Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

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Staying “You” in your relationship

Isabella+Gazzo+stands+in+backyard+in+Portland%2C+OR+Nov.+26
Aisling Gazzo
Isabella Gazzo stands in backyard in Portland, OR Nov. 26

Falling in love and getting into a relationship can be an exciting experience, and with everything going on, balancing the rest of your life – your hobbies, friends, family, work or school – can prove difficult.

The challenge lies in maintaining a balance between unity and individuality – in staying true to yourself in your relationship. Otherwise, you lose your sense of self. 

“I think it’s an easy thing to fall into unfortunately,” said Gavin Thorud, a fourth-year food science major at Oregon State University, who has been in a relationship for the past two years. “It’s also hard to see the signs of it without having gone through (a relationship).”

In college, lots of people are getting into their first relationships and at the same time, are navigating in a new environment, often without many friends. Maintaining your sense of self can be difficult. 

Abigail Sriram, a second-year masters student in the horticulture department at OSU, experienced this when she first got into a relationship with her now spouse of six years. Sriram, like many incoming first-year students, didn’t know anyone else at her college.

She met her partner during the first week of classes, which while helpful to have someone to hang out with, made it difficult for her to make any other friends.

“I ended up spending all of my time with him and that was really bad for developing other relationships,” Sriram said. “I didn’t really make friends because I was socially anxious the first couple of years and I was like, ‘Oh, I already have him. I don’t need to,’ but that was a bad thing.”

Realizing this was a problem, Sriram started joining clubs, which helped her to not only make friends, but also have a life outside of her relationship. 

“It wasn’t quite so difficult to maintain that sort of separation,” Sriram said. “It felt like I had friends that didn’t have anything to do with him. So it was nice to have that time and space away from the relationship if I needed it.” 

In other situations, it is the partner themselves that can be an issue in maintaining a sense of self outside of your relationship.

Thorud said that before their current relationship, they were seeing people who didn’t want to share their time with anyone or anything, including their friends and family.

This can be a sign of an abusive relationship. If you think you or someone you know is experiencing an abusive relationship, the Center for Advocacy, Prevention and Education at OSU has resources available for help. 

“It took me a while to realize that this was a dysfunctional dynamic and that taking time for yourself was a feature of a healthy relationship,” Thorud said. 

Sriram echoed this sentiment that taking time for yourself is important.

“You kind of lose who you are if you’re only focused on taking care of someone else’s needs,” Sriram said. 

In college, many of us are extremely busy with work and school, so ensuring you also take time for yourself is important. Spending all of your time with your partner can become an issue. 

Communication, said Brogan Solaris, a third-year music education major at OSU and who has been married for just over two years, is key.

“If either of us knows we’re going to be stressed or busy, we try to give a heads up so the other one knows that they might expect to do some extra dishes that week or pull the slack somewhere else,” Solaris said.

But it’s also important to do fun things and take time for yourself. Finding hobbies is something that Sriram has found helpful in doing so.  

“If you don’t know what you want, you’re going to be really unhappy, and having your own hobbies and time to yourself is a way to figure out what you, specifically, individually want,” Sriram said.

Sriram said that she enjoys playing Dungeons and Dragons, so she marked off one day a week where she goes and plays the game. 

While the movies and popular culture say that our relationships are supposed to complete ourselves, Solaris disagrees. 

“It’s bullshit,” Solaris said. “You’re two complete people. The joy of a relationship is learning about someone else and finding your own heart in someone else.”

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