Valentine's day with your someone special should be something to look forward to, so why does the thought leave you with a dreadful feeling in the pit of your stomach?
You and your significant other are the perfect pair. You agree on which restaurants to eat out at, share similar interests and hang out with the same friend group - on the rare occasion that you can bare to share each other with the world outside your relationship bubble.
However, since the honeymoon phase has worn off, you’ve started feeling slightly anxious about where you’ve suddenly ended up.
Counselling psychologist and author, Dr Akashni Maharaj based in Bellair and counselling psychologist, Rakhi Beekrum, based at eThekwini Hospital and Heart Centre agree that healthy relationships require a balance between ‘me-time’ and ‘we-time’.
“Solitary interests or interests different from your partner are important as it ensures that you do not lose your independence and identity in the relationship,” says Beekrum.
You probably know of couples who do everything together – from living, to gyming, to working and shopping together. “While some view this as romantic, it’s actually unhealthy. Just like plants, relationships need oxygen to grow. Different interests make relationships more exciting. Imagine what you would talk about over dinner if you did everything together? Would you even look forward to seeing each other?”
“Having said this, quality time as a couple is important and both parties need to feel fulfilled and satisfied with the time spent together,” said Beekrum. Remember, binge-watching series does not count as quality time, as you are not really interacting with each other. “Both partners need to feel prioritised in the relationship, so don’t go to the extreme of neglecting your partner for solitary interests,” she said.
“Once you are satisfied with your time together as a couple, you feel more comfortable with your partner pursuing their own interests; and actually encourage it as you have a happier, more fulfilled partner,” said Beekrum.
If there is dependence in a relationship, it is imbalanced, said Maharaj.
“An imbalance means that the scales are shifted in favour of the most confident person in the relationship. When the scales are tipped, then the partner who is dependent creates an expectation of being ‘taken cared of’ unconditionally. This can create much tension in the relationship if the needs aren’t constantly met.”
The partner who then makes decisions becomes more like the ‘parental’ figure in the relationship. “That particular role can be demanding and quite detrimental for the dependent person. How detrimental? It can be viewed as a ‘controlling’ and ‘dominating’ relationship when things don’t go a particular way,” said Maharaj.
In order to spot an unhealthy balance, Maharaj shared the warning signs of someone who has started losing their independence and identity in their relationship:
1. You’ve lost touch with your own goals, passions and life purpose.
You cannot remember what you loved and wanted to do growing up. You find it hard to access this part of yourself. Your goals, passion and purpose now falls to the wayside whilst attending to everyone else's passion, goals and purpose.
2. You find yourself using “we” instead of “me”.
This happens when you start to feel that your opinions and thoughts are not good enough on their own so you have to substantiate them by including others in what you have to say.
3. You’re going through the motions of your life.
Everything you do lacks any real deep meaning, it’s repetitive and you go through the roller coaster of life by doing and repeating - it’s a cycle you’re stuck in.
4. Your emotional range is blunted.
You sort of live in limbo between neutral, angry and resentful. Your emotions have neither joy or happiness and you fluctuate between angry, neutral and resentful
5. You find it hard to hear your voice in the crowd.
Everyone’s voice is being heard and you find yourself whimpering in the background. No one hears what you have to say, so eventually you stop trying.
6. Everything you do is for the benefit of others (namely your partner) and very little is for yourself.
This can lead to you feeling overwhelmed and resentful towards your S.O as you feel they take you for granted and your opinions, thoughts and emotions mean nothing to them.