Dear Level

Sorry, But You’ll Never Be ‘One’ With Your Partner

The key to a happy relationship: Don’t lose yourself

Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

When you get married or settle down, there’s this popular idea that you have to become one with your person. This concept is even a part of some marital vows. Thing is, it ruins more relationships than it saves.

The truth of the matter is that, like it or not, you’ll always be a singular individual, even when you’re no longer single. This reality means that over the years you will likely grow at a different speed, time, and direction than your partner. For most couples, when one person’s growth is not complementary to that of their mate, it means certain doom for their relationship. For more compatible couples, however, even though each person is constantly growing and changing, the speed, timing, and direction of that growth melds beautifully with their partner’s.

Choosing a compatible partner can’t be rushed. It takes years to get to know someone and ensure their trajectory is compatible with yours. Unfortunately, most of us are rushing in and out of relationships without fully understanding to whom we’re committing. Even worse, it often takes years for a fake perfect partner to drop their mask and reveal their true self. By the time they do, the relationship is already knee-deep in commitment. These scenarios are all the more reason why it’s vital that you never aim to be one with your partner and that you, instead, remain an individual in your relationship.

Being an individual doesn’t mean being selfish. On the contrary, the healthiest relationships are where two whole individuals come together for one common purpose and goal. Life is not a scene from Jerry Maguire; no one is supposed to complete you. Instead, you and your partner should come to the table as fulfilled individuals, and you should be careful not to wrap your identity and purpose into your person.

In other words, work with each other; don’t become each other.

When you and your partner understand that it’s better to remain singular individuals rather than trying to become one with each other, a weight is lifted off your relationship. Neither of you will feel guilty for having hobbies, friends, or goals that are just yours. Plus, because you have your own identity, you won’t try to make your partner feel guilty for having theirs.

Losing ourselves in a relationship never ends well. At some point, we begin to miss who we were before we traded our singularity for the “we” and “us” of it all.

Being a complete adult human means you’re not looking to your partner for validation or healing. It means you have a therapist to help support your personal growth in and out of your relationship, whether or not the two of you are in couple’s counseling. It means that if your partner doesn’t agree with or participate in your goals, the show still goes on. So, if you and your partner have gained some unwanted weight and you’re determined to get back into shape, but she’s feeling a little lazy, try your best to get her on the same page as you. But if she’s still not responsive, stay on your path and accomplish your goal without her. Hopefully, your progress will inspire her to get healthier. And if not, at least you haven’t failed yourself.

All too often, men and women enter into relationships as themselves only to become people they no longer recognize. Sometimes we change by mimicking our partners in an attempt to become one unit, or we allow them to change us in an effort to limit our self-sufficiency and make them feel more secure. Either way, losing ourselves in a relationship never ends well. At some point, we begin to miss who we were before we traded our singularity for the “we” and “us” of it all.

No matter how much you try, you will never be your partner, and your partner will never be you. Allow yourself and your mate the space to remain individuals inside your relationship. Create and maintain a level of happiness and identity that is separate from but complementary to your partner. Do things and create habits together just as much as you do apart. Hold no secrets, but hold the line between what’s “mine” and what’s “ours.” This way, when all is said and done, you will never forget who you are or the identity of the person you love.

3x New York Times bestselling author, copywriter, and columnist.

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