One of the easiest mistakes you can make when you fall in love is to merge at the hip with your new partner and lose your own sense of identity - to give up your sense of independence and separateness and make your new partner the center of your world. It's a fatal approach that will typically end in burning things out.
So how do you maintain your independence once you get into a relationship?
Keeping your sense of independence in a new relationship will take discipline and boundaries. It's so tempting just to forget about the life you had as a single person and instead throw yourself head first into love. There's lots of exciting sex, you're getting to know each other, you want to share new experiences together, it's fun and entertaining, and all you can think about is creating a future with this person.
But you need to remember that less is more early on in a relationship.
You must keep a balance between having your independence and being together as a couple. This will stop you from smothering each other, getting too intense too quickly, and losing your own identity.
So to help you create this balance - here are 7 ways to maintain your independence now that you're a couple:
1. Have time apart
Make sure you schedule your week so that there are regular days you have apart. Also, don't sleep over at their house every night, and ensure you have the odd Friday/ Saturday night away from each other.
2. Catch-up with friends separately
Organise to catch-up with your friends separately on a weekly basis. Whether it's a girls night out on a Wednesday or a Saturday morning golf round with the boys - do it without your new partner. It will keep you connected with your friends, you can debrief about everything and it allows your relationship to breathe.
3. Pursue individual interests and goals
You had interests and goals before you met your new partner - so don't go changing things now that you're in love! What made you attractive to this person in the first place may have been your drive and ambition. Make time in your week to go after these individual passions. Your new partner will admire this about you.
4. Express your own opinions
I realise you want to get on the good side of your partner and this can see you tend to agree with much of what they say. But the drawback of this is that you will lose your voice and instead just go along with all their values, ideas and expectations. Rather than this, when you have strong opinions and ideas speak up and let your voice be heard, be an individual.
5. Take a stand and say 'no'
Maintaining your independence is all about setting and enforcing boundaries in your new relationship. That means when you don't want to do something or feel uncomfortable about an aspect of your relationship you need to say 'no'. You need to teach your partner how to treat you and this begins with you standing up to them. It will challenge them and show them that you are your own person.
6. Limit your messaging and phone calls
One thing you must avoid at all costs is being too available to your new partner. Ready at the drop of a hat to answer their calls and texts and to constantly chase them to see what they're up to. This will appear needy and clingy, and shows you have lost your balance. Instead, limit your phone contact and messaging throughout the day. This will then give you more to talk about when you come together in the evening.
7. Slow down with meeting friends and family
You'll get plenty of time to meet your new partner's friends and family, there's no rush. Take it slow and let things evolve naturally. You want to get to know your partner first and then gradually develop your partnership together. You don't need to put pressure on yourself to become one. It will happen all in good time.
John Aiken, RSVP dating and relationship expert, as seen on the hit show Married At First Sight, and on Ch 9’s Today show, Today Extra and A Current Affair. He is a best-selling author, regularly appears on radio and in magazines, runs a private practice in Sydney, and is a sought after speaker. (www.johnaiken.com.au)