How to Focus on Yourself Without Leaving Him Behind

My Relationship (For Better or Worse)

I love the moments when I can legitimately bring up my boyfriend without just sounding like I’m back in high school having sex for the first time. When I can talk about my relationship in a meaningful way that might help other people.

Okay, maybe I’m ruining it with the editorialization. Whatever, he’s awesome.

I love being a couple. I’m good at it. I make a really good “nagging housewife.” (You could even ask him, he’ll probably agree after the number of times I’ve forced him to drink water, take medicine, and take out the trash). But as much as I enjoy having someone who has to cuddle me and watch my favorite TV shows, there’s a downside to this whole committed relationship thing, too.



I’m a homebody. Sitting on the couch, watching Netflix, and reloading Facebook is my idea of a nice Saturday. (Especially in the winter.)

My boyfriend isn’t. Previous to getting with me, he spent most of his time outdoors. He was fairly active and usually on the go. He walked a lot, road his board a lot, and generally did things.

Yeah, I feel a little guilty for dragging him into my housecat lifestyle. But man, does he make a good pillow. Besides, he really loves my Xbox.

While we may be living my lifestyle, we both tend to drag each other down. Unfortunately, our motivation to stop being coach potatoes never strikes at the same time. We’ve become so used to doing everything together that it’s hard to get excited about something the other one has no interest in.

Being “Committed” In Your Early Twenties

Since I started dating, I’ve only been single for one extended period of time. My relationships tended to hit one right after the other. My last relationship (previous to my current) broke that cycle for me.

It wasn’t a disaster because it taught me a lot. He was good person who I’m still on friendly terms with. But we were a whirlwind. We broke up four times. We got engaged. I got drunk and kissed his sister’s boyfriend—hey, I’ve grown a lot since then, okay? Then I chose living in the ghetto in a one bedroom apartment with four other people, two dogs, and a baby over staying with him.

The underlying problem was that I did not want to be in a relationship. I got with him when I was 18, straight out of another two year relationship. By the time I was 20 I was exhausted by commitment. There was no way in hell I was getting married before I got to sow some wild oats. I was single for about eight months until getting with my current boyfriend.

In a recent post on her blog Wander Onwards, Vanessa shared a list of things to do instead of settling down by age 23. She outlines what’s wrong with the idea and poses her own solution.

I’ve got to say, I mostly agree with her. The problem with being committed at such a young age is that it is too easy to lose yourself—or never find yourself. You are still growing in your twenties. As my mother is so fond of saying,

“Your frontal lobe isn’t even fully developed yet.”

It’s dangerous to grow up defining yourself in terms of someone else. I want to urge others to avoid that quagmire.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in love with my boyfriend and I have all intentions of making it work. But you have to be aware of what you’re doing. You have to make a conscious effort to define yourself apart from your partner.


  • Be your own motivation. This goes for life in general, not just romantic relationships. Do not let other people define your interests. Let activities bring you joy independently and you will attract like-minded people. In a relationship, don’t let your partner’s negative comments dissuade you from doing something you love. For example, my boyfriend has been playing GTA V for the past six hours, despite my huffing and puffing. He truly enjoys pretending to be a gangster.
  • Plan separate activities. If you get too accustomed to doing everything together it will become harder and harder to do things apart. Get used to doing things apart. It’s kind of like a muscle you have to exercise. Plus, it’ll give you something more to talk about than, “Remember when we did that really cool thing?” “Yeah, I was there.”
  • Encourage only good habits. My worst habit is sleeping too much. I love sleeping. I’ll sleep for ten hours a night and feel perfectly justified. But then I’ll take a nap. And then I’ll get mad about something and go back to bed entirely. Or stressed. Or if I get bored I sleep, too. It’s kind of my fallback. However, I don’t encourage my man to do the same. I don’t try and convince him that he should sleep half the day way, too. I do encourage him to go to the gym with me. I will lightly jab him until he puts his shoes on and comes with me. I’ll encourage him to eat a salad with me instead of just chips. Practice only pushing your good habits on your significant other and encourage him to do the same for you.
  • Keep some mystery. I don’t tell my boyfriend about everything I do right away. In fact, he knows I’m a writer, but I don’t think he knows about this blog. Mystery does two things for a relationship: One, it means you can constantly be learning about each other. Two, it keeps you from getting discouraged if your partner is less than thrilled about your new hobby. (For example, I don’t know if mine would be excited that I’m posting about his GTA V addiction, but when I do tell him, it’ll definitely give us something to discuss!) As long as you’re not hurting one another or being “sneaky,” it’s fine to have interests that the other doesn’t enjoy or appreciate.

Share Your Perspective

Share your perspective in the comments below! Are you looking for ways to define yourself while keeping your partner close? Are you young, married, and believe you’re way happier than me? Let me know, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

[Photo Credit: “Love,” Flickr jmscottIMD]


3 thoughts on “How to Focus on Yourself Without Leaving Him Behind

  1. I love every word of this. Every. Word. My boyfriend and I had a fight about these very things recently. We realized that we spent entirely too much time together and that we don’t allow ourselves to develop separately so that we have even more to contribute to our relationship. Very good points here!

    • Glad you liked it, Sydney! I always try to remind myself that we fell in love with each other as separate people with all our differences. If we meld into one being where does all the excitement go?! I’m happy you and your boyfriend found a way to cope, too :)

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