I took a trip to Dubai some years back and traveled with a good friend of mine. I didn’t take my husband with me. I returned and told coworkers about the trip. Some were shocked to learn that I’d gone to another country without my husband. “How could you do that?” one asked. “I can’t believe he let you go,” said another. Of course, I travel with my husband, as well. We’re in the foreign service, and we spend plenty of time overseas together. However, I also enjoy travel, and other activities, without my husband. He’s the same way. We’ve always valued maintaining a sense of self-identity beyond wife and husband.
Romantic relationships thrive when each partner knows who they are as individuals. Knowing yourself is complicated because identity means different things to different people. Think about it, when someone says, “Who are you?” and they aren’t talking about your name, how do you respond? Most people freeze up trying to find the right words. Do you identify by your job? By your ethnicity or sexuality? Or do you define yourself by the relationships you have, like “mother” or “wife”? All of these are valid answers and make up parts of who you are.
In romantic relationships, the line between “we” and “me” gets blurry. But that doesn’t mean you have to lose yourself. The best relationships create space for each partner to be a whole individual. Yes, you’re a wife, a mom, a girlfriend, a partner, but you’re also a person with interests, beliefs, problems, accomplishments and failures. You’ve done things, been places and had valuable experiences. Those are some of the factors that attracted your partner in the first place. Besides, when you disappear into a relationship, you wake up one day and realize that your relationship has taken a turn for the worse. You may feel used up and burned out because you saved nothing for yourself. The relationship can even become toxic and leave you feeling trapped.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell when you’re losing yourself but there are a few signs. Check them out below:
Signs that You’re Losing Yourself:
You stop spending time with family and friends
Before you found love, you had people you considered family and friends. Those relationships are pieces of who you are as an individual. If you’ve lost those connections, then it’s time to ask why. Is it because you’ve been too wrapped up in your romantic relationship to notice family and friends drifting away?
You only do couples activities
Couples’ activities are great! So are solo activities and time spent apart. Make room in your life for the things you enjoy, even if your significant other doesn’t want to do them.
You’ve given up on your personal goals
You and your partner will undoubtedly want to have goals in common, but you should also be determined to accomplish important goals as an individual. It’s a balancing act. If you’re already feeling resentment from giving up on your dreams, read Help! I Think I Hate My Husband for practical tips on working through it.
You can’t tell whether your opinion is yours anymore
Healthy couples disagree. And that’s okay. You’re at risk of losing yourself when your opinions, likes and dislikes completely merge with your partner’s, and you can’t recognize your perspective anymore.
You’re too involved in your partner’s life
Love is a powerful motivation for wanting to help. Sometimes, trying to help your partner overshadows everything else. When that happens, you may be giving too much of yourself away.
Your gut tells you something’s wrong
I hit a phase in my marriage where I was losing myself. The first sign I noticed was thinking how much I missed the woman I used to be. At first, I didn’t know what that meant, but I realized that I’d put a lot of effort into making a great marriage, but I’d done it at the expense of being a whole person. Listen to that little voice that guides you in life; sometimes, it’s the only sign you need.
What can you do?
You have to restore that balance between you as an individual and your relationship. The route you take depends on how healthy the relationship is. If the connection is toxic, walking away may be the only option. In other situations, you can make changes within the relationship. The first step is setting boundaries that leave space and time for you as an individual. You can use that time for regular self-care, working towards personal goals and dreams, spending time with family and friends, and reconnecting with old hobbies and interests. Regardless of which option you chose, remember that maintaining your self-identity is an ongoing process that is your responsibility. You owe it to yourself to be a whole, well-rounded person, and that’s the best way to maintain a healthy romantic relationship.