Spread out across the lavender leather love seat in our Italian Airbnb, I reflect on the last three days spent with my girlfriends in Italy. We all just turned 30. In a “Sex in the City,” style fashion, we enjoy our last evening in Rome over pasta, wine, and tiramisu.
We reminisce about our college days and take immense pride in how much has changed for the better. Aside from learning what shade of lip color NOT to wear, we each agree that these last few years have been the most turbulent, yet prized years of our lives. The very experiences we were sure would break our spirits and leave us labeled as damaged goods in fact did the opposite, and we sat in a small diner in midtown Italy more sure of ourselves than ever before.
While we each represent a small fraction of our social circle, we are all fortunate enough to be surrounded by women and men who, if asked, could clearly articulate who they are and what their intimate needs are. Naturally, our personal desires differ, but the one thing we all know for certain is how crucial it is for love to never leave you unable to recognize your own reflection.
Here are five simple ways to ensure that you do not lose yourself trying to love someone else.
1) Be clear where you don’t align.
He was something glorious to look at, but we did not share any of the same interests. Instead of expressing to him how discontent I was with his predictable routine, I pretended to be equally structured and pleased with activities that required very little physical energy. Needless to say, when I decided to part ways, he was confused. If I would’ve been honest upfront, we could have established a balance that served both of our ideas of a good life. If nothing else, we could have spared each other three months of wasted time.
You can only wear a disguise for so long before your true self begins to fight for air to breathe. Don’t bring suffering to yourself and others by denying your heart the things it so desperately requires to be satisfied. It’s better to find someone who wants the same things as you do than to force your passions on another person.
2) Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Smothering your partner is one the easiest ways to lose yourself. You don’t have to spend every second of every single day attached to your lover’s hip. Yes, being in the company of your man/woman may be your favorite way to spend your free time, but reserving time for yourself and for other things is mandatory.
Allow your lover to miss you. Don’t completely rearrange your schedule to accommodate him or her. If you had a standing class or event every week before you met him or her, keep your appointment. If you take a trip with friends every year, continue to show up. If you use your mornings to be alone and prepare for your day, stay consistent with your routine. Your spouse is not responsible for meeting all of your emotional and social needs, nor can you be the source for everything they require. Getting fulfillment outside of your relationship is a vital.
3) Don’t abandon people who have always had your back.
It’s a beautiful thing to find someone who you love and want to share your life with. While it is important to give your relationship the proper attention, it is even more important to set aside time for friends and family who supported you when you were single. Don’t be that person who disappears off the face of the earth every time they bump into, “the one,” only to resurface once that relationship has run its course.
The people in your life want nothing more than to see you happy. These same people will respect your new love if they do not feel like they are thrown to the side every time a new romance enters your world.
4) Don’t make life decisions based on your relationship.
When it’s not blind, love can be like seeing life through rose-colored glasses. If your aren’t careful, every decision you make at the height of your relationship will be based on rushing emotions and very little logic. In doing so, you run the risk of making choices that can be detrimental to your future.
I remember my freshman year of college and I was determined to study aboard. I was not sure how I was going to afford it, how it would work with my employment schedule, or if I would need to change my major. All I knew was that I wanted to spend a portion of my college year in Africa. By the time my significant other at the time finished his endless rant about how me being away for six months would ruin our three-year relationship, I decided against leaving the country. Hoping that my decision to stay in the states and finish my degree would prove my commitment to my relationship, I set my feelings aside to tend to my relationship.
I was too naive to realize that love will survive any condition, any distance, and all obstacles if it is true. You should never have to sacrifice your hopes, dreams, or passions to sustain a relationship and any person who loves you will never ask you to.
5) Don’t be obsessive.
Either you have been the friend that obsessively talks about your man/woman or you have a friend like this. Either way, it’s annoying as hell. Friendships allow you to share your secrets, vent your frustrations, and give and receive advice. However, you have to know when to give it a break. Don’t be the person who can’t be with your friends because you’re so consumed with your partner to the point where it’s as if you’re not even there. Don’t call every 5 minutes. Stop making every conversation about your love life. Forget about your problems and learn how to live in and stay in the moment with your friends.
Jazz Keyes is a community activist, poetess and a nationally certified Life Purpose and Career Coach. She has devoted a great deal of her time and energy on mastering the art of communication in order to create healthy, dynamic, long-lasting relationships. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @jazzkeyes.