To a lot of people, being in a happy and loving relationship seems a necessity in life. I do believe that finding someone to share your life with is a very special thing. However, keeping your personal identity is just as important.
It is first worth considering what identity actually means. I think that identity is such a personal thing, and it can be anything you want it to be. It can be anything that makes up you; whether that is experiences, morals, culture, physical features. Every person has their own identity, but for some people, this becomes hard to hold on to in a relationship.
I do recognise why it may be hard to keep hold of your identity, especially in the past year. Many couples are staying at home in each other’s company 24/7. Not being able to do things you usually love can be damaging to people in many ways and it makes it easier to merge identities with your partner.
As much as I believe in soulmates, they definitely don’t complete a person
Neil Wilkie, behavioural psychotherapist and founder of The Relationship Paradigm, believes that in a relationship there are three key components: me, you and us, and for a happy and healthy relationship these all need to be nurtured independently. I am by no means a relationship expert, but from personal experience, I do believe that Wilkie is spot on and that for any relationship to be successful you need to nurture and take care of all three parts.
This may sound a bit contradictory if you have read my article called in defence of soulmates. As much as I believe in soulmates, they definitely don’t complete a person. I think that every individual is unique and has their own identity. Finding your soulmate, or a partner if you don’t believe in soulmates, should only add to that. To me, my partner is someone I can share life with and someone I can turn to no matter what. But going through life with someone by your side should not take away from your own identity.
Although some people may try to merge identities on purpose, more often than not it happens subconsciously. This makes it very hard to spot until much later down the line when you start having real problems. Combining two identities into one can cause lots of issues in a relationship. The problem further escalates when the issues cannot be resolved, and the relationship ends. For many people in this situation, becoming single is like having their whole identity taken away from them.
They begin to lose their own identity in order to merge into one with their partner
If they did every single thing together for the past x number of years, it really could feel like starting from scratch. This is not me saying that you need to spend time away from your partner. The key message is that you need to love yourself as a person first. Sure, having some alone time or hobbies you like to do without your partner may be good once in a while. But it is still very much possible to maintain your personal identities even if you spend lots of time together.
Some people may worry about losing their partner and as a result, they begin to lose their own identity in order to merge into one with their partner. While this may seem to make you stronger at the time, it most definitely will not. Investing time in yourself as well as time in your relationship will give you the best chance of a happily ever after. Nobody goes into a relationship thinking it will come to an end, but in the event that it does, it is important to still have a sense of your own identity, so you are not left to pick up the pieces and start life from scratch.