While it may sound good to be addressed as a couple, the key to a successful relationship and happiness is to maintain personal autonomy. Here are some tips on how to go about itOften people confuse identity and individuality with flexibility in the relationship.

Individuality is about the things that make you who you are, while flexibility is about compromise. The way compromising is necessary in all relationships, so is maintaining individuality.Many relationships fail today because one partner has given up too much of themselves for the other.

If you enter a relationship and give up all the things that define you as an individual, you are not giving yourself the love that you need. Sooner or later, if you lose your identity, if you stop giving to yourself, you will be unable to give to your relationship.If you find yourself losing yourself to your relationship then read on for some coping tips…

 BE INDEPENDENT

We-ness should never be maintained at the expense of your individuality. Often we think that differences of opinion and interest signal discord and will provoke confrontation. In fact differing tastes, values and attitudes are a healthy sign of emotional vitality.

Solution: Stop saying “I don’t mind” when your partner asks what to do this weekend. Think about what you’d like to do and speak up. Order your meal without checking what they’re having. Wear clothes that you like. Choose your own friends.

BANISH PASSIVE ATTACKS

Taking the “whatever you say, sweetheart” approach can pose a big problem. As long as your partner makes the majority of the decisions, you have a convenient scapegoat if things don’t turn out as planned. In the long term, this is bad news. Opting out may set up an emotional dictatorship that will eventually cause resentment. You will feel dominated and your partner will feel responsible for everything. TRUST YOUR OWN JUDGEMENTYou reinforce the belief that your opinion isn’t important every time you surrender to your partner’s judgement. It’s not enough for your partner to encourage you to value your opinion. You also need to value it yourself.

Solution: Instead of adjusting your schedule to accommodate your partner, eat your dinner when you’re hungry and go to bed when you’re tired. When you express yourself, don’t say: Sometimes I wonder if going out for a movie every weekend is a waste of time and money. Be direct – it’ll show you have a backbone.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

If you could spend an entire weekend pampering yourself, what would you enjoy doing? Don’t know? It’s impossible to express yourself if you have no idea who you are or what you need.

Solution: Become aware of how you feel at each moment. Monitor your reactions, thoughts and fears while you’re making love, working or travelling – even while bathing. Recognise what makes you happy or unhappy.

POWER IMBALANCES

Do you let your partner have the last word because they put you down or dismiss your ideas? If so, a new, outspoken you will probably threaten your partner’s ego and cause anger. After all, the deferential manner you’ve adopted all this time has set the tone of your relationship, which you’re about to change.

Solution: The next time you’re about to make a passive attack on your partner, stop and retrace every thought leading to your submissiveness. Is it because of that previous relationship when you were always made to feel inferior? Or did your siblings always seem more intelligent? Once you’ve acknowledged what drives your passivity, you can work on overcoming that behaviour and fast-track to a more confident you.

TRUST YOUR OWN JUDGEMENT

You reinforce the belief that your opinion isn’t important every time you surrender to your partner’s judgement. It’s not enough for your partner to encourage you to value your opinion. You also need to value it yourself.

Solution: Instead of adjusting your schedule to accommodate your partner, eat your dinner when you’re hungry and go to bed when you’re tired. When you express yourself, don’t say: Sometimes I wonder if going out for a movie every weekend is a waste of time and money. Be direct – it’ll show you have a backbone.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

If you could spend an entire weekend pampering yourself, what would you enjoy doing? Don’t know? It’s impossible to express yourself if you have no idea who you are or what you need.

Solution: Become aware of how you feel at each moment. Monitor your reactions, thoughts and fears while you’re making love, working or travelling – even while bathing. Recognize what makes you happy or unhappy.

POWER IMBALANCES

Do you let your partner have the last word because they put you down or dismiss your ideas? If so, a new, outspoken you will probably threaten your partner’s ego and cause anger. After all, the deferential manner you’ve adopted all this time has set the tone of your relationship, which you’re about to change.

Solution: Own up to your involvement in perpetuating the problem. Then stop it! Explain how the problem makes you feel (inferior, helpless, silly). Point out that these feelings are obviously an obstacle to the health of your relationship. Start stating your opinion on everything, from the news to that film you saw, even if your partner doesn’t agree.

REMEMBER

You don’t have to be aggressive – just make sure your voice is being heard. Discuss your differing skills: perhaps in matters like décor your partner is more savvy. Maybe you’re better at finance. But you should both have an equal say in choosing a video, a new car or where to go on holiday.This way, you’ll both feel that you’re giving inputs and clearly communicating your wants and needs – an essential element for personal happiness and relationship success.
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