Maintaining your sense of self is certainly the easier option.
- Aim for balance. Have an agenda of your own that is flexible enough to allow you to keep up with the friends and activities that you enjoyed prior to the start of your relationship, but leaves enough time for the two of you to be alone together
- Plan together – if you share your agenda/plans with your partner in an open manner, they will feel consulted, not marginalised. This is crucial.
- You have fixed events, e.g., gym classes, work and so on, but you also need time to maintain friendships and family relationships. As your romantic partnership grows, you will hopefully both want to include your partner in events with family and friends, so should be willing to adapt your previous schedule accordingly. If this feels like having to give up on some leisure activities, don’t worry – it is about blending, so that your lives stay harmonious. NB It is a sign of trouble ahead if you or your partner are not open to this
- Have your own opinions, but be willing to hear what your partner has to say on any topic. Discuss, discuss and discuss again. Sharing feelings and thoughts builds trust and understanding
- Accept that there will be times when you will disagree. If you maintain your empathy and your willingness to communicate, they can be resolved. If you feel very cross about something, simple gestures such as touching hands and maintaining eye contact might be difficult, but they will make the disagreement less contentious, by signalling that it is just that, a difference of opinion and not evidence that you no longer care for each other
Regaining your sense of self requires empathy, strength and patience.
- Structure helps: identify a time when you are both free (after dinner, Sunday evening etc) and get into the habit of sitting down at that point once a week with your diaries/plans to share them. Once established this is an opportunity to talk about anything and everything for the two of you
- Identify a new interest you want to pursue, talk about it, but not too much. Remember you are not asking for permission; you are fitting this new pastime into your schedule. If your partner objects, be prepared show understanding of how they are feeling and suggest a trial period and some more discussion. Some partners are very sensitive to change; by the time the trial period is over they may have become accustomed to what you are proposing
- Focus on your strengths: what you bring to the partnership, what attracted your partner to you in the first place and what attracts them to you now. Whatever you build that triggers these memories will be easier for them to assimilate than something entirely unfamiliar
- Show your readiness to compromise over small things your partner puts forward. It demonstrates your generosity and openness to change and growth, which hopefully they can benefit from
- Be gentle and allow your partner adjustment time. Be ready to try again if you don’t succeed at first. It is worth trying something different at this point, by the way, to see if your partner will accept contrasting approaches. The balance in your partnership is changing, so you will need to be patient