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About six months into my relationship, my friends casually mentioned that my partner and I have the same behavioural patterns – They alluded to the way we talk, walk, and dress amongst other things.

Were we losing our individuality in this relationship? Upon reflection, I thought about the saying ‘’two beings become one and yet remain two’’ by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. 

The response to my question was beautifully explained by Relationship coach Dudu Madonsela in an Instagram live she did with Olwethu Leshabane.

‘’We have been sold this toxic thing that, if you get married and embrace certain characteristics, or elements of you change, it means that now you have succumbed to the man and are not honouring yourself,’’ says Madonsela.

She further continues to state that people need to understand that as individuals, we evolve to express our individuality in various ways. Sometimes that may involve adapting your partner’s character traits.  

Different as we may be, having commonalities in our relationships is great. Embracing those commonalities doesn’t mean you are losing your identity; it forms part of your togetherness as a couple. 

What Is Togetherness? 

Relationship coach Angela Ambrosia defines togetherness as;

‘’The “how” of being with someone and enjoying the journey. Togetherness is not what you can get from the person, it’s what you can discover about yourself – as you learn to understand someone, it is the magic of what happens when two people come together and you create a feeling, a moment, a game, and a memory that never existed before.’’

In a romantic relationship, this is where partners find each other. It is the various aspects of your being that build up the notion of ‘becoming one.’ 

However, the notion of becoming one is misunderstood. 

Madonsela says, ‘’people make the mistake of thinking that when we become one, others won’t tell the difference of where I start and where my partner begins. You are two individuals who are coming together to form a new story.’’

The notion of becoming one is a struggle for many people. In this webinar, clinical psychologist Viwe Dweba debunked the idea of ‘becoming one,’

‘’We are not one person; we are one team, but we aren’t in fact one person. You are each your own person, and it’s important for you to maintain that in the relationship because enmeshment is also not healthy. A relationship will not thrive when people are enmeshed.’’

When enmeshment exists within a relationship, it can make it difficult for a person to initiate close relationships with other people. Even when an enmeshed partner forms outside relationships, their partner may intrude on those relationships.

Maintaining Your Individuality

Making an effort to attend to needs of self is pivotal. My partner and I have spoken in detail about how I prioritise ‘alone time.’ This priority sometimes affects our bonding time as I have to detach for a while, in order to be fully present in the time that we spend together. 

Psychotherapist Dr Deborah Hecker suggests that personal boundaries are helpful in maintaining our individuality in relationships. 

‘’They protect our sense of personal identity and help guard against being overwhelmed by the demands of others,’’ states Dr Hecker.

Tips To Maintain Individuality In Your Relationship

If you would like to revive a sense of self/individuality, apply the following tips:

  • Amongst couple goals, also pursue individualistic goals.
  • Learn when and how to say no.
  • Alert your partner about your ‘’me time.’’
  • Nourish other non-romantic relationships.
  • Make time for your hobbies.

Having a balance of togetherness, individuality, and understanding that you and your partner are a team sets the basis of having a peaceful relationship. 

Keep in mind that individuality is essential; do not lose yourself in a relationship.