Q: How do I remain myself in a relationship?
The majority of us today care about what others think. Everyone is worried about some other person’s opinion, but guess what? That’s how it’s always been. People have been putting copious amounts of energy into worrying about how others will perceive them since the first man and woman walked this earth. Just look at Adam and Eve. The second they took a bite out of that delicious apple, they both immediately thought, “Oh by gosh by golly, I’m naked! I sure don’t want them to see me this way.” Why did they talk like they were on the Andy Griftih show? I don’t know, this is my column. If you want to reference some other outdated show that none of the student body will know of, get your own column.
This awareness of how others will perceive us is extremely common among people our age. Yes, old people above the age of 35 still run into this problem, but most of those elderly individuals have grown up a little and their ego is less easily disturbed. They are more comfortable with the knowledge that they won’t ever turn out how their parents desired. But for those of us still in our 20s, we’re at a prime age to stroke our egos and become hypersensitive to how others appraise us.
The age of the internet and social media doesn’t help at all. It has just heightened our sense of comparison to one another. “Am I as cool as her?” “Do I have as much money as him?” “I wonder what those people think about me based off of my Instagram account!” According to a survey conducted in 2018 by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 90% of teens aged 13-17 have used social media in their lives. 75% of teens revealed they have at least one active social media profile, and 51% report visiting at least one social media site daily. Retaining a sense of who you are is almost impossible. Now throw all of that in a blender with a relationship and hit the turbo button: welcome to dating in the year 2022. Basically what I’m telling you is that you are screwed.
Jokes! Aren’t they funny? No, you’re not screwed. Yes, it’s possible to remain yourself in a relationship. No, it won’t be easy. Yes, I will try to help you as much as I can, but ultimately this process is on you finding, accepting, and celebrating who you are; I’m just the funny guy who’s here to give you my crappy advice. I don’t know why they haven’t shut me down yet, but just realize I do this out of the kindness of my heart. I want you all to understand that retaining a sense of self and personhood in a relationship isn’t impossible. Yes, it’ll be difficult, but it’s doable.
Taking the steps to learning who you are is key. Knowing yourself fully is impossible. Every day, you are constantly finding out new things about yourself. You are ever growing and ever changing individuals who are a world of your own. Sorry if that made you barf a little; I hope it brings you satisfaction to know that I barfed as well. You are never going to know yourself entirely, but it’s important to take time to try and get to know who you are. What are the things you like—in general and in a relationship? What makes you tick? What are your love languages? What is your enneagram? What is your astrology sign? Which My Little Pony are you? I’m Applejack. Now I know that may surprise a lot of you, but you gotta believe it. That’s what the BuzzFeed quiz said at least.
Getting a better sense of who you are, will help you to retain your personhood in a relationship. If you are unsure of your character, it’ll be easier for someone to come along and attempt to change your inner self. Make sure that you have a good grasp on who you are as a human being.
Once you begin to figure out the inner workings of yourself, you should set boundaries with your significant other. For me personally, I refuse to eat vegetables. It borders on religious doctrine for me. It’s a boundary that I set going into every relationship I’ve had: No vegetables. For you, it might be something different. Maybe it’s a sexual boundary. Maybe it’s an emotional boundary. Perhaps it’s as simple as me and my affinity toward vegetables, or maybe it’s something more serious. You are comfortable with a certain set of things that you want to do and don’t want to do. Set clear parameters that you want your partner to respect. If they refuse to do so, that’s a red flag.
Getting to know yourself better and setting solid boundaries will help in a relationship. If you understand how you work in certain situations, you can more easily communicate that knowledge with your partner so that they can be better aware of how you function. Don’t expect your partner to be in your head and understand exactly what you want. You have to talk with them! I know, scary right? Vulnerable communication can be daunting, but it is pivotal in any lasting union between two adults.
Once you’ve taken the time to discover yourself, apply clear boundaries, and communicate those boundaries to your partner, you are on the right track to retaining your personhood in a committed relationship. As always, feel free to submit your questions to email@example.com to possibly be featured in the next installation of Stupid Cupid. Thanks for reading.
Written By: Brennan Ernst