How To Maintain a Sense of Self and Avoid Self-Preservation in Relationship?

If you are in a relationship or even dating, have you ever felt like you are struggling with self-preservation in relationships? Things like putting your career as your priority? Being afraid that your partner would take up your personal space and therefore feeling more guarded?

Self-preservation in relationships starts even before you enter a relationship. When you are dating, do you see people starting a conversation with so, “What are you looking for?” Or, things like, “Let me know how you are not going to waste my time” in order to avoid discreet dates by guys who don’t have love intention.

If you are feeling that you need to guard your sense of self in order to not let go of your independence, freedom, and everything you have right now, you may be doing it all wrong and have a fear that relationships will snatch your life away.

Let’s look at how we can be more grounded in order to identify healthy relationships, and also understand the nature of relationships so that we are not controlling people in our lives with our expectations.

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A clear example of self-preservation in relationship when you are dating is when you ONLY want to have a partner who shares your interests and hobbies. You want a partner who spends time with you watching television and your favorite TV show after your working hours, or even expect them to be a morning person, just like you!

self-preservation in relationship

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What is Self-Preservation In The Context Of A Relationship

Self-preservation, essentially, involves safeguarding oneself from harm. Often, it occurs instinctively, such as retracting your hand from a hot surface to prevent burning.

However, self-preservation in relationships refers to the tendency to guard your sense of self in a way that you do not want a relationship to dilute your identity as a person. 

A clear example in dating is when you ONLY want to have a partner who shares your interests and hobbies. You want a partner who spends time with you watching television and your favorite TV show after your working hours, or even expect them to be a morning person, just like you! 

I kid you not, these are the exact things someone I dated told me, and it turned me off instantly! Because, instead of finding out if you like someone, if you have a checklist of qualities you want to see in a partner, you want to make sure that your life is not affected by a relationship, and want to preserve your comfort zone.

Build Your Identity and Self-Confidence 

One of the reasons why we fear that a relationship would constrict and rip us of our freedom is the fear of choosing someone who is not good for us. If you are already in a relationship, you feel insecure and intimidated by your partner, probably because of the way they behave, which signals you to be guarded instead of vulnerable in a relationship, and you think you need to first love yourself, and undermine love you receive from others.

By building your identity strongly and being guarded, you bring a sense of calmness to the way you operate and communicate with people. If you like skiing or dancing, and you are afraid that your partner would oppose your interests, know that this fear stems from a sign that you are choosing the wrong person for yourself.

Our fear is there for a reason, and that is because our intuition is telling us that there is a misalignment in values between you and your partner!

With self-confidence, you wouldn’t settle for a relationship that does not let you be yourself and vulnerable. When you have self-confidence, you would identify a relationship that does not work for you, because you know that your worth is not tied to this person, and you would walk away instead of feeling that you need to resort to self-preservation in relationships.

Therefore, as opposed to what people think, when you have a strong sense of self, you would choose the right relationship and person to be vulnerable with, and develop strong intimacy.

Communicate Boundaries

In order to not have a wall up so high, and in turn, have that ruin your relationship, because you are constantly in a fight-or-flight mode, you need to communicate your boundaries with your partner in a relationship.

Very often, we stonewall our partners and stop communicating with them, thinking that our partners won’t have the capacity to listen to what we have to say. This could be the case if you have tried to get your message across but you are constantly met with disappointments.

However, if you have not tried communicating amicably with your partner, what could be holding you back is the lack of confidence in a relationship or even the fear that if you communicate boundaries, the relationship will break apart!

When you have a strong sense of self, you know what you want in a relationship and that effort is reciprocal. Therefore, would refuse to settle for a relationship that requires you to forgo your opinions being heard. Hone your sense of self and invest in intuition coaching so that you are brave enough to confront conflicts confidently, knowing that whatever the outcome is, you will be okay.

Understand That Amalgamation of Culture and Lifestyle Will Bring Positive Changes

Self-preservation in relationships happens when someone gets too comfortable in their life, to the extent that they do not want to get along with others, fearing that having to integrate with a partner and their family members would mean they need to make adjustments to their life. 

Imagine going for a date by expecting someone to have the same lifestyle as yours! That would be a disaster because nobody would have the same lifestyle or culture as they are brought up in a different family.

However, apart from crucial dealbreakers like finances and life goals, some aspects of life, like interests and hobbies, should not be something we look at as dealbreakers, because adapting to our partner’s life, would enrich our life along the way.

You may not be a great cook, but ending up with someone passionate about cooking may inspire you to cook. It may expose you to life experiences that you otherwise would not explore on your own.

When you are with the right person, cultural and lifestyle amalgamation happens, but for the betterment of both of you.

In other words, you both inspire each other to become the best version of yourselves. Therefore, there is no need to feel guarded in a relationship.  

Practice Honing Your Social Skills

If you are very conscious about not wanting to lose your self-identity, and therefore always pick circumstances that are convenient for you, there is a high chance you may not be able to compromise when it comes to people in general.

People who are exposed to different social settings and people will have a higher tolerance and better skills to handle people in general, as opposed to those who keep to themselves a lot and do not like to be in a social setting.

