Having spent most of my life in a relationship with myself, I’ve had the opportunity to witness my friends in relationships with significant others. Some of them good, some of them bad, all of them learning experiences.
Unfortunately, many of those friendships I had to sacrifice because my friends lost themselves – they dissolved into the person they were dating and cast their friends aside crutches after a broken leg has healed.
I like to refer to these people as relationship chameleons – people who change who they are and what they like depending on the person they are dating.
I had a friend off and on for years who is [still] notorious for doing this. I have seen her be the fit chick who was into skater brands, tattoos and colored hair. I have seen her be the preppy girl who wears blouses, expensive jeans and heels every day. I have also seen her become a country girl who rocks flannels and boots and lives solely on food caught by her hunter/fisherman boyfriend.
It’s sad to watch, frankly. This poor woman is almost 30 years old and has no freakin’ idea who she is. None of her relationships last for very long, and the minute she’s done with one she’s on the prowl for the next. And while all of this is going on, she’s losing friends because she alienates them to focus all of her energy on becoming the person she thinks her boyfriend would want her to be. Why do you think none of her relationships worked? Because it’s annoying to have somebody glomming onto you all the time who has no life outside of you. Suffocating might be a better description.
One of the biggest dating lessons I’ve learned in my life is from watching relationships like hers: never forget who you are.
When you first start dating somebody, it’s 100% natural [and okay] to spend most of your time with that person. It’s part of the process of getting to know each other, and of course that all-to-familiar honeymoon phase where you can’t stand to be apart for more than a few hours. We’ve all been there – it’s a normal part of relationship development.
However, there is always a point in which you start to re-incorporate your regular life back into the picture. For me, it was getting back together with friends, finding my running stride again and rebuilding my usual routine. In any healthy relationship, you should both have your own social [read: separate] lives apart from each other. It’s also completely okay to have a social life together! My parents are always going out to dinner and going on trips with a bunch of their friends who are couples.
What’s not okay is to have no identity outside of the other person [<– this is why I hate stories like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray – neither of them are normal relationships and yet society has deemed them romantic and ideal]. Don’t ever lose sight of who you are, what you believe in and what you want out of life. Don’t isolate yourself from your friends or your hobbies [and if the person you’re dating puts an immediate kibosh on both – RUN!].
I’ve never had an issue maintaining friendships while in a relationship – that is something that I’ve ALWAYS worked hard to keep. I did, however, forget about the things I love to do in order to carve out more time for my guy – a decision made completely on my own because I thought it would be good for our relationship. It ended up causing me a lot of resentment and depression because I wasn’t giving myself the opportunity to be ME.
If you’re in the right relationship, these things will be a non-issue. The right person will encourage your social life and support you in following your dreams. You will be embraced for who you are and won’t be expected to change. Don’t ever forget that YOU are important – and that it’s extremely difficult [if not impossible] to love somebody else if you aren’t, first and foremost, happy and in love with yourself.