The Do’s and Don’ts of Staying True to Yourself in a Relationship by Emily

New relationships are exciting, fun, and eye-opening. Whether you have found yourself in a new relationship with a friend or a significant other, change occurs. I love meeting new people and sharing life with them. However, I notice that when I start a new romantic relationship I tend to dedicate all of my free time to that person. I live life like I am on vacation and don’t have a care in the world other than to get to know more and more about this person.

But, when does it get to be too much or go too far?

For some people realizing this is easy and they fix it or get out. For others, like myself, I become attached and have a hard time leaving the toxic relationship. I try to work hard and fix it before aborting the relationship all together.

I was in a relationship with my now ex-boyfriend for four years, three of which were “unhealthy.” Emotional, mental, and verbal abuse can take a toll on a person and once you are out of the toxic relationship you realize the things that both parties did wrong. It takes two people to be in a relationship and I take responsibility for letting myself fall into unhealthy habits. That is the first step in moving forward.

The scary part is I didn’t even realize it at first.

My best friends noticed the red flags that I was blinded to because I was head over heels for this guy. I began spending more time at his place then my own, I would ditch plans with my friends to hang out with him, I would do whatever he wanted to do so that we would be together, and I would switch my class and work schedule to align with his. Did you notice the repetition in the last sentence? I say continuously that I would be the one changing my life to accommodate to his. I became too available to him and lost friendships in the process. I became dependent of him.  I let him walk all over me and it wasn’t until I tried to push back and do things for myself that I realized it.

Next came the emotional, mental, and verbal abusive part.

The relationship was an emotional roller coaster of good and bad times. He would deny all cheating claims and tell me that I was crazy or it was my fault for finding out the things he did. One minute he told me he loved me and the next he was done and never wanted to talk again. He would get angry at me for everything; I was scared because I never knew the type of person I would get. If I called he was mad and if I didn’t he would still be mad. Time and time again he put me, my dreams, and my jobs down; tearing all confidence I once had. I went back to him after he cheated on me (silly me) and then found out he was even dating someone else in a different state while dating me. I was oblivious to the truth because I was “in love.” Looking back, I wasn’t in love with him or how he treated me; I was in love with the idea of who he once was.  Every time I was one step out the door he would reel me back in with his smooth words. It was harder to get out of this relationship than I thought it would be. When I chose to move and start a new career that didn’t involve me following him, he became outraged and lashed out at me. With time I finally got out and could look back at the relationship. I had time to focus on getting myself back to who I was; a strong, independent woman. I was able to see what I wanted and didn’t want in a relationship, what I deserved, and most importantly how to stay true to myself during it all. I let a relationship change me rather than allowing myself to grow for the better.

While finding myself again I came up with a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” for the future. I hope this helps anyone that may be going through a similar situation.

Dos and Don’ts

Do

1. Keep to your normal routine

It is easy to change your routine to match someone else but you have to keep to the one you had when you meet. This allows you to continue to do the things that make you happy. It gives you time to be alone and independent. It allows you to continue to love yourself and remind yourself of who you are. Love yourself first and remind yourself everyday of why you do.

2. Stick to your dreams and goals

Writing down goals and dreams and checking them off when accomplished is such a rewarding feeling. In a relationship you can have dreams and goals together but it is also important have dreams and goals for yourself. Complete these goals even if it requires you to move, change jobs, or scenery.  Do this for yourself.

3. Have friends and family time

The people in your life will respect your relationship and need for time with your significant other but don’t blow them off. Stick to your plans with family and friends and make sure you give yourself time with them. These people are your support system and they will always be there for you before, during, and after a relationship.

4. Ownership of your choices

It is easy to let other people weigh in on the decisions you make. However, it is your life and you only get one. Make the choices that you want so that you can enjoy it. During and after a relationship own up to the decisions made so that you can learn and grow from them, move on, and make new choices to better yourself at the end of the day.

5. Communication is Key

During a relationship don’t be afraid to speak up and talk about the things that are and are not working. This will create less tension and fights at the end of the day. Be honest and upfront with your feelings. After a relationship ends don’t be afraid to speak out and receive professional help if you need it. Then, when you are in another relationship be upfront about the things you have experienced and what you are looking for.

Don’t

1. Don’t ignore friends/ family input

When we are in relationships it’s easy to be blinded about red flag situations. Family and friends close to you are usually the first to see it. Listen to them and try to look at situations from different perspectives. Most importantly, trust your intuition.

2. Don’t be too available

You are your own person and have your own plans. Do not drop everything just because that person says to. This sometimes leads to people getting walked all over and then becoming dependent on that person. Stay true to yourself; stay just as independent as you were before you met them. If you become too dependent on a person and that relationship ends it could leave you feeling more lost than before.

3. Don’t think you are alone

Everyone goes through relationships, relationship problems, and much more. Family, friends, professional therapists, peers, are all around you willing to lend a shoulder or listening ear if you allow yourself to be open to it.

4. Don’t compare relationships

No relationship is the same. There is no specific time-line or steps that each one must follow. Allow each one to be new and if something occurs that may have happened in a past relationship use what your learned in your past to help improve the future of the one you are in now.

5. Don’t let it define you

You are you with or without a relationship. You are a whole person; they are not making up your other half. Do not let the relationship, events, or person change you into someone you don’t even recognize. Every relationship is a learning experience and whether you come out of it heartbroken, single, engaged, or wondering why you didn’t end it sooner there is a lesson in it. Once you understand the lesson learned you will be able grow into a person that doesn’t lose herself in a relationship.

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