You don't have to give up your independence to create a connected, lasting relationship!
You promised yourself it would never happen again.
Over the course of a romantic relationship or marriage, you woke up one day and realized that you stopped being you. Maybe you noticed you were wearing clothes that just weren't your style. You heard yourself talking and it sounded nothing like you. Even the way you walked and interacted with others was radically different than it had ever been. Worse yet, your friends and dear family members felt rejected and hurt because you were spending less time with them and couldn't be in their lives the way you used to and want to — all because you were caught up in an all-consuming relationship.
It wasn't necessarily the fault of the man or woman you were with at the time, either. It just happened. Somewhere along the way, you sacrificed yourself because that's what you believed you had to do for your relationship.
You gave up your independence, and now that you're past that phase, you've vowed never to repeat that mistake again!
The trouble is, it's tough to find a partner and create a close and connected relationship when you're always on your guard against "threats" to your independence. The people you date get angry when you fiercely protect your privacy and only reveal so much about yourself. They get jealous when you purposely leave them out of certain areas of your life and don't share your interests with them. They accuse you of being "suspicious," "commitment-phobic" and worse.
Actually, you do want to be in a great relationship, and you are open to commitment with the right person. But you're clear that you do not want the sort of commitment where you have to lose yourself in order for the relationship to survive.
It's helpful to learn from what didn't work in the past. Be aware if the person you're with starts demanding you cut off communication with your friends and other loved ones, or if he or she tries to force you dress, talk or do things that aren't comfortable or okay with you. That's abusive, and it's the sign of a relationship that's probably unhealthy for you to stay in.
But if these extreme sorts of demands aren't coming from your partner, recognize where they're coming from. Often, they originate from within you because of what you believe a successful relationship requires. What's helpful to remember is that you don't have to ever again go through losing yourself like this. You also don't have to choose between your independence and being in a healthy love relationship. But watch out and make sure you aren't reacting in the completely opposite direction either!
Challenge Your Expectations
People who have come out of a relationship feeling like they've lost themselves tend to walk around with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Understandably, they have strong feelings and painful memories, and this comes through when they try to date, or just have a conversation with others. This may be true for you too.
There is an expectation that you have to be careful and guard your independence and sense of self as you enter into a relationship. Especially when you and your date (or partner) get closer, an inner siren goes off that says, "Don't get too close! Don't get too serious!" The belief is that, if you do, you'll have to give up who you are. When this occurs, it's your expectations that stand in the way of you being happy, content and fulfilled by your relationship. What's going on in your mind is far more powerful than anything your partner is saying or doing.
This is good news because it means you are the one who has the power to decide who you are, what you'll change, and what you'll keep the same about your habits, dress, talk, walk, who you spend time with, and who you are.
Shift Your Focus
If you want to maintain your independence and create a wonderful love relationship with your partner, a shift in what you're habitually thinking and focusing on is called for. Instead of adding to your fears and going around cautious and guarded, relax. Whether you and your partner are having a conversation about the future or making plans for the weekend, notice it when you tense up and start having thoughts like, "This will mean a loss of independence."
Get into the habit of pausing before you say "yes" or "no" to a request your partner makes. Go inside and find out whether or not this is something that truly interests you and feels good to you right now. Shift away from concerns that,"If I say yes to this, it will be a slippery slope and I'll lose myself again." And remind yourself of what's true now for you. What are you internally called to say, do, or be? Trust and honor that.
Keep reaffirming to yourself that you can be authentically who you are, maintain your independence, and open yourself up to this person who means so much to you. The more you move away from an either/or mindset and tune in to what feels good to you now, the easier this will be. If you two are a match, the relationship will unfold and develop naturally. When you free yourself from guardedness and fears of the relationship "taking over," you'll be clear about what you want, and you'll be happier too.
The way you communicate with your date or partner about your need to be independent can mean the difference between conflict and understanding. Click here to find out how to stay connected as you speak your truth with our 7 Day Communication Magic eCourse.
More Advice on Relationships from YourTango: