Is Toxic Individualism Ruining Your Relationships?

There’s nothing worse than someone who gets into a relationship and suddenly neglects everyone and everything else in their lives. It’s normal to become attached at the hip to a new love interest, but the importance of continuing to have your own life even when coupled up can’t be understated. That being said, like most things, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. In fact, toxic individualism could end up destroying your relationships if you’re not careful.

What is toxic individualism?

When you’re in a relationship, it’s important that you continue doing all the things you used to love doing when you were single. Just because you have a boyfriend doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be hanging out with your friends, going to the gym, crocheting, or whatever else you used to spend your time doing.

That being said, toxic individualism happens when you take that independence to the extreme. As part of a couple, you should be considering your partner’s feelings, desires, and needs. While you shouldn’t compromise everything that’s important to you, you do need to be willing to meet your partner halfway. When you continue living life as if you’re single and completely ignoring the fact that you’re a “we” and not just a “me” now, that’s when things become problematic.

“Our relationships are our biospheres. We don’t live outside of them. We live inside of them. You can choose to pollute your marital biosphere by having a temper tantrum, but you’re going to breathe in that pollution,” marriage and family therapist Terrence Real tells CNN. “You can’t escape, you’re in it. And once you trade that in for the wisdom of interconnectedness, all the terms change. For example, the answer to the question, “Who’s right and who’s wrong?” is “Who gives a damn?” What matters is, “How are we going to work like a team to make this work for both of us?”

Why an individualist mindset will ultimately destroy your relationship

  1. You stop working as a team. Your relationship should never be your entire life, but it should be a big part of it. The whole point of being part of a couple is to have a teammate in life. You can weather storms together, celebrate the victories, and be one another’s biggest cheerleaders. Toxic individualism places the focus on you rather than on both of you, and you end up as two separate people rather than a pair.
  2. You miss out on intimacy. Sure, two individuals can have sex. However, emotional intimacy requires a willingness to get close. You can’t be truly close and experience the transformative effects it offers if you’re always thinking about yourself. Instead, you should spend time focusing on the connection you share together. It’s one of the best and most beautiful parts of being in a relationship.
  3. You neglect your partner’s needs and desires. What you want and need in love matters, of course, but so do your partner’s needs and desires. Toxic individualism happens when you’re so intent on making sure you’re getting yours, so to speak, that your partner gets neglected in the process. If you don’t care about being an attentive partner and making their life better, why are you even together?
  4. You create distance between you. If your individual life outside of your relationship takes all of your time and energy, when is the focus ever on your partner? When you’re living like two bachelors rather than life partners, you’re only going to drift further and further apart. Eventually, there will be no way to bridge that gap and your relationship will fail.
  5. You can’t grow individually or as a couple. Working together as a couple teaches you so many things. It forces you to confront some ugly parts of yourself. It also exposes you to some amazing parts you may not have recognized. It pushes you to be the best version of yourself, too. That level of growth can’t and won’t happen if you’re so focused on yourself. If you’re truly not ready to be part of a couple right now, do yourself and your partner a favor and break up.
Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill