Maintaining individuality in a loving relationship requires quite a bit of self awareness and sensitivity all around. If you're codependent or an adult child of an alcoholic (ACoA), you're likely to be subsumed by the needs of your loved one. You start by never thinking of your own likes and dislikes. Next, boundaries go out the window altogether. Finally, the other person completely eclipses you, and you're secretly full of resentments.
Maintaining Individuality Is A Balancing Act
Recovering from codependency requires me to be hyper vigilant about so many things. I have to be:
- Aware of boundary setting: what behaviors are not okay with me.
- Able to communicate my needs while still being concerned and caring for the other person’s well-being. I can't be selfish.
- Willing to let go of control and accept that relationships have two sides both with standards and expectations. I can't be a dishrag and let my partner rule my life.
I had to do a lot of work to understand what my own individuality looks like. Through codependency recovery, I learned to value of my own self-worth and self-esteem. I defined my own likes and dislikes. Humility has taught me my right size. Most importantly, I can only control my own actions. I can't control the actions of others. There's a lot to remember.
The poet Rainer Maria Rilke put it this way.
Once we realize that even between the closest human being infinite distance continues to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up if they succeed in loving the distance between them, which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. A good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his individuality.
An ideal intimate relationship, whether marriage, friendship, or partnership, follows this recipe:
- Accepting the other person as an individual with wants, needs, and desires
- Their needs and wants do not always coincide with our needs and wants
That is where respect is born and acceptance lives.
7 Tips For Maintaining Individuality In A Loving Relationship
- Limit text messages to partner, spouse, friend. Do not to be over bearing and snoopy.
- Limit phone calls. Everyone works or has outside interests. You don't need to be on the phone together at all times of the day. There will be plenty of time to discuss later.
- Keep relationship with friends. Meet with friends on a regular basis, on the weekend too, without feeling guilty that a partner is on his/her own during a weekend night.
- Have one's own interest groups that have nothing to do with a partner, such as a book club, playing mahjong, or a special recovery meeting.
- Go solo. Whether at the gym or learning a new skill by yourself, don't worry about if your partner would enjoy it too. Rather share all these new experiences later.
- Travel solo. Visit an out of town friend or family member on your own.
- Be present. Make the most of your time together. When you're with a partner, enjoy the moment. Don't spend the time thinking of 10,000 other things that need to be done.
I am, and need to be, myself. And you are you. We can love each other with balance and care, as long as we can trust ourselves not to slip into old habits that can hurt.