Maintaining Your Individuality In A Relationship

“I need some advice on a subject that I think a lot of other girls would love your opinion on as well. I’ve been living with my boyfriend for about a year (!) and have started to question whether spending so much time together is holding me back/stifling my creativity/making me a boring old maid. Although you live with your boyfriend, you still always manage to uphold a strong sense of identity, pride, and drive in yourself which is something that is important for all people, committed or not. So my question is: how do you manage to stay driven to be the individual you are while still maintaining an intimate relationship(s)?”

I think it’s not just about sustaining creativity, but primarily about maintaining your individual persona & life. I suspect that if you can do the latter, the former will come relatively easily.

I think it is very easy, when living with someone else, to lose your sense of self. I’m not exactly sure why this is. Maybe it has to do with a fear that if you’re too independent, they won’t love you as much. Maybe it’s due to a lack of self-esteem & confusion about who you really are. Maybe it just seems easier to be who your lover wants you to be than to have to face your own questions & unstable image. Regardless, it seems to happen to a lot of people. Couples start living together, or get married, & suddenly they are a unit — “We don’t like white furniture, we don’t like going out, we prefer our secret life together”. Codependence is something everyone should read up on.

While hibernating with your lover in winter can be marvellous (I feel like I should be wearing a button which says, “Ask me about the winter my boyfriend & I spent in bed watching every episode of SATC!”), there comes a point where being too reclusive is damaging. Your friends disappear, your social skills disintegrate & it’s actually scary how easy it is to become slightly afraid of the outside world. & so, we must make the effort to leave the house, to do things — alone. If your boyfriend goes out with “the boys”, do something for yourself. Go to the library, take a yoga class, see something trashy at the movies with your best friend & laugh yourselves stupid. Organise outings for yourself — go & see a fashion show or take a creative writing course — something which makes you happy.

I suspect that living together flicks a switch in some people’s brains, like, “Phew, now I don’t have to organise my own life anymore, I can just clip mine to the side of my girlfriend’s!”. It really shouldn’t be like that. Of course, living with someone you adore can be amazing, but really the only way to maintain any sanity (or your own personality) is to live seperate lives under the one roof. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s actually GOOD for you not to spend every waking hour together.

I live with my boyfriend, yes. But we don’t live in one another’s pockets. We both work from home but we have seperate offices, & so most of the day we’re busy. We’ll go out & have lunch or go for a walk, & of course the other person is there to talk to if ever we need it. But we both have things to do! So the time we spend together is great, rather than just sitting next to someone on a couch watching television every night. Do you know what I mean? We have news to tell the other person, we’ve had enough distance that we actually WANT to talk to one another, rather than doing all of these things out of obligation.

My suggestion is to work on your self-esteem constantly, unrelentingly. Realise the value of your own life. When you come to a point where you feel that your creative output is really important, your life will start to change accordingly. It might be that you have to clear yourself a space amongst all the gaming consoles where you can do some work (whether that is writing, painting or making music). It might be that you pay your friend for use of her spare room so you can go there & be creative without interruption. Or you might feel that you really do need to live by yourself in order to get anything done.

Ultimately, you are only responsible for your own happiness. If you don’t make yourself happy, who will? Think about that, & take charge! You won’t regret it — being in control of your own life is one of the greatest things in the world.