I’ll never forget the time a coworker of mine pulled me to the side to say, “You know what I like about you? You’re not afraid to go to things by yourself. I like how independent you are.”
It was true. Concerts, art museums, parties, baby showers, it didn’t matter what it was- I would go and support my friends no matter what, and I would normally go by myself. As a single woman in New York, there’s constantly things to do, and with friends who are as busy as you are, eventually, you have to come to terms with the fact that you are going to go to a lot of things alone. I did it so often that I became most comfortable going alone to things (museums and book talks were my favorite), and then I got in a relationship.
This isn’t a knock against my current (and hopefully long term) partner, it’s more of a knock against what I’d like to call my inner strength and preservation of purpose: me time.
In the beginning months of the relationship, I still took a lot of time for myself (fighting the fact that I was now sharing my life with someone else). I would go on solo beach trips to read, museum trips to think, and then, that time that I so often loved to spend alone became “dates”…we would go to brunch and then an art gallery, or a friends concert at a local bar. And, it was convenient…a way of “killing two birds with one stone” if you will; we got to hang out as well as do the things that we wanted to do.
But, what slowly happened was that over time, my “me time” became “us time,” and I started to lose a sense of myself.
Mind you- I’ve got a very strong sense of self, so don’t get too worried over there! My inspiration to write dwindled, I hadn’t painted in months, and it just felt like my inner artist was becoming overshadowed by another title I’d accepted- girlfriend. Once I recognized this, I started putting my foot down. We would spend Friday and Saturday together, and then Sunday, I would wake up and go to a bookstore, or take myself to a movie. And, at first, it sucked. I wanted him to go to the movie with me; he would have loved the book I found at the store. But that’s the whole point. A relationship is a partnership (or at least that’s what we are working toward) and you can’t contribute to a partnership if you’re one person, doing the same things, always spending time together, because that individuality that, a) you love about yourself and b) your partner loves about you, slowly goes away. The good thing about this conundrum is that it’s way easy to fix.
Dedicate time during the weeknights for yourself (and friends). For me, its yoga with a girlfriend, or Netflix at home by myself.
Dedicate time for the relationship. I hate the concept of having set “date nights,” so we don’t have a set day each week that we spend time together. It makes it feel more fluid and organic, but generally speaking Friday and/or Saturday is reserved for us to spend quality time together. The rest of the week is fair game.
Do the things you love. Often. I love writing and reading, and going to shows by myself (theatre, movies, music, etc). And when I go to these things alone, I’m able to dig into my private thoughts and experience myself on another level, which is really important to me. You may love biking, or going shopping, so do that! It doesn’t have to be complicated, just remember what makes you happy and spend time doing it.
Me time doesn’t just have to be for those in relationships. Seriously. One of my life mantras is to do things alone. It makes you more independent and less reliant on others. No one is asking you to go to Paris by yourself (although I did it, and it was FANTASTIC) but just make sure you’re taking time each week for fun, solo time.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself. At this point we are all growing into the adults we will be and that takes time and cultivation and a lot of experiences. So get out there and experience them. My relationship with my partner helps me experience things I never had before (like Pho or NYC hiking) and my relationship with myself helps me to experience others. It’s all part of the journey, so get out there and live. Obviously, I’m no expert, and as this is a new relationship, there will be things that I must overcome along the way, but the biggest thing I’ve realized is that space and time for yourself help propel the relationship along. You’ve got things to discuss that you didn’t do together, time spent together is more exciting, and you’ve got little “me” secrets that are just yours to cherish. And no, I’m not talking about flirting with the hot guy at the bar… I’m talking about seeing beautiful paintings on a Saturday night at The Met, or reading a funny passage in a book that reminds you of your childhood, etc.
Just remember while having another person around is wonderful, it’s also just as wonderful to spend some date time with yourself!