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Making Your Relationship a Priority Without Losing Yourself

Any healthy relationship balances itself around three basic needs:  Autonomy, Security, & Intimacy. When a relationship focuses on one of these and neglects the others, conflict arises.

It is easy to caught in the idea that making your relationship a priority means abandoning your autonomy.  This usually isn't a conscious view, but rather a vague sense of having to protect yourself from being lost in the intensity of intimacy or the perceived bonds of security.

When you have a tenuous sense of being loyal to your own needs and choosing what is authentic for you, it's a scary thing to consider someone else as you make decisions.  You might get sidetracked by ideas of what you should or shouldn't do to "make" your partner happy.  Rather than get lost here, you might swing to the other pole and make decisions on your own without considering the effect on your relationship.

At the most basic level, making your relationship a priority means you are willing to consider the effects actions may have on your relationship.  As you learn to take care of your needs and stay true to yourself, you are able to enter into dialogue with your partner and negotiate ways in which all needs can be met.

The tricky part here is that negotiation all too often moves into familiar solutions and compromise before you connect to needs.  You find yourself stuck in conflict about the way you think it should be and the way your partner thinks it should be.

It takes maturity and trust to let you go of your favorite ways of doing things.  As you let go of your preferences and stay focused on the present moment needs, creativity can flow.  You and your partner can find new ways to meet needs that supports individual autonomy and authenticity as well as intimacy and security in the relationship.

To begin to make your relationship a priority while not losing yourself, write down the needs you are hoping to meet in a decision you are considering.

As you talk to your partner about this, listen for his or her needs without agreeing or disagreeing with any requests.

After you hear your partner, say your needs out loud again.  Affirm that you would like to come with ways in which both of you could get your needs met.  This is the moment where either of you could slip into frustration.  When the first couple attempts at requests don't fit, you may be tempted to engage old patterns of demanding, convincing, going along with, or shutting down.  Let yourself be a beginner.  Ask for more time, an hour, a day, whatever it takes for creativity to arise in response to connection with both your needs.

In asking yourself to engage this process, you are learning to trust a new way of taking care of yourself and your relationships.  It's okay for it to feel scary, awkward, formulaic, or "not normal".  What feels "normal" to you is often a way of referring to your habits of thinking and acting.  While "normal" may be in your comfort zone, it doesn't necessarily meet your needs for authenticity and compassion.

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When You "Have To" (Belonging vs. Choice)

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