experts will encourage you to do these things for yourself, you're but one half of this relationship; the other half needs all of the same opportunities.