Do you feel like every time you get into a relationship you start to lose yourself? Does your identity get all tangled up with the person you’re seeing? Do you start to forget or neglect the things that make you, YOU?
Maybe you used to have a real passion for something but abandoned it because you felt like it would detract from your relationship? Or maybe you’re in a long-term, committed partnership and you can’t seem to remember the last time you did something for just YOU and only you.
Don’t get lost in your relationship.
Today I’m talking all about how to create and maintain healthy, vibrant, lasting love and spoiler alert: losing your identity or compromising who you are when you’re in a relationship isn’t healthy.
You guys have been amazing at asking me for what you need and want to learn here and in our Real Love Revolution Facebook Group, and this is an issue that a lot of you have been writing to me about. That’s why in this week’s episode, I’m covering how not to lose yourself when you’re in a relationship, why you might be prone to it and why you don’t want that kind of dynamic with your partner. So if you’re feeling a little lost right now, I want to invite you to read the below and then click HERE to see my video where I go a little deeper into this with you.
In the very beginning of a relationship, you’re so happy and falling in love, everything feels so good, and you just want to spend all your time doing everything together. It’s normal to be all wrapped up in the other person when you’re first falling for them, but as your relationship deepens and grows, a natural balance of your life with your partner and your life outside of them should develop.
It’s true that when you’re partnered, your life changes, and hopefully, you’re constantly considering that other person, but there is a way to hold on to yourself, to your identity and to nurture your relationship.
Healthy love is about interdependence, not codependence, (if you need more resources on How to Heal Codependent Relationships, I created a podcast episode for you all about that here) and that means remembering that you are two separate people and being secure enough to have experiences apart from one another.
If someone is expecting you to give up your identity or own life and for you to fulfill all of their needs (or vice versa), that’s not healthy love (or even possible.) It’s also exhausting. What I’ve found within my therapeutic practice in the last 20 years, is that super high functioning women often give up a lot of themselves voluntarily in their relationships, because they don’t know that there’s another choice.
Why does this happen? Well, let’s talk about your history a little bit.
- What kind of modeled behavior in love relationships did you see growing up?
- Did your parents/caregivers have separate interests, hobbies or friend circles?
- What was your experience of love in partnership? Did it mean sacrificing everything for the other?
- Did you learn that being a good partner meant giving up individual interests?
- Did one of your parents or caregivers revolve their entire life around their partner?
- Was there infidelity or trust issues in your parents’ relationship or the partnerships your saw growing up?
- What were the expectations for gender roles like in your household when you were a child? What did it look like to be “the perfect wife” or “the perfect husband”? Even if your parents/caregivers didn’t emulate it, was there an ideal set forth?
Each of us has different experiences and perspectives when it comes to what “love” is and what we think it should look like in practice. I call it our Downloaded Love Blueprint. If growing up you saw that being a good partner meant losing all your own interests and revolving your life around the other person, then it makes sense for you to consciously (and unconsciously) hold to the belief that this is what real love is.
But the real question is: are the things you’re doing in your relationship making you happy? Because if they aren’t and you’re sublimating your individual identity