Relationships are meant to bring the best out of those who are in one, but it can sometimes be easy to lose yourself within one. I asked 9 people how they prevent losing themselves in a relationship (who you are, not letting it define you, etc.) and I think you may find their responses to be helpful and comforting.
1. Female, 18
Since the beginning of my relationship, I've always stressed the importance of being independent people sharing life with each other. I've emphasized the importance of spending time with each other, with us, and with our other friends, as well as having interests outside of each other. We like to share our likes of course - we introduce each other to music, movies, shows, etc. - but we also keep certain hobbies and interests to ourselves or between our friends that we originally shared them with. I once heard someone say that someone shouldn't be your missing puzzle piece; you should both be your own beautiful and complete puzzles who just happen to look really great when placed next to each other (like a beach and a sunset), and I've tried to keep that as my goal since entering a relationship
2. Male, 19
I made sure they understood I need my own time by myself; that I enjoy being alone sometimes to do my own thing.
3. Female, 19
I think recognizing that you're an individual before you were part of a team is so important. You don't want to be a clone of your significant other but complement them. Going about problems from different perspectives is a great way to see the bigger picture rather than seeing just the position you have. Sometimes your opinions will oppose each other's, and a common ground may be found, but sometimes you just have to agree to disagree. And realize that at the end of the day you are individuals, not clones. You are supposed to be different than each other to grow as individuals and a team.
4. Female, 19
Well, I would say first off to make sure you are with someone who you can be 110% yourself around them, you should never have to hide your true self from someone if they truly love you. If you have someone like that in your life, it's a lot easier to not lose yourself because you are always able to BE yourself around them! I would also say to make sure you make time for yourself, friends and family. All those other people in yourself also make up who you are and if you cut them out when you start a relationship, you will lose that aspect of yourself, so you need to make sure you have a great balance!!
5. Female, 19
Well, the most important thing I learned and something my boyfriend and I conquered really well in our relationship was how to live life alongside someone but not through them. The most important thing to remember in a relationship is that you have to continue to be your own person, and not become consumed by your partner... whether it be their mental health or yours, a family situation, life in general, you can't lose sight of yourself just because of the other person's struggles. We took one another for who we were. We didn't put our problems on the other or try and fix them, but we stood together to figure out solutions. We didn't spend every moment together, we did what we wanted to... relationships aren't only about loving the other person with all you have in you, they're also full of learning who you are as a person and how to exist in this world with someone by your side. You need to be able to step back and figure out if who you are with them, is the same as a who you are on your own. If you don't know yourself, you need to take time to figure it out and explore life.
6. Female, 20
I think there has to be a balance between being with your boyfriend, your friends, and saving time for yourself. I also think it has to do with the person you're with, because if you're in a relationship with someone who won't let you have time for yourself or friends then it's not going to be good for you. People who do lose themselves in their relationship may be told who they can and cannot hang out with or what they can and cannot do. People can also lose themselves by completely forgetting they have a life outside of hanging out with their boyfriends. Having time for yourself to do what you want is also very important because sometimes you need a break and the best way to do that is saving time to do things that revolve solely around you. So, I think finding a balance between yourself, your friends, and your boyfriend is most important in not losing yourself in your relationship.
7. Female, 21
1) Not reaching out to my partner for every small issue, upset, and wrong turn. Reminding myself: "how would I deal with this situation if I weren't dating someone?" and then responding appropriately. Just because someone is there, and just because someone cares about you, does not mean that they are the soundboard for your grievances.
2) Maintaining relationships and interests that exist outside of my partner. Going out with friends from work or school and enjoying my time with those people without checking my phone every two minutes. Keeping some of those memories, jokes, and conversations for my own memories, and not for the mutual memory of my partner and me. Understanding that by nature of having your own life outside of your partner, you're not "hiding" anything from them—you're actually cultivating your sense of self, which in turn improves your relationship and your ability to grow with your partner.
3) Making decisions without regard to how it will affect my relationship—i.e. taking that internship over the summer in a different city, far away from my partner; moving in with friends instead, not because I don't want to live with my partner, but because I may never get the chance again; traveling to visit people I love without always inviting my partner along. If you are with the right person, they will not only understand your desire for this independence, but they will encourage it. If you make every decision with the primary priority of your relationship, you will easily lose yourself and your sense of direction.
8. Female, 30
I would say it's very important to be with someone who understands that you have your own interests and relationships. My boyfriend and I have also taken an interest in each other's hobbies and built friendships with each other's friends, so it's much easier and you end up strengthening your relationship anyway with all the extra good quality time.
9. Male, 30
From my perspective, there's a difference between losing yourself in a relationship and letting a relationship change you. Your relationship shouldn't cause you to lose or suppress any part of your core identity and your partner should accept you for who you are, but at the same time, a relationship will and should change you. Relationships introduce you to a whole new world of sharing life with another person and learning to compromise, of opening yourself up completely while mining the depths of another human's soul. But all those changes are growth, not loss; you're still you, but a more evolved version of you.
Overall, I think those who are in relationships need to ask themselves these questions: Who are you without your significant other? Have you changed into someone you don't recognize or a better version of yourself? Do you have an identity outside of your relationship?