Maintaining the ‘Me’ in ‘Us’
Falling in love can be a wonderful thing, especially when it comes at a point where all hope is lost in finding it. But over time, not maintaining autonomy in a relationship can be VERY damaging to both our romantic and platonic connections.
At some point, most of us have been guilty of neglecting ourselves, our hobbies and those close to us “in the name of love.” Many times, people are so wrapped up in their relationship that they forget that each person has a life that extends well beyond just the two of them. They say that two halves make a whole, but that’s only true when chopping fruit. It is important that two people arrive in love as complete as possible. No, I’m not saying that you have to be perfect to have a successful relationship. You just have to be able to stand on your own two feet when all hell breaks loose.
Life is about navigating peaks and valleys. Things are bound to come up, and if you’re lucky enough, you have a strong mate to face those challenges with you head on. While providing support and commitment is essential to having a successful relationship, knowing the difference between dedicating the right amount of time and effort to maintaining the relationship and just plain obsession is also an important lesson to learn. If you’re unable to make any decisions for yourself, neglect your family and friends and/or cease to do the things that enriched your life before you met your partner, you’re in danger of losing yourself in love. In fact, you’ve already lost.
I’m not talking about the infatuation stage that everyone goes through at the beginning of a relationship. That phase is justifiable because a void that we’ve been looking to fill is no longer empty. But at some point, you have to snap out of that phase and resume your regularly scheduled programming. If you remain ALL about your relationship for too long, you run the risk of allowing anger and resentment to breed and flourish. Either your partner is going to feel obligated to spend ALL of their time with you when they’d rather be doing something else, or you will feel resentment for giving up your life only to not receive the same treatment. You also increase your chances of losing valuable friendships that you’ve created, along with parts of you that may have attracted your significant other in the first place.
When you find a mate, they should become a wonderful addition to your world, but not become your world. You should be happy with your life and feel secure enough in your identity to the point where you do not need another person to define you. Remember: There has to be a “Me” before there can ever be an “Us.” There’s something wonderful and sexy about autonomy. So let it thrive.
YOUR TURN: How do you balance maintaining your autonomy in a relationship? Share your tips with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply comment in the section below!
Shantell E. Jamison is a Chicago-based writer, radio personality, and cultural critic. She’s also JET Magazine’s Digital Content Editor. She’s been featured on WBEZ 91.5FM, “The Monique Caradine Show,” Vocalo 91.1FM, KDKA Newsradio 1020AM, WBGX 1570AM, WYCA 102.3FM, Chicago Now, The Grio, The Black Youth Project, The Gate Newspaper and “Launching Chicago with Lenny McAllister.” Her debut book, “Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self” is available now at Amazon.com.