Bring it to Barb

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Dear Barb,

Why does it always feel like you stop doing things you normally would do when you have a boyfriend in your life? I really don’t mean for my patterns to change, but pretty soon I am not doing the things I enjoyed doing before I had a boyfriend. Why does it feel like work? What am I doing wrong?

Signed,
Seriously Stuck

 

Dear Stuck,

What may be lacking for you is something called “autonomy.” Today more than ever we value our independence. We balk at any perceived threat of individuality.

When we get into “official” romantic relationships, a shift in perceptions often occurs. Others may see us differently, and we may feel personally transformed. This can be a blessing and a curse. The burden of expectations can make us feel trapped.

Autonomy is defined as authentically endorsing your actions with the freedom to make choices in your own best interests, reflecting your own personal tastes and values, irrespective of external pressure or anyone else’s opinion.

You want to be in relationships with people, but you don’t and shouldn’t have to give up who you are, or what you want in life, to do so.

Autonomy is a universal basic human need in cross-cultural studies. It’s not optional. When both parties are secure in themselves, there can be a mutual respect for one another’s autonomy. Short version — you’re the boss of you.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Never sacrifice your identity to someone else. It’s easy to stop doing what you want to do, just to keep the peace. It’s easy to lose who you are. Don’t make the mistake of changing who you are just to please someone else. Stand up for yourself and let the chips fall where they may. Don’t wait. It’s harder to correct a course later.
  2. Set strict boundaries with other people. Set non-negotiables with your space and time. The reality of being an adult is that everyone wants a piece of you. When you have to pay bills, meet obligations, and provide for others, it’s hard to find time for yourself. Not only is it hard to find alone time, it’s hard to feel like it’s okay to be alone! Avoid relationships with those who try to make you feel guiltyfor taking time alone.
  3. Stop feeling obligated to agree. You don’t have to care about the same things that someone else cares about. You don’t have to agree with someone on every single issue. You get to be different and care about different things, and you should be different. You are allowed to be deeply connected to things that fire you up and make you excited about your life.

You shouldn’t morph into a blended version of yourself and the other person you are in a relationship with. If you constantly let other people distract you from your goals in life, you’ll never get anywhere.

If you constantly let other people use guilt or drama to steal your attention or time, you will become resentful and your relationship will likely fail. Many couples spend years pretending or camouflaging their true interests and realize that all they needed to do was to be themselves, sometimes by themselves.

Maintaining your independence in who you are and what you want isn’t often celebrated as a shining characteristic of relationship harmony, but it certainly should be!

Healthy relationships are established on the foundation of people having a mutual respect for one another’s autonomy.

Relationships are continuous work, concentrate on being comfortable to be yourself and own it, you will protect your goals and your sanity. Actually, by simply refusing to lose yourself in your relationships you’ll find people will quickly gravitate to you because you have purpose and direction, watch and see.

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