[COLUMN] The Lovers Rocque:<br />
Maintaining Your Identity in a Relationship

Last week I was at a blogging event along with several of my peers and I found myself faced with a recurring question throughout the night: “Where’s the Mrs.?” The answer: She decided to skip the festivities to meet deadline on an assignment, so I rolled solo. It was a valid reason but when you’re married—or in any relationship, for that matter—it seems as if people expect to see you and your partner together at all times. One of my married friends, who had asked for my wife earlier in the evening as well, advised me to get used to the question.

Getting married is about two people agreeing to share a life together. The same can be said of any committed relationship, but even when you and your partner operate as a unit, at the end of the day, you’re still the same two individuals that came into the relationship. While the Mrs. and I share many common interests and enjoy spending as much time together as possible, we both have no problem living our own lives outside of each other. That’s an important lesson I learned years ago.

In the wake of my breakup from my college sweetheart I found myself lost. For three years, my ex and I were so wrapped in each other that the only time we weren’t together was when we were both traveling to and from work or in the bathroom—and even that wasn’t guaranteed alone time.

When the relationship ended, I found myself unsure of how to operate as an individual. I knew what we did for fun in our spare time, but I had to relearn how to have fun by my lonesome. It was then that I recognized the importance of maintaining my own identity when in a relationship. Since then, I’ve lived by a simple dating rule: Every relationship should consist of three levels—my life, her life and our life together. That dating philosophy has carried over to my marriage as well. 

While the Mrs. and I keep regular date nights, we make a concerted effort to consistently explore our individual passions. On any given day she could be found getting her athletic fix at pole dancing class, while I could be watching the game at my boy’s house. When it comes to events, we could easily roll together to a mutual friend’s party, arrive separately or only one of us could go. And then, the inevitable question yet again: “Where’s the Mrs./Mr.?”

I am not my wife’s keeper. She’s a grown woman with her own passions, desires and interests—the same applies to myself. Despite the fact that we’d love to spend every waking moment together the reality is we can’t. More specifically, we shouldn’t. I’ve often found that treating your relationship like a deserted island with a population of two is a quick way to fall into complacency.

It’s the experiences that our partners have outside of their interactions with us that allow the relationship to develop. A relationship feeds off the conversations about conversations with other people and the things that your partner experienced throughout his or her day. If my wife were the only person I communicated with 24/7, we’d eventually run out of things to talk about. So I need for her to explore the world on her own just as much as she needs me to. Sometimes, it’s that time apart that makes our time together that much better.

Do you think it’s healthy to be in a relationship with someone who cuts off their friends and spends all of their time with their partner? Sound off!

Mr. and Mrs. Rocque are the couple formerly known as Anslem Samuel and Starrene Rhett, New York-based journalists who found love in between bylines. Follow the newlyweds’ musings of a marriage in progress here, on Twitter and via their joint blog.