Introverts are prone to be more selective when it comes to picking their social circle, as compared to extroverts because they only get comfortable with people that could vibe with them. This is also true if they have had very few relationships in life before. Handling relationships can be something they struggle with in life.

If you think that you are someone who prefers keeping to yourself a lot, you can try the following ways to move out of your comfort zone and be comfortable with social settings better:

    1. Go For Group Tours

    If you are someone who likes traveling, instead of traveling alone, what you could do is opt for a group travel where you would meet like-minded people. This would not only expose you to different social settings but also help you build social skills where tolerance and fitting in with a group can be gained.

    I know that a lot of people would prefer comfort and convenience, and why would one choose inconvenience knowing that it would be bothersome to deal with?

    However, this is the reality of social settings. If you want to work on a relationship, you need to know that there will be a lot of discomfort and sacrifices that need to be made. And nobody wants to end up alone. So, if you need social support, you need to learn how to let your guard down and learn to live with people.

    2. Enrol in Classes

    A lot of classes like yoga or gym will offer group activities and team building, in order to foster good relationships among the community. You will have the chance to work with people from different walks of life, and that will build your social muscle.

    With a good sense of self, you would learn how to integrate with the community and draw your boundaries when necessary instead of discarding a community completely.

    Don’t like the girl who flashes her new car in the yoga class? Stop initiating conversations with her surrounding materialism, and switch your topics to something positive and uplifting. That way, you will maintain a healthy boundary with people. 

      3. Volunteer in Your Community

      Another way to hone your social skills is to volunteer in your community. When you are volunteering, you will have a sense of empathy for less fortunate people. This would help you to understand the psychology of people and why people behave the way they do. Therefore, you will have a greater understanding of people.

      Let’s say you work with a volunteering organization to help in the orphanage. You will meet children who have come from problematic households. This would help you understand why they may have insecurity, jealousy, or even possessiveness.

      When you have a deep sense of understanding, even if your partner acts in a way that harms your sense of self, you will be equipped with the skills to communicate with them properly to resolve conflict. If your partner was raised by a single parent, you will understand why they want more of your time and be clingy. 

        4. Challenge Yourself To Try New Things

        Always wanted to try something new but have been afraid to do so, thinking that people may judge you? This is a chance you should take to embrace your fear and do it, forgetting about people’s approval, because, along the way, you will build social support that you think you won’t get.

        Want to open a social media account to post your dance movements from the Belly Dance class? Go ahead and do it for yourself to build your self-confidence, and along the way, you will find people who will support your path.

          5. Strengthen The Bond Between Your Friends’ Family Members

          Have you ever found your friendships getting weaker as your friends get married and form families for themselves? Have you always been the person who shies away from the family members of your friends and always wanted to only meet friends without their partners or families?

          Why not take this as a chance to blend in with people in the life of your friends? When you are in a relationship, you would also need to meet your partner’s family members and friends and blend in with their life to have a harmonious relationship.

          Consider Attending Therapy Sessions To Overcome Relationship-Related Trauma

          If you have not let go of the trauma from the past, especially if you have your exes hurting you and harming your identity as a person, you should consider therapy sessions to understand why you still have unresolved trauma.

          Self-preservation in relationships happens because people fear having their independence, finances, and happiness at risk. Relationships are a gamble in general, and someone with unresolved trauma will find it hard to trust people again.

          This is where you will see them tying themselves with careers and goals instead of people, and not giving their all in when it comes to a relationship in order to maintain their identity in life.

          My Experience

          When I started dating some 7 years ago, after a 3-year hiatus from dating post my breakup, I had a hard time trusting the process of getting to know people. I would be afraid of meeting someone tomorrow and having everything work out for me in a few months because back then, I wanted a few years to be sure about someone.

          I still had the fear of choosing the wrong person and getting hurt all over again. However, it took me a long time to understand that vulnerability comes with risks but it is those risks that make life worth living, and therefore self-preservation in relationships is more harmful.

          I also understood that I was operating from a place of fear instead of trust that everything would work out well for me.

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          FAQs

          What does self-preservation mean in relationship?

          In order to protect yourself from getting hurt, you stop being vulnerable and show your weakness to your partner. You would also stop being honest with yourself – honest about wanting emotional intimacy and acknowledging the fact that you are fearful of relationships because being vulnerable means you could get yourself hurt by people. 

          Is self-preservation the same as selfishness?

          If you are self-preserving because you do not want to integrate well with people in your life, and you only want things to go your way, then that is selfishness. However, if your intention is to protect your well-being when you are being harmed or manipulated in a relationship, then you are likely acting out of self-preservation for your benefit, and not selfishness. 

          What is emotional self-preservation?

          Emotional self-preservation is the act of maintaining your mental and emotional well-being. This could be carried out through meditation, getting involved in things that you love, journaling, spending time with your loved ones, and essentially everything that helps you feel more like yourself and help you become your best self.

          Is self-preservation a trauma response?

          Self-preservation is an act of trauma response when someone cannot overcome the impact of trauma in a relationship, and refuses to trust people as a result of it. When faced with trauma, individuals often utilize various defense mechanisms for self-protection, known as trauma responses, which can vary among individuals.

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