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How to be "you" without losing "us"

Dr. Noelle Nelson is a relationship expert and an internationally respected psychologist, author and seminar leader. She has given life-changing guidance to couples for more than 20 years.

Check out Noelle’s relationship and marriage ...

Preserving personal identity

Your personal anthem is "Me! I wanna be me!" not in some egotistical rude way, but because you take pride in the individual that you are. You're conflicted. Here you are in this great relationship with this wonderful guy whom you want to honor and please, but you also want to be true to who you are. How do you do it? How do you stay your own person, yet enjoy the benefits and joys of togetherness?

Happy Couple outdoors

Recognize your differences

The key is not to look upon your differences as things that separate you. Recognize them as opportunities to expand who you are.

He likes bluegrass and you like jazz. It's not an either/or. You can learn from him what it is about his music that he enjoys and you can share what attracts you to jazz. Yes, this acceptance applies to deeper issues too, like your different political views or religious preferences.

Find a common ground

Focus on expanding your understanding of his take on things and sharing your own thoughts. Then take it up a notch by finding common ground. Both of you, for example, want the country to thrive, but you just have different views on how to get it there. Agree to the bigger picture and respect each other's right to feel and think however you wish.

Seek to understand

Always look to understand rather than gear up to defend. When we defend, we tend to put down the other person. We dismiss or devalue their position in some way. When you seek to understand, you respect what the other person feels without having to agree with them.

Don't ever make your spouse feel "less than" for his choices like he is somehow bad or wrong. Belittling has nothing to do with love.

Respect each other's wishes

Sometimes respecting what the other person feels can be challenging. Let's say you feel some alone time is needed, but you're afraid of bringing that up because you don't want to hurt your spouse's feelings. Instead of keeping quiet, share your feelings by expressing that you don't want to hurt your spouse. Say "I'm concerned that something I'd like will upset you. Can we talk about it?" Being prepared in this way makes it easier for your mate to hear you while allowing you to have your preferences.

You never have to give up your own uniqueness to enjoy true love. Yes, you may make adjustments to your me mentality, but never to the point where you abandon yourself. You are a glorious individual!

And so is he.

More relationship tips

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5 No-fail signs he's a keeper
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