The Love Chameleon – Keeping Your Identity in a Relationship
What makes you YOU? The chances are, you could tell me at least a half-dozen things that define you. You may even fall into a lifestyle “type” – musician, biker, hiker/camper, tri-athlete, etc. These kinds of lifestyle choices help determine who our friends are, what clothes we were, where we hang out, and how we spend our money.
Whenever you start a relationship with a new person there are 3 ways in which you can mix your defining characteristics with your new partner’s.
1. You combine them – If he’s into art house movies, she goes and participates. If she’s into triathlons, he goes and cheers her on. They take the traits and passions and mix them all up together. There’s room for separate activities, no doubt, but on the whole each person retains their interests and participates in the others’.
2. You enjoy them separately – He goes to his art house movies with his friends and she skips it. She does triathlons and he skips it.
3. One person gives up their passions – He quits going to the art house movies and become a full-time triathlon fan.
Some people have a tough time hanging on to themselves in a relationship. It may be that they aren’t that passionate about the things in their life. They may feel that dating someone who has a big interest finally gives them something to do. The end result, however, is that they fall headlong into the relationship and often take on the traits of their new partner. If the relationship ends and this partner moves on the person can feel not only that they’ve lost a lover, but they’ve also lost an entire life.
This happened to a woman I know who fell in love with a race car driver. She was a normal sort of person and his glamorous life just overtook her. She threw herself into racing and abandoned the typical hobbies that she had loved – hiking, live music, and Pilates. She became a racing fanatic. I remember seeing her and asking about a live music festival that she always attended. ”Oh, I don’t have time for that stuff anymore,” she laughed. You know how it ended. Two years later he broke up with her and the door to the world of racing slammed shut. She was lost. Her heart was broken and the things and people that she loved before the relationship started had drifted away. It was very painful.
Many people have no problem with this issue. They have a strong set of interests and friends. A new romantic interest never seems to pull them away from what they love. Others find that again and again they get lost in the life of their new love. If you’ve found that’s been an issue with you, here are some simple tips to manage this tendency.
1. Do the Work of Building Your Own Interests
The great news about this is that it can happen long before you even have a partner. Some people just work, watch TV and sleep. If that’s you, it may be time to break out of that cycle and cultivate some new interests. There are so many new ways to find people and pursue interests. Carpe Diem!
2. Invite Your New Partner into Your World
When you start dating make sure that a new person feel welcome into your world. Help them understand why you love the things you do. (Some activities are easier to promote than others.) For many people context is the key to appreciation. If you love jazz, and your new partner is lukewarm, talk with them and help them understand the music.
3. Insist on Keeping the Things That You Love in Your Life
Don’t jettison your life because it doesn’t fit in with your new love’s plans. INSIST on making time for the things you love. If you feel that your interests are constantly being set aside, raise your hand and say “Hold on. We need to talk.”
4. Realize the Limits
Once you’ve tried to share your life accept that some activities will remain yours alone. Also, feel free to say, “I just can’t get into this with you.” Establish which activities are WE items and which are ME items.
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