If you find that you quickly lose your sense of self in the arms of another, allow me to help you make your way back to you. Because healthy romantic relationships start with a healthy relationship with yourself.
“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. One does not exist without the other.” - Esther Perel
There’s no sweeter feeling on earth than that of falling truly, madly, deeply in love. The sense of togetherness, recognition and being understood may feel amazing at first, but it can also bring up some new challenges. As a dating and sex expert, I’ve heard a similar story from many of my clients: the fear of losing who they really are when they fall in love.
If you’ve found yourself a little lost in past relationships, but are ready to invite new love into your life, recognise this as an opportunity to combat unhealthy habits and enjoy a new way of living and loving.
“More love doesn’t have to mean less you.”
Maintaining a sense of self while embracing the joys of falling in love is possible. In fact, there are practical steps you can take to stay grounded in the early stages of a love relationship.
Here are 5 ways to bolster your sense of self and stay grounded as you’re falling in love so you can enjoy every minute of it.
1. Reconnect with what’s important to you
It’s understandable that in the early days of love, you put your blossoming romance before the hobbies or relationships your previously prioritised. After all, what’s more fun: staying in bed all day with your new love, or filing your tax return?
However, if you’re prone to losing yourself in relationships, it’s important that you maintain a healthy balance among your many priorities.
Think about your life as if it’s a cake with 10 slices. Each slice represents as aspect of your experience, e.g. career, friends, family, hobbies, romance, money, health, fun, personal development, home etc.
Rank your satisfaction with each slice on a scale of 1-10, 10 being “most satisfied”. If you’ve noticed that in the past your “Romance” slice has been way up there, but “Friends” or “Career” have suffered, you know you need to rebalance.
This is a great way to ensure you’re taking care of every aspect of your life, not just your partnership. There’s no need for the different parts of your life to compete with each other. When you’re grounded in yourself, each aspect - including your relationship - can exist in harmony with one another.
2. Slow Down
This may sound obvious, but it’s easier said than done in those early days of a new romance when it’s so tempting to get carried away. Slowing down requires awareness, so ask yourself:
Have your previous relationships developed very quickly?
Have you rushed into sexual intimacy?
Have you moved quickly into stages such as living together?
Have you previously associated intensity with intimacy?
If this is the case, your expectations for a blossoming relationship might be different than your partner’s. Within weeks, you may expect to spend every weekend with your partner, spend holidays together, or meet their parents.
Resist the impulse to rush. Going slowly:
- · allows a steadily increasing intimacy that feels comfortable for both of you
- · helps you see critical incompatibilities between you and your partner before you get blinded by lust
- · means you’re less likely to crowd out your hobbies and interests with too much partner time
- · helps you integrate your partner into your lifestyle instead of substituting them for something else.
If you start to feel a little lost - gently put the brakes on so you can come back to yourself and your needs.
3. Don’t skip your self-care
It’s easy to let basic self-care slip in the early stages of a relationship. Have you ever found yourself repeatedly staying up too late because you’re partner is a night owl? Or overspending on fancy dinners and holidays to be with your new love? Or skipping your morning workout routine to stay in bed with them?
When we sacrifice our needs at the beginning of a relationship, it can quickly become a habit that’s hard to break. So tend to your basic needs first, because self-care is an absolute must for a strong sense of self.
You can do this by asking yourself, ‘What are my non-negotiables?’. Maybe it’s eight hours of sleep, three healthy meals, daily meditation and no phones after 9pm. You get to decide what absolutely has to stay in your life to keep you feeling strong and grounded. Then prioritise them above everything else - including your lover. The people who are best for us will want us to take care of ourselves.
“Investing in your own health and wellbeing is an investment in the health and wellbeing of your relationship.”
4. Try not to change plans to suit your partner
It can be tempting to completely rearrange your lifestyle so you can see your new partner as much as possible, but it’s not a good idea. Every time we break or reschedule plans to accommodate their schedule, it’s like saying to yourself that time with them is more important than everything else - including your own needs.
Remember: Focusing energy on yourself will not harm your relationship. In fact, it will benefit it by allowing you to show up feeling balanced, healthy and happy, and not putting all of your needs onto your partner. So keep that 7am gym visit in your diary, and don’t even think about cancelling drinks with your friends just because your new love is suddenly free.
5. Spend time apart
Just because you’re in a new relationship, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything together. If you’ve happily enjoyed weekend trips with friends or longer holidays with family in the past, be vigilant about not letting these slip now.
Make it a habit to plan a few solo trips to get you into the mindset that hanging out separately isn't unhealthy for the relationship, but necessary for it to function well.
Be vigilant about scheduling time for the people you loved before your new squeeze came along. And by the same token, it’s important to understand that your partner may want time with their loved ones too. An extra bonus to alone time is that when you do spend time with just each other, you’ll value it even more and there’s less chance you’ll become complacent with each other.
Investing in a strong sense of self is ultimately an investment in the health of your romantic relationship. You cannot have one without the other.
Healthy relationships start from a healthy relationship with yourself. The stronger your relationship with yourself, the lesser the possibility that you will lose the sense of self in your next relationship.