Comfort in Relationships, Death of Self Improvement?

Friends, please bow your heads in a moment of silence. We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of many cool, active, and driven friends and acquaintances. They were bright and shining presences in our lives taken from us too soon. Though they may have left the land of the living, the memories they left us with will live on. The cause of death? A comfortable, non-challenging relationship.

Disclaimer: This article does not imply a relationship automatically makes someone into a less interesting person. Many people in relationships and marriages can and do maintain full social lives and hobbies. This post is about people who don’t.

Going, Going, Gone

We have all seen this happen, or perhaps we ourselves are/were guilty of it as well. A friend will snag a date with a new flame, and we celebrate their happiness. I mean, hey, your buddy is getting some on a regular basis, that’s awesome right? The lovey-dovey statuses stream from the happy couple’s Facebook. It’s diabeetus-inducing, but you put up with it. That new relationship smell is strong, and seemingly, all is well.

Then over time, they begin to slowly slip away. They turn down invitations to go out. They become less responsive to calls and texts. Previously made plans are amended or scrapped. Spending a night in with the significant other becomes the most frequent description of their plans. “Somebody I Used to Know” becomes the theme song of your friendship.

There are numerous reasons this can happen. Insecurity, a demanding partner, or even just plain contentment. Rarely do people intend to withdraw from their lives and friends, it just happens. The process can be so seamless that they slip into relationship contentment without noticing the change. There is actual science backing this change in personality. Romantic love drives the brain to release generous doses of oxytocin, dopamine, and phenethylamine (hormones related to contentment and happiness), as well as narrowed focus. New love isn’t like a drug, it is a drug.

relationships ke$sha
Cue the Ke$ha. I don’t care how out of date this reference is.

Are they comfortable, or are they consumed? Are they losing pieces of themselves along the way?

Now what happens when it ends?

All of This has Happened Before

Just as common as the story of friend disappearing into a relationships are the story of the changed people they are when ejected from it. During the course of the relationship; they lost contact with friends, passed up outings, and neglected hobbies. They find themselves with a painful void in their lives, not just from the lost love, but the blocks of time it used to occupy. Things like hygiene or fitness habits may have slipped. They could find themselves struggling to find the words to flirt with new people. They look at themselves in the mirror and realize they’ve taken a huge step back as a person.

This is, unfortunately, a place I found myself in recently. I’ve mentioned it on this blog before, but earlier this year, I came out of a toxic relationship. It only lasted for a few months, but even in that short amount of time, I saw portions of myself slip away. Before we got together, I went out several nights each week and kept a lively circle of friends. It was how I met her, after all. I always had a new crafting project sitting on my work table. I was working towards the best shape of my life through Insanity Max 30. A new relationship was like the cream cheese frosting on a carrot cake of awesome, but I never realized how fast it would implode.

My weekend nights out became nights in with my girlfriend. All of that time at her house kept me away from my crafting and cosplay hobbies. I missed several workout days per week, something unthinkable both before the relationship and after it ended. I lost touch with friends, some even telling me they missed me. On nights I couldn’t send with her, I felt as if I had nothing to do.

Kind of like this.

When it all ended (in spectacular burning fashion), I was really at a loss for what to do with my nights and weekends. Since my social circle was formed from hers, she got to keep all of the kids in the divorce. I had gained back some of the weight I lost. My cosplay projects were stalled out. My life had become a half-life, and that half-life bottomed out.

Thankfully, it was the kick I needed to get back onto the road of self improvement. I jumped back into my workouts with renewed vigor. I dug into a new cosplay project (a humanized Cubone), joined a local costuming club, began volunteering, and started this blog. I’d say I’m at a better place now than I was at before the relationship happened. I was fortunate that I was able to recover as quickly as I did, but not everyone is able to bounce back as quickly.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Think back to times either you or a friend had incredible spurts of self improvement after a relationship ended. Whether it be getting in shape, making over your wardrobe, or striking out into the dating scene again, we find some of the most constructive times in our life come from the ashes of something destructive. Then in turn, we watch the progress become regress when a comfortable relationship enters the picture. We don’t want to become a less interesting or dynamic person, so how can we avoid this trap?

The most important thing is to maintain a life outside of the relationship. This isn’t to say shut your significant other out, but to make time that doesn’t involve them. Here are a few tips for keeping it all in perspective:

  • Make time for your existing friendships and remain flexible for new ones. A night out with the guys/girls weekly is ideal, but a few times monthly is still good if your schedule isn’t as flexible. This prevents the dreaded “I never see you anymore,” or, “I miss you since you got into a relationship.” Plus, friend time will keep your social skills sharp so you’re not at a loss if the relationship does have an unexpected crash and burn. These are the people who were around before the relationship, so try to be sure they’ll be around after.
  • Keep dedicated time for your hobbies, and if you don’t have one, get one. This gives you a source of happiness and pride independent of your significant other that can’t walk out on you. Plus, passion in any form is sexy.
  • Go on a date…with yourself (get your fap jokes out of the way, gutter-mind). Go to the movies on your own or bingewatch a Netflix series (like Gurren Lagann) by yourself. Splurge on a guilty pleasure food. Play Pokémon Go all night without shame. It’s amazing how regenerative some simple ‘me’ time can be.
  • Never stop advancing. Keep up your exercise routine. Learn new skills. Improve your existing ones. If the goal is to prevent loss of self improvement, then focus on continuing it and not letting a comfortable, euphoric situation derail it. A relationship may mean sharing your life with someone else, but it is still ultimately your own.
dragon ball z relationships
Goku never let his relationship get in the way of training, and neither should you.

Don’t Lose Your Way

A loving, stable relationship is a beautiful thing. At the same time, having a vibrant and rewarding life of your own is just as radiant. Staying the course on the road of self improvement and self love keeps life in perspective. It can enhance already good relationships, or identify bad ones. It is said the best couples bring out the best in each other, but it’s also the individual’s responsibility to bring out the best in themselves. Keep focusing on yourself, and you’ll be an awesome person when you’re single and when you’re taken.

Be like Superman. He’s awesome whether it’s one of those continuities where he hooks up with Lois Lane or one where he doesn’t.

Stock photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.

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