You know that couple. They do every single activity together. But is spending all that time together really healthy in a relationship?
Joan recalls when she was about nine months into dating her boyfriend Matt. “We were together all the time,” confesses the 28-year-old from Point Pleasant, N.J. That meant spending a lot of it engaged in Matt’s favorite activities.
At one point, Joan was with a friend in a bar – one near Matt’s job, “so I’d be close by when he was done for the day.” After hearing about all the things Joan was doing with Matt, “my friend said, ‘seems like you’ve lost a little bit of yourself.’”
“The best relationships are where couples and partners have these wonderful lives together, but also have independent lives separately,” says relationship and sexuality expert Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., who coaches couples on the series Married at First Sight. “That someone’s identity is not solely entrenched in being someone else’s partner.”
Having some down time for yourself, “reminds us of who we are,” states Dr. Levkoff. “When lives blend so much, we take on this different identity, and we can change from who we were when we first met our significant other. We have a name and perspective” that shouldn’t be denied. And while growing with your partner is ideal, losing your identity entirely can be taxing for you, and ultimately on the health of the very relationship you’re trying to maintain.
“When all of a sudden we become so dependent and needy for the other person to be around, relationship success is highly unlikely,” Dr. Levkoff points out.
If a friend does note out that your individuality seems to be on sabbatical, there are some steps you can take to put “you” back in yourself. “This is where friends become really important. They can help reprioritize that part of your life,” of doing things you enjoyed before you were a part of couple. “That also may mean apologizing to the friends you left behind and taking some ownership for not being around,” Dr. Levkoff suggests.
Also take time to pursue your passions – even ones your partner doesn’t have an interest in. “Being so secure in who you are as individuals can make you stronger as a couple,” Dr. Levkoff shares. “It’s all about respect and trust and allowing someone to be who they are.”
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