People forget who they were before they got into a relationship, marriage, or partnership. They get lost in the mundane part of life – kids, work, chores – and forget to focus on each other. Everyone comes first except the relationship and each other’s individual needs.
It is extremely important that you put your needs first, then your partner’s needs second, and then your child’s needs third. Yes, younger children will need more of your time and attention. However, if you don’t carve out time for yourself and for connection with your partner, your relationship will suffer. The chasm you create will just keep getting bigger and bigger.
People come together, first as individuals. You have individual likes/dislikes, values, philosophies, personalities, and what’s important to you. If you stop doing the things that matter to you, and fulfill you as an individual, you will start to resent your partner and that is a relationship killer. It is not your partner’s responsibility to fulfill all of your needs.
If you feel you’ve lost a part of your self-identity, here’s an exercise you can do to start to reassess where you are at and what needs to change in order to get back to the person you want to be.
First, close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and then visualize the person you were before the relationship, maybe even further back to your early 20s. What did you want from your life? What was your personality like? What career did you want to do? Did you want to be married? Have kids? What did you like to do? What brought you joy, happiness, laughter, playfulness? The older we get the more serious we get with life’s responsibilities and we forget to have fun. Did you like this version of yourself? If yes, why? Does that part of you still exist? If not, where/why did she go away? If no, why? Have you grown from that person? If so, how? Start bringing back those parts of you that you like and are currently missing.
Second, I want you to write down some major themes in your life about what is important to you. For example, family, career, travel, spirituality, gardening, etc. Whatever is important that you need to have and do in your life. Then, put a percentage to each of these themes for how much it is currently taking up time in your life. The total needs to add up to 100%. Now, plot this on a pie chart to really see the disparity. For many people, work takes up the majority of time. This will help you to see how unbalanced your life is. If you really love to travel, but travel is 0-1%, then you are missing out on a big part of what you need and want. Then decide what percentage you want each to be. Again, adding up to 100%. Then in order for those areas to increase, it means you have to drop something from your life to create more room for the things that matter to you. Finally, create action steps to achieve the things you want.
When it comes to prioritizing your needs with your partner, you need to ensure you are spending quality time together, just the two of you, as a means of connection and growth as a couple. If you are growing only as individuals, or one person is growing as an individual and not the other person, again you will grow apart from each other. And when I say together, I don’t mean folding laundry. I mean going out on dates, having fun, talking about where each other are at, being playful, and laughing. There is just too much stress on everyone already, and laughter truly is the best medicine.
People are changing constantly, so get to know each other by asking some important questions about the person individually, but also where you are at in the relationship, and any concerns or things that need to be addressed. You need to know if you are still on the same page and that only happens with an open curiosity and dialogue. Ask questions in all areas of your lives: work, kids, travel, spirituality, hopes, dreams, goals, etc.
We need to take some time for self-reflection and assess where we are at in life, if we’ve veered off in the wrong direction and need to make a course correction, or if we are just seeking to better ourselves, grow, transform, and the same in your relationship.
Find out more about self-identity and connecting with your body to find those answers in the multi-award-winning book Embodied: How to Connect to Your Body, Ignite Your Intuition, and Harness Universal Energy for Healing.