I firmly believe that our relationships should not define us entirely. Who are you when your spouse is at work? With their friends? Visiting family? Your relationship is, of course, a huge part of your life and will define many parts of the life you build together. This is no reason to lose sight of who you are when you’re alone.
There’s an art to balancing yourself as an individual – giving attention to that self, doing things you enjoy by yourself – and yourself as part of a partnership, or multiple partnerships. Come to think of it, this applies to friends too. For my single girls out there who are living it up and building a life with your close friends (I see you, and I support you.), you are still your own person and not just a member of a friend group.
So here are my thoughts and tips for embracing your identity when you’re alone and balancing it with your identity as its related to other people:
So you say you’re thinking of taking a class on something or trying out a new activity – you don’t always have to invite everyone else who may enjoy it. You’re not obligated to include them every time. You get to make a decision about when it’s something you want to invite them to do with you and when you want to branch out on your own.
Just because you didn’t invite your partners or close friends to this thing you’re doing for yourself doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Maybe you’re catching a yoga class or joining a community sports team. You can meet new people and enjoy a social activity all for yourself. This isn’t about developing yourself in isolation so much as having a self that isn’t described in relation to another person.
Think of it this way, if you join a community sports team with your partner you’ll be people who joined as a couple – referred to by others on the team as so and so’s partner, etc. But if you join without your partners you can be known for traits that are all your own, like your humor or your skills.
Maybe you’ll have something you always do with your mom, or a sibling. Someone who has known you outside of your current relationships and will appreciate you in that light. This walks a line in that if your activity involves other people like a team or class you might still end up defining yourself in that activity by your relationship to the family member you joined with. That being said it’s a balance between being defined by your relationship to someone else and being known as your own person by the people around you.
You don’t have to have your set of things that you pick right now, and are all yours, and you do them forever. Maybe there’s a series of new things you try or seasonal activities you enjoy. It’s more about spending time valuing yourself and nurturing your own identity, and less about consistency in how that time is actually spent.
It’s one of the few areas in our lives where I don’t think consistency is particularily important for success and growth.
When you do fall in love with somthing you might end up inviting people from your important relationships to join you in it after all. Why deny them the chance to enjoy it just because it started as something you did without them?
There can be other things you do without them, as long as you’re paying attention to giving yourself that time. Not to mention, if you’re inviting someone into an activity you’ve established yourself in you’ve already escaped totally defining yourself by your relationship to them at the outset.
All in all I think it’s easy to do things with our partners because they make us feel safe. That’s why they became our partners, right? It’s part of loving each other to offer comfort and support to each other, and it’s easy to want to bring that comfort and support with you on new adventures. In a world where I have three partners who I enjoy spending time and trying new things with I have found the importance of remembering who I am when I’m on my own. It’s a matter of knowing that appreciating and nurturing my own identity does not diminish my relationships or how fully I give myself to them.
What’s your fave hobby that your partners choose to sit out of?