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We asked Barbara Peters, a relationship counsellor and the author of The Gift of a Lifetime: Building a Marriage That Lasts (Authorhouse, 2009), to share her tips on how to avoid losing yourself and your independence in a new relationship.
1. Stay true to yourself
When a relationship is first beginning, it's easy to focus on your new partner and to put his needs before your own. To ensure this doesn't happen, make sure you truly know who you are so that you can remain your own person.
Ask yourself some important questions and answer them honestly, suggests Peters. For instance, determine what you do and don't like about yourself. Ask yourself what your values are and what you enjoy doing.
"Don't change your everyday habits and enjoyments for him," says Peters. "You have your likes and dislikes for a reason -- keep them."
2. Don't forget your friends
While it might be tempting to spend all of your free time with your new love interest, make a point to continue spending time with friends. Your friends were there before this new person came into your life -- and they will hopefully be there as your relationship grows.
"Your friends know you well and love you; your new partner should accept that fact, even if he wants you all to himself," says Peters.
It's too soon to tell where your relationship will lead, so it's important not to get lost in it, which is something your friends can help with. Friends can also point out warning signs or red flags that you might be blind to at the start of a fresh relationship.
Page 1 of 2 -- Are you making yourself too available for your partner? Find out why you shouldn't on page 2.
3. Don't change your hobbies and interests
Your hobbies and interests are things that make you unique; they are things that give you joy and confidence. It's important to stick with your interests; not only will they make you more attractive to your new partner, but they'll give you something to feel proud of.
"If you play tennis and he plays golf, keep doing it. You may opt to learn the other's sport, but don't make it an obligation or resentment will rear its ugly head," says Peters. "Enjoying separate interests will also give you something to talk about and introduce novelty to your conversations."
4. Don't break family commitments to be with him
Even if your family is understanding and doesn't mind you missing the occasional dinner to spend time with someone new, try your best to honour commitments with your loved ones.
"If the new person sees you forgoing family to be with him, he's getting a mixed message," says Peters. Stick to your commitments and, when it feels organic, invite him to come along. "This is a valuable way to gain insight into each other's personalities. Watching how your partner interacts with family members -- both yours and his -- is a great way to learn his social history," she explains.
5. Don't be too available
Remember that you have a life, too, and that you shouldn't feel like you have to drop everything just to be with a new partner. By making yourself too available you set a precedent and an expectation that he can reach you whenever he wants, says Peters.
"Don't be afraid to ask him if you can call him back at a more convenient time. Jumping into action to please your man is a sign of neediness and insecurity," says Peters. "It's not the effective choice you might think it is."
6. Leave room to miss each other
Create boundaries. Let your partner know you adore him, but that you also love yourself and need some "me" time. "It's important to take care of your health, keep your personal work ethic and take time to pamper yourself with luxurious alone time," says Peters.
Making plans and cocooning with one another all the time makes things harder to adjust to once the honeymoon phase wears off. Keep things a bit mysterious and more independent by doing some activities separately. As Peters says: "He needs time away from you, too."
You are the most important person in your relationship. If you are content and feel good about yourself both you and your partner will benefit. "Your relationship will be enhanced as you each grow individually within it, accepting and celebrating you are beautifully different people," says Peters.
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