For most of us, the relationship ideal is to be in love, merge with, and dedicate oneself to another. A common vow which exemplifies this notion is “to be as one.” In this oneness many of us slowly lose ourselves, sacrificing our wants and desires to our partnership. I’m not writing this article to shoot down anyone’s idea of the ideal relationship; I’m simply hoping to bring some balance to our values and make that ideal relationship more obtainable . By maintaining our own desires, friends, interests, and sense of self, we nourish both ourselves and our partner.

Nature teaches us this truth. Look at any system that ceases to receive nourishment: it wastes and withers away. We as people work in the same way. When our social, mental, and emotional needs are fed by the world around us, we are happier; we are whole. Being permeable, we have a capacity to give and take, which allows us to accommodate and include the other person in our new relationship. Yet one person alone is just not enough to give us the nourishment we need.

We often get elated during the honeymoon phase of a relationship. It may even be natural to spend most of your time with someone you have just met. Where most of us fall short is not seeing the importance of and reclaiming our personal life. Here are some of the most common reasons:

* Desire to merge, enmesh, and be as one, which is internalized from movies, books, and childhood fantasies
* Fear that you will lose your partner’s interest if you don’t give them what you think they want
* Perception of outside interests as a threat to the relationship, either through lost time or the chance of meeting someone better
* Fear that if you go out on a Saturday with your friend, your partner may be alone and upset
* Fear of being alone and not in a relationship, which leads you to hold on too tightly
* Lack of trust: if you don’t make plans and do things outside the relationship, you’ll have a right to ask your partner to do the same
* Perception that, after your initial excitement, any reversion to your original lifestyle and outside activities indicates you’re not that into them anymore

To maintain balance you need to be mindful of your unique patterns of losing yourself. If you tend to spend five nights a week together in the beginning of a relationship, try reducing the nights. If you are already in a long-term relationship, re-examine your needs and desires and re-establish the things that nourish you. Although you don’t have to, it can often be helpful to include your partner in this decision-making process. It can be a sign that you are healthy and wanting to take care of yourself, which gives permission to the other to do the same. If your partner finds your desire for healthy boundaries threatening, you may need to hold firm. Although initially, someone may feel threatened, over time, if you are still loving and attentive to them, they may begin to see that you are happier for it and not going anywhere. This is the balance that feeds the both of you.

By: Sevin Philips, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist


  1. sylvia on May 28, 2012 at 12:03 am

    hello, i am in a 9 month on and off relationship with my boyfriend . and i am not happy with the way we argue about everything, for example we fight over little issues turning them into big ones. first of all i am very independent individual because of my judicial familie up bringing ,being the last of four with two sisters n a brother, we were told to believe that a woman does not depend on man for anything other than protection, advice , comfort and love. since the day i met my boyfriend i stated this to him and now 9 months later i ask myself , if i made the right decision making him a part of my life. my family been african does not like black americans and he been one,because of thier attitude so they cant accept him . i and my people had fought over the relationship and still fighting. he on the other hand does not trust me because i dont call him or want to pick up his calls or text.. which most of the time i run errand for the family so am not always on my fone , when i also tell him through text that i cant call him tonite cux am tired or have a headache he takes a bitch fit . and it pisses me off that he wants so much attention from me that i cant give him , which we talk about alot .

    another example is ok if i call him d next day and we fix the issue we had the nite before, then i dont call him that nite . he gets so upset and fight me ,sayin that i dont care about him or am talkin to other guys and am like no am not i was either sick or doing something with my family which will always come first no matter how much we fight.
    i feel as though he wants a family with me and he wants us to be this ideal married couple when he is not stable with his life n am not ready for that kind of life am only 19 in college still trying to find my future n i dont see marriage or kids in it yet.. also did i forget that he is just 22 years old.

    i love him but i want him to understand me or we call it a quiet for good and just be friends

    or what do you think please help!!!

    • sevinphilips on May 31, 2012 at 9:54 am

      There is so much complexity in your relationship that I would suggest seeing a counselor , and someone with experience with relationships where two people are from different culture. I dont offer advice without seeing someone in person. if you are in a city where rcc is located dial the number, if not use to find a good therapist.
      wishing you the best

  2. Adam Echols on February 26, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Great article and reminders. Indeed we must strive to be mindful of our own needs and dissolve the bondage of fear in all its forms. Life is too precious and short to allow sabotage of genuinely loving relationships with both others and ourselves. Your articles and videos are very generous and extremely helpful. Thank you, Sevin!