Does a relationship define who you are?
So I think we would have all heard about the engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (& seen the memes!). I’m not a royalist but I’ve always been a Prince Harry fan and I think you’d have to be pretty cynical, given the unusual life he’s had - to see him find someone he genuinely loves and has found some sort of normality with and not to be happy for him.
Besides her obvious outward beauty, I’ve admired Meghan’s passion for humanity and the way she has carried herself. Although I’ve never watched Suits, from what I’ve heard she is (was!) a pretty accomplished actress. It made me think a lot about how she has been portrayed in some parts of the media - it’s as if the past 36 years of her life have been erased and replaced with the idea that her marriage into the royal family is her crowning and defining glory. While of course it’s clear that her marriage will propel her onto a global platform, it did make me think about the link between identity and relationships.
I started to think about it in my own life - particularly as Ayo (especially!) and I very independent, do a variety of things separately, but equally are building a platform together - a lot of which is focused on relationships and our own relationship. It's something I have to always keep in check that as much as we love each other, being 'The Afolabis' doesn't define us.
1 | SINGLENESS IS NOT A CURSE
One thing I was acutely aware of when single, and feel society pushes on us, is the idea that there is a ‘problem’ with not being in a relationship and thus it's something we need to find a cure for. We’re often sold the idea that true fulfilment comes when we find someone to share our lives with. There are a number of issues with this approach not least because it puts another human being and their presence in our life as a defining marker of achievement in life. It can also lead us to feel like we have to put certain things in our life on hold until we find a significant other.
This was something for a few years I struggled with until one day I had a new perspective realising that on my own I was confident and complete. I realised that there were so many opportunities in life and so many passions I could pursue that I didn’t need anyone to help me with!
It also changed my attitude to dating. Rather than feeling like something was missing and therefore I needed to be anxious or preoccupied with pursuing or ‘waiting’ - I had a peace that whoever I met, would be there to complement my life rather than fill a gap.
2 | KNOW WHAT YOU BRING TO THE TABLE
What has surprised me in some of the coverage of the Royal Engagement is people seeming to forget that Meghan Markle was not only an accomplished actress but she was also a committed humanitarian… i.e. girl had it going on way before she met Harry!!
In the analogy of a table in relationships - everyone brings different things table. In a well balanced relationship BOTH parties bring something of value to the table. If you ever feel or are told, you’re not bringing something to the relationship, I think that would be something to really consider about whether it’s the right relationship or person for you.
Interestingly, because I’m a lot more talkative (as I think you’ve guessed from YouTube videos lol!) than Ayo, we were talking about our differences this week. In our relationship he brings calm, clarity, strategy to making our dreams come true, and a real compassion for people. Conversely (but in a way that works for us) - I bring structure, an overload of creative ideas and an understanding of the small details.
I think understanding the value you both have is so key to making sure that things aren’t one-sided and rather are balanced. When there's an imbalance that is more the time when someone is able to overshadow you or dominate the relationship and ultimately let the relationship define who you are.
3 | INDEPENDENCE VS. CO-DEPENDENCE
I’ll be honest, this is something I’m still mastering the art of but I know is healthy for our relationship continuing to grow. Ayo and I have very (!) different personalities. He is an extrovert, a real guy’s guy, loves his own space, works in the City, is adventurous, loves being independent and gets his energy from being around people. Conversely, I am an introvert, I love having deep conversations with a few close friends, I'm a creative, my idea of a perfect date night is fish & chips and a rom com and I feel better when I feel safe (lol I’m not boring even though that description kind of sounds like it..!). Ayo genuinely is my best friend so if I could I would spend a significant proportion of my time with him (lol he'll have to write an article to share if he would spend his time in the same way).
I remember the first time he travelled for a significant amount of time, I was like ‘babe did you miss me?’ He was like ‘ermmm, I just don’t really miss anyone’ - and my reaction was interesting…! But I’ve come to realise that even though he’s fiercely independent it doesn’t mean he loves me any less and in fact for him to thrive in the relationship, that level of independence is critical. Just because we are in a committed relationship, it doesn’t mean we are the same person.
For any of us reading this, I think for it to not get to the stage where our relationship defines us, it’s good to take stock about our activities. Are we still maintaining close friendships with others, are we still having the time to pursue our own interests and when we our significant other need it, do we have our own space?
I’ve sometimes found it a challenge, but Ayo always encourages me to keep nurturing the relationships I have, to keep being the strong independent woman he fell in love with and to remember all the great stuff I was doing before he came into my life. While being in a relationship is wonderful, it’s key to not lose that sense of independence that is an essential life blood I think to helping your relationship grow.
A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP SHOULD COMPLEMENT US RATHER THAN COMPLETE US
From speaking to older and wiser couples about the journey of their life and relationships, what I’ve learnt is that a healthy relationship complements you rather than completes you. By complementing, it adds and enhances your life rather than defines it.
While being in a relationship is a wonderful gift, and a significant half can be a tremendous source of support, it’s so important to never neglect growing and developing as an individual. When there is mutual love and respect by two people and a commitment to the covenant of a relationship, I think that allows the freedom to flourish and grow in a direction that supports one another and actually enhances who we are.