If you’re anything like me, you’re a little addicted to the feeling of falling in love with someone else. And who isn’t, really — it’s a beautiful thing. You’re getting to know someone, your stomach is full of butterflies constantly and you feel like your whole body is on fire for hours on end. There’s nothing like it!
But making a relationship last is about more than spending all your time with someone and grinning at the thought of them, no matter how fun it may be. It’s really easy to lose yourself or lose sight of what it is you’re like as an individual, as you’re throwing yourself into the butterflies and the heat of it all.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do, if you’re especially self-aware, to keep your old self and personality intact while navigating a new relationship. And if you wake up from the honeymoon phase one day and realize you don’t recognize yourself, don’t worry. You can come back from this.
1. Maintain your friendships
One of the biggest signs you’re letting a new relationship consume you is if you lose contact with your friends. Everyone expects it for a little while, and it’s okay to not be as available if you’re getting serious with someone — but you need to put in conscious effort to stay connected with your friends who, in all honesty, are going to be around for a lot longer and through much worse.
First, do it because you owe them. Second, do it because you need them. They can give you a much-needed reality check on how you’ve been acting, a breath of fresh air when you’ve been obsessed with one person and a reminder that you’re a complete person on your own.
2. Keep up with your hobbies
When you’re suddenly spending all your time with someone else, it can be easy to let the things you used to be interested in fall to the wayside. But don’t forget that you used to be the girl who sketched every Sunday with her cup of coffee; who went thrifting once a month religiously; who biked miles of trails each week. There’s no reason you can’t continue doing the things you used to, and still carve out time for a new person in your life.
Also, don’t feel obligated to take them along with you. Your new guy may not be willing to admit it, but your shopping time could be his much-needed Xbox time. Give yourselves both the space to chill out, alone.
3. Don’t blow off commitments
This is just good practice in general, but if you’ve committed to something, don’t back out. I understand the appeal of a cozy bed and a sexy someone between the sheets, but put your big girl pants on and go do whatever you said you would.
It’s easy to blow off going to brunch with the squad or going shopping with your mom, but it’s better for you and your new relationship if you hold yourself accountable when it comes to other responsibilities. It’s the easiest way not to lose yourself: just do what you said you would with other people, too. Hopefully your S.O. has other responsibilities as well.
4. Disagree sometimes
Disagreements are a natural part of communicating with anyone. Especially when we’re in a new relationship, it’s very easy to just demur or get quiet if something is said that we want to argue with, but we’re afraid of bursting the happy bubble. But that’s not being honest with yourself and it’s not going to build a strong foundation for a relationship.
So next time your beau says something problematic, or even just that you low-key don’t agree with, speak up! What happens after that will be very telling about your chances for staying together, and it’s good to have your own opinions.
5. Take a break from texting
I get how hard it is. When you love someone you want to share all your hilarious daily thoughts with them and texting has made it almost too easy. But even if you have to hide your phone for three hours, taking a break is good. It’s a relief to remember you don’t have to think about that other person constantly. Put the phone down and step away. Plus, when you’re spending time with your girlfriends, you really shouldn’t be texting your bae anyways.
6. Make plans without consulting your S.O.
When you’re in a new relationship, the feeling that you have to check with your boyfriend, just in case he had something in mind, before you make plans with someone else is hard to shake. But don’t feel obligated to always put them first if you know you don’t have plans for a night. Make plans with your best friend and don’t look back — there will be other nights to drink beer and watch Netflix with your man.
7. Find another couple who has figured it out
Whether it’s someone you’re actually friends with or someone you follow on Instagram, keeping up with another couple who has actually figured out how to balance being in love with having a life can be exponentially helpful. Seeing how other people navigate busy schedules and spending time with a special someone can be very, very useful — especially as you’re trying to figure out the rhythm of a new relationship.
If you’re close with someone in your aspirational couple, even go so far as to ask them how they do it. The problems you’re dealing with are not your own, and they’ll be happy to help you through a tough time.
8. Prioritize your own well-being
Especially when a relationship is new, you have to remember to put yourself first. If you need a day without texting, take it. If you can’t stand going to the restaurant that your S.O. loves going to, don’t. If you need to stay in one night and get some sleep, do it. You know what’s best for you, and it’s important to take a step back and critically examine what you need at different stages in a relationship and your life. No one else is going to do it for you.
9. Make a list of your goals
I know this sounds straight out of a self-help novel, but when you’re wrapped up in getting to know someone else, it can be scarily easy to forget what you wanted before what you wanted was to be with them. So make a list of the short-term or long-term goals you want to accomplish and stick to it. Even breaking it up into more manageable chunks can be good — give yourself goals to make sure you stay on track and are always thinking about what’s next for you.
10. Date yourself, too
Remember that the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. Carve out time to pamper yourself occasionally instead of waiting for someone else to. It may feel silly, but going shopping for a frothy bath bomb and a yummy candle can make you feel very good — and you don’t need another people do it. Whatever it is you do to reward yourself, whether it’s a long bath, a nice bottle of wine or a mini shopping spree, don’t underestimate the importance of giving it to yourself.
11. Call your mom
Just like maintaining your relationships with your friends can give you an important perspective, so can talking to your family. Obviously you should work to keep your partnership strong, but your close family arguably knows you better, knows your tendencies and knows when you’re not acting in your best interests. Take what anyone has to say about your relationship with a grain of salt, but if they’re worried, listen.
12. Read a book
It may seem old-fashioned, but if all else fails and you just need a way to distract yourself, get lost in a good book. It’ll kill time and keep you busy and maybe best of all — it’s an individual activity. And odds are, you aren’t reading as much as you want to anyway. It’s good for you!
13. Practice self-love… physically
Okay, stay with me here. This may seem out of place on this list, but masturbation is a very important aspect of getting to know yourself. If you don’t know what you like, how can you expect someone else to? Take time to understand what works for you sexually, as well as what works to keep your mind busy. You won’t regret it.
14. Say no if you want to
Just like it’s okay to argue, it’s also okay not to always say “yes” just because your new beau suggests something. If he wants to go to a sushi restaurant and you hate sushi, say no. If he wants to stay in and watch Netflix when you were really looking forward to going dancing with a big group, say no. You’re not responsible for being the most agreeable — you’re responsible for making sure you’re having a good time.
15. Support yourself
It can be tempting to give into the idea of a whirlwind romance, especially when you have a new relationship that’s still in the honeymoon stage. Moving in together or buying expensive gifts for your partner seems like a great way to show passion, but there’s nothing romantic about spending all your money or getting yourself into a situation you can’t get out of. Not that there aren’t exceptions to the rule! Sometimes things like that are a good move for people. But you need to, again, put yourself and your well-being first. As a good rule of thumb — don’t do something that would make your mom say she taught you better.
16. Spend some time single
This may not be advice that you can take now, at the beginning of what could turn into a beautiful new relationship. But if somehow you find yourself single again, consider staying that way for a while. Take the items on this list and truly find out how to be comfortable alone. Your next relationship will be even stronger for it.