Have you ever been in a relationship where you lost yourself? When you met your partner, you were your own person; independent, sexy, and spontaneous. Then, one day you look at yourself and realize you have no idea who you are: you’ve gained weight, you’re no longer adventurous, you have no outside interests, and maybe just maybe you’ve succumbed to wearing those dreaded “mom or dad jeans”. Yuck! When you try to reclaim your individuality, your partner may criticize you or feel threatened. They may even discourage your individuality.
Stacey: I spent 12 years in a relationship where my entire identity was lost. The inquisitive, wild, and free person my ex-partner loved when she met me, soon became a threat. I succumbed and settled into a relationship of mediocrity where my beliefs, likes and dislikes were no longer my own. I began to feel imprisoned, suffocated and resentful which resulted in the demise of our partnership.
Cheralyn: When I left my last relationship, I didn’t know who I was. I allowed myself to care more about my partner’s needs than my own. She had been in an established, serious relationship prior to me, so I automatically assumed she knew more and I should follow her lead. I muted conversations that were important to me such as talking about religion and sexuality. I also denied wanting a casual glass of wine socially just because my ex criticized any type of alcoholic beverage. I knew that relationship was not for someone like me who is a free spirit and a life explorer. When I exited the relationship, I felt lost and unsure of who I was. Because I spent so much time trying to be who my ex wanted me to be, I didn’t know what I liked. I had to learn who I was all over again.
We both acquiesced to our ex-partners’ scoffing and the "I" that we once knew slowly disappeared. We were in "WE”lationships. We shared only the same interests as our partners. We only shared the same friends. We relied only on each other.
Relationships are about maintaining your individuality while sharing yourself with another person, but we tend to lose ourselves somewhere along the way. In some instances, your partner may believe they have a right to dictate who you are. Your partner does not own you and you do not own your partner. Do you want to go to Vegas with friends? Are you questioning religion? Do you want to be vegan but your family eats meat or vice versa? Do you want to cut your hair off? EMBRACE IT!
Maintaining your individuality and sense of self is critical to the longevity of your partnership and preservation of your sanity. As people, we need a sense of autonomy to be our best selves. If you cannot be who YOU truly are, it will show up negatively in other areas of your life, including your relationship.
Your partner cannot be your EVERYTHING, and we should not look to them to be our everything. Encourage individuality and growth within your relationship. Do not allow anyone to stunt your growth, your uniqueness, or your independence. Maintain both I’s in the relationship (you and your partner). Always remember and honor who you are. Do not wake up one day unable to recognize your refection in the mirror. This is YOUR journey. Live LOYT!