The Delicate Balance: Self Versus the Relationship


Have you ever entered into a relationship and somehow, along the way, started to lose yourself? It’s interesting how we can so easily fall into someone else and forget that there was a self there before that person ever arrived. You existed prior to your relationship, during that relationship, and will continue to exist even afterwards – even if that’s not how it always feels.

Sometimes couples will arrive to therapy and describe their partner as their “other half”. This sentiment is both endearing and also slightly disproportionate. Healthy relationships require at least two whole people entering into a connection together, rather than two half-partners filling the voids of one another.

The reason why the balance between self and relationship is so important is because your partner chose you for you. They were attracted to all of the qualities that made you uniquely who you are. And the maintenance of self is, interestingly, something that feeds into the maintenance of a relationship. I have come to observe how working on yourself in your relationship is actually very satisfying for your partner. If you are evolving both individually and as a couple, the dynamic is ever changing – your partner is re-discovering you in the relationship at the same time that you are discovering yourself. There is something about this that tends to keep long-term relationships engaging. Furthermore, if you are able to work on meeting your own needs, then you will have more to give in your relationship, and so will your partner.

Over-reliance on your partner for your needs can be tricky. If your partner is open to giving this to you, then occasionally it can work. On the other hand, if your partner is unable to provide this consistently, it can lead to unmet expectations. Over-reliance also has the potential to lead to dependency in a relationship. In this scenario, the relationship exists because it is needed, not because it is freely chosen by each person.

Successful coping during conflict in a relationship requires you to attend to your own emotions, while at the same time trying to calm and soothe your partner. When individual and co-regulation occur together, conflict tends to resolve faster and more easily. It says “I am okay on my own and I can also be ok in my relationship”.

It’s important to ask – who am I within this relationship? Am I honoring my values, my needs, my passions while being connected to someone else? Are we growing together both independently and in unison? In addition, who am I as a partner? While seeking to honour my needs, am I also able to sufficiently honour the needs of my partner?

Think of this sense of balance as a recipe. Sometimes adding too much of one ingredient is okay depending on what it is. Other times, it can change the entire outcome of a dish. Each relationship is unique in its need for balance, so consider this – have you been the missing ingredient in your relationship and if so, how can you seek to add it back in?

By Jennifer Goldberg, RP, M.Ed., CCC.


Jennifer Goldberg is a registered psychotherapist who works extensively with couples at The Counselling Group. She incorporates current topics arising out of her couples therapy sessions into themes and issues covered in Couples Corner. 

Looking for couples counselling? The Counselling Group offers a variety of experienced couples therapists who can support positive changes and growth in your relationship. For more information, please call 613-722-2225 x352 to speak with an intake worker today.