A lot of us are guilty of making our romantic relationships the center of our world, but it’s important not to lose yourself in love, regardless of how wonderful it is. Even though I’m in a happy relationship, I make sure to remember it’s only one aspect of a full life. Here’s how I achieved some balance.
I lowered my absurd expectations. We’re brought up with the idea that when we find “The One,” they’ll be able to fulfill every empty aspect of our lives. They’ll be our lover, our best friend, our adviser, our most trusted confidant, our cheerleader… the list goes on and on. Sure, they can be a little bit of all those things, but we can’t expect them to be everything all the time. If my partner was my everything, he’d be exhausted. We have to find a few of those things in other people—including ourselves—to be truly independent.
There’s no need to talk all day. My partner and I text each other throughout the day when we can, but no one gets upset if it takes an hour or more to respond. Similarly, we understand if the other person isn’t available to talk on the phone. We both have lives and responsibilities—it would be draining to have to communicate all day just for the sake of maintaining conversation. At the end of the day, we know we’re there for each other and that’s enough.
I keep my friends and family close. This is probably the most obvious one, but it’s important to maintain your other relationships too. I spend time with friends and family as often as I can. Sometimes my boyfriend is there and sometimes he isn’t. The point is, it’s not a rule to prioritize romantic connections above all others. It’s important to preserve connections with other people who care about you.
My career is an important part of my life. Making your career a priority doesn’t mean you’re heartless or frigid, as romantic comedies would have us believe. After all, it’s probably how we spend most of our time when we’re not sleeping. Caring about your professional goals means you’re ambitious, passionate, and unafraid to be your own person.
I have a therapist. I do talk to my boyfriend about my troubles, but I can’t expect him to provide the nuanced advice that a therapist can give. I’m also not interested in expressing negativity to my boyfriend all the time, which can be draining in a relationship. By speaking to a therapist on a regular basis, I can vent to someone without feeling like I’m always complaining or bringing them down. I’m also not solely relying on my partner for comfort or peace of mind.
My hobbies and interests keep me busy. I haven’t let go of the little things I do in my downtime. They may be small, like reading or drawing or baking, but they make me feel like I have a sense of purpose even when I’m just chilling by myself. I feel calm, productive, and happy in those moments. I might invite my boyfriend to join me from time to time, but it’s nice to have those hobbies just for myself too. And if I get bored with those hobbies, I find new ones.
I practice self-care. Sometimes when I’m in a bad place, I try to cope independently. This includes things like exercise, relaxing alone, or even just positive self-talk. It’s a good reminder that sometimes I can handle things on my own. It leaves me feeling self-sufficient and shows me that not every emotional drawback is an emergency that needs outside help.
We don’t live together. Couples usually become somewhat of a unit when they live together. Their friends become yours (and vice versa), so you’re a package deal when people ask to hang out. Not only that, but you start spending all of your spare time together out of convenience. Since my boyfriend and I don’t live together yet, we still spend a lot of time apart. This helps the relationship feel more carefree and unconfined.
I encourage my partner’s independence too. It’s important to leave the doors and windows open in a relationship so we both feel like we can breathe. This helps us avoid feeling trapped or suffocated in our partnership. I make sure my boyfriend knows he should also pursue his career/hobbies, practice self-care, and spend time with his friends and family. In return, he affords me the same respect and we’re free to be individuals with our own lives.
I remind myself I’m complete on my own. For a long time, I grew up feeling like something was missing. Because of movies and books and TV, I came to the conclusion the thing I was missing was someone to love. I sought after that someone for years, only to feel shattered when I felt just as isolated as I always had. It took a long time to figure out that the missing piece was me. Self-love taught me I’m a whole person on my own, even when I’m in a relationship.
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