How to preserve our individuality and identity in a live-in relationship

How to preserve our individuality and identity in a live-in relationship

When in love, our souls are battered by two anxieties — the fear of losing either the person we cherish or our own identity looms large

Somi DasUpdated: Sunday, June 18, 2023, 01:27 PM IST
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Living with someone we love is a spiritual test that encompasses myriad possibilities and challenges. The decision to invite another person into our physical and psychological space is both a source of immense joy and the most arduous task one can undertake. It is akin to having a constant mirror walking beside us, reflecting our physical projections and innermost anxieties back to us.

When in love, our souls are battered by only two anxieties — the fear of losing either the person we cherish or our own identity looms large. When we fully give ourselves to another person, there is a genuine risk of losing sight of who we are. At times, we become so immersed in meeting their needs that we forget to nurture ourselves. Weight gain, missed deadlines, a cluttered home, and diminishing connections with loved ones serve as indicators that we may be slipping into the trap of codependency rather than true coexistence.

One must identify these symptoms early on to not end up stabbing the other with the dagger of ‘I did so much for you’. The ‘doing’ is for the other, but it also satisfies an innate psychological need in us that might have skipped our attention. Understanding our own motivations and needs is an integral part of maintaining a healthy sense of self within a relationship. Why do some of us give so much of ourselves to others? Is it ‘selflessness’? Is it our tendency to see people as ‘projects’? One must not escape self-examination even when one is perceived as the ‘giver’.

Having said that reciprocation lies at the core of human relationships, and for a harmonious coexistence, this dance of give-and-take must persist. Living together is like an intricate dance; every step counts, and neither partner can outperform the other. When our loved ones take a leap of faith and trust us to catch them, we must not let them down. However, amidst this dance, do we risk losing access to our own interior lives? Does it mean that we cease to be our own person?

Certainly, there is an element of socialisation that occurs when we choose to live with another. We may adopt new habits or let go of old ones to accommodate our partner’s needs. These physical adjustments are a natural part of cohabitation. Yet, what happens to the deepest recesses of our mind when our solitude, our life force, is intertwined with that of the person we love most?

Maintaining our individuality and nurturing our interior lives while sharing a living space can be a formidable challenge. However, it is a project that we must not abandon, for to do so would be to forsake ourselves. It is essential to cultivate interiority even in the presence of another. Our minds need space to wander, to engage in introspection, and to engage in prattle with our own thoughts.

Creating and preserving a sense of self amidst the ebb and flow of cohabitation requires conscious effort. It involves carving out moments of solitude, allowing our minds to delve into personal reflection, and embracing activities that fuel our individual passions. It means recognising that while we share our lives with another, we are still distinct beings with unique perspectives, desires, and dreams. It is a delicate balance, where we learn to harmonise our shared experiences with our individual journeys.

Living with another person asks us to embrace vulnerability, communicate honestly, and constantly strive for personal growth. Living with someone else is a continuous invitation to explore the depths of our being, to grow alongside another, and to discover the boundless potential of human connection. It may be the most difficult thing we ever do, but it also holds the promise of profound fulfillment, transformation, and a love that transcends the boundaries of the physical world.

A genuine connection is a sacred and profound experience. And a true connection should be able to withstand the test of time and the waves of self-assertion.

(The writer is a mental health and behavioural sciences columnist, conducts art therapy workshops and provides personality development sessions for young adults. She can be found @the_millennial_pilgrim on Instagram and Twitter)

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