While there are various types of love, romantic love is the one that arguably maintains the strongest hold in our cultural consciousness. From songs with lyrics that lament about the loss of a lover to seemingly endless reality shows where getting engaged at the very end is the real grand prize, it appears as though finding a partner is an issue that many of us have on our minds. While the rise in streaming platforms and other forms of media have definitely highlighted and increased the time we spend either judging the love lives of those we don’t know or carefully examining our own, the focus on finding a romantic counterpart isn’t necessarily anything new.
The desire to find “The One” has been heavily influenced and emphasized throughout our culture ad nauseam, with it beginning from the time you’re old enough to watch Disney films. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring companionship, the rhetoric around romantic love can be somewhat problematic. The idea that you need to find your “better half” in order to make you whole inadvertently sends a message that you’re not good enough on your own. It can make someone feel as though there is a void that must be filled by another. The “you complete me” trope that has been recycled for decades in popular media only reinforces the notion that one must have a partner in order for their dreams and aspirations to be self-actualized.
The fact of the matter is that no one person, or persons, can or should have that type of power over your life. Instead of searching for someone to complete you, it may be more beneficial to look for a partner who can complement you and the qualities and attributes that you each individually bring to the table. Having a strong sense of self can only enhance a partnership because you’re not seeking external validation, which is fleeting, and ultimately unfulfilling. While it’s common to care about how we’re perceived, it becomes harmful if we end up warping ourselves in order to appease others. Being able to stand strong in knowing who you are can positively impact both you as an individual and you as a partner.
What are some ways to maintain your own identity while in a relationship?
Make sure to be intentional about carving out solo time for yourself to do things separately from your partner. Whether you enjoy going to Sunday matinees or spending some time meditating, it’s essential to make time for yourself. Time away from one another can relieve stress during times of turmoil, as well as make for more interesting conversation when you’re sharing how your day was.
Work on cultivating and fostering outside friendships/relationships. While it’s wonderful if you consider your significant other as your best friend, it’s important to have friendships outside of your relationship. In reality, as equally yoked and compatible as you may be, no one person can fulfill all of your needs. This can alleviate pressure on both you and your partner’s end.
Utilize supportive resources, such as individual counseling/therapy. There is a common misconception that people only go to therapy when something catastrophic or traumatic has occurred. While it can be used in those scenarios, therapy can also be sought out to gain clarity or process life decisions. Additionally, therapy is a space where you can be provided with tools to better communicate your needs, feelings, and boundaries.
Codependency typically doesn’t support the formation of healthy relationships, whether they be platonic or romantic. While being a partner can be a significant part of your identity, it shouldn’t be your sole identity. Feeling as though you each complement each other allows for your individual qualities to be highlighted, while also not placing additional pressure to be “everything” to one another. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup.