We’ve all seen it, whether in someone else or in ourselves: A woman (or man) falls in love and, somewhere along the way, forgets themselves and fades into half a person.
Someway, somehow, the wants and needs of another human being becomes more important than her own. She disappears into herself or, more accurately, disappears into her new romance, not to return until the initial sense of magic fades.
Falling head-over-heels in love is an exhilarating and exciting feeling, one that’s all too easy to get caught up in whenever we’re lucky enough to recognize the sensation. But while love and partnership can be amazing if you want to have those things, they should never come at the cost of your own sense of self.
We are a generation raised on the words: “You complete me.” Romantic movies and media have shaped the way we regard and celebrate love. We see the language everywhere: Other half, better half, soulmate. In this world love is seen not just as a wonderful part of life but an achievement necessary to reach a level of full, complete humanity.
Frankly, I hate this idea. You don’t need a “better half” because you are not half of a person. You are a whole person. A healthy relationship isn’t made of two broken, incomplete halves becoming one. It’s made of two wholes, both fully formed with their own plans and dreams and ideas, choosing to navigate the world together.
And here’s the kicker: Holding on to yourself after falling in love won’t just make you happier down the line—it will also make you a better, more honest partner.
I’ll be the first to confirm that staying in a successful, working marriage is more difficult work than any job I’ve ever had. The people my husband and I were when we married five years ago are not the people we are now, and we’ve had growing pains as our new goals and plans shifted us together in some ways and apart in others.
Long-term commitment is never easy, and it’s compounded by the fact that, in the early stages of a relationship, we work really hard to make it look like it is. In those magical first few months and years when your partner can do no wrong, we ignore personality traits that will bother us later (and disguise our own bad habits that will later reemerge), put our own goals on hold to make more time for our partners, and generally change ourselves in ways that make for really blissful short-term relationships and really difficult long-term ones.
Remaining fearlessly ourselves: the good, the bad, the trying-to-untangle-headphones-while-you’re-in-a-rush ugly, might scare off more than a few potential partners who never would have worked out anyway. It might make the initial phases of dating scarier and more vulnerable, and it might make it seem more difficult to find someone special in the first place. But then you can rest easy knowing that the ones who stick around are the ones who are truly compatible with the real you.
Some things to remember:
1. Remember your goals.
While it’s natural for your goals to fluctuate and change as you re-envision a shared future with someone else, remember that it’s OK (and necessary) to have goals that extend outside of your relationship. You owe it to yourself not to get complacent after settling down.
2. Make family and friends a priority.
When you start a new relationship, it’s too easy to leave your family and friends in the dust. As you start seeing someone new, double your effort to maintain connections with loved ones. Ask yourself, “Am I saying ‘no’ to them more than ‘yes’?”
3. Have your own hobbies.
You don’t need to have everything in common with your partner. I will repeat: You don’t need to have everything in common with your partner. You might like reading while he or she prefers video games. You might be an outdoor person while he or she likes staying inside. Sure, these things can help you determine if you’re truly compatible or not, but it’s perfectly healthy for aspects of your lives and interests to exist independently from one another. It’s far more important to be honest and supportive of each other than it is for you to both like camping. I promise.