I read an article the other day on things women should know by the time they are 30 and it got me thinking. Granted, the article seemed to have been written for straight, middle-class, dare I say smug? Glamor magazine audience. Also, is there is a reason no such list exists for men??? But I digress.
One statement stuck with me: Know how to fall in love without losing yourself. Now that is a quote worth repeating.
I have had writers block for a while. No excuses but my personal life has gone through some pretty significant changes. It all goes back to falling in love and losing oneself. Surely, we don’t start out that way, it’s a very gradual and subtle process that occurs over the years. You may even justify it in the name of intimacy and building a life with someone. Please know, I am not talking about sharing your life. I’m talking about immersing yourself with someone else completely in such a way that you can’t tell where you end and where they begin. But how can one avoid this trap in relationships?
1. Don’t move to another state within a month of knowing someone. Or 6 months. Your brain is on fire in the beginning of a relationship. Our bodies and minds are programmed to produce powerful bonding chemicals to ensure that we mate and procreate (oxytocin). Oxytocin will tell your mind you are in love. And oh the things we do for love! Before you make a life changing decision wait a while. Time is your only friend.
2. Don’t move in with someone right away. I know it’s cheaper, I know you want to spend every waking moment with the person and share everything with them including gross bodily functions (really, what’s up with that?!) but do everyone a favor and maintain your OWN space. I have a new rule about this. No immersing of spaces for at least 18 months. Actually ideally I will find a partner who would be OK with living apart. Obviously that doesn’t work for everyone.
3. Please, please, please (did you hear me plead?) have separate bank accounts. I mean, talk about losing yourself. If you want a joint account to pay bills fine. But make sure you have your own money. I know this will sound borderline paranoid to you now but you will thank me later.
4. Do NOT buy a car or a house with someone if you can’t afford it by yourself. Actually don’t buy a house at all unless you plan to live in it for 20+ years and you want to pass it down to your offspring…but I digress.
5. Have your own job and career goals and pursue them relentlessly. I know we need work-life balance. In fact, I could be a poster child for the “Work hard, Play hard” campaign. But if your partner ever bitches about you working too much, tell them to suck it up and get over it. Now, I know that some people hide behind their jobs or use their work as an escape from their relationship and family. I’m not talking about that scenario. I’m referring to someone who cares about their work. Work is part of who you are. Don’t lose who you are.
6. ALWAYS, have your own friends. I know you will go through a “nesting” period. You know, the people who get together with someone and disappear from the face of the earth. Relationships should not be a black whole in your social universe. Nurture your friendships, find time for your friends and doing the things you used to do when you were single. Have a girls night or guys night on the regular. It’s part of what has made you the individual you are today. Don’t lose that part of you.
7. Have your own hobbies. Something you do by yourself or with your friends. Something that does not involve your partner. It’s great to share hobbies with someone. But it’s also great to have one thing that is entirely yours. Trust me, returning to your partner and telling them all about it will only strengthen your bond.
8. This is THE most important tip to having a successful relationship without losing yourself – have time and space ALONE. Couples don’t know how to be alone anymore. Give yourself a chance to miss your partner. Be OK with being by yourself. I call it “taking myself out”. I ask myself to take me out to dinner and a movie. I ask myself to cook me a nice, romantic meal and eat in candle light. I know this will sound weird to you, but I take myself out dancing too. It’s great fun. Let me ask you, when was the last time you planned a vacation JUST for you? It’s exhilarating. Who said we have to give that up once we are in a relationship?
9. Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. Sure relationships are about negotiating which involves constantly revisiting and modifying your own boundaries. This process is essential for a relationship to work and for you to grow individually. But there is a difference between negotiating and bending. Or being the one who bends ALL the time. That means you have no boundaries or ability to say no. No is a complete answer. And your partner should be able to accept that even if they disagree. Know what you will NOT agree to and bare your teeth to anyone who tries to push your boundaries (with love, of course :))
10. You have to be able to practice what you preach. Just like you know you are your own individual person (as you should be), your partner is too. Don’t take everything they do personally. Help them maintain their individuality. Push them to be alone and independent. Stop with the jealousy and drama. Know what their issues are and make sure you don’t confuse them with yours or carry them as your own mentally and emotionally. A healthy detachment is the key to intimacy.
And please, stop reading sexist BS like “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. Over and out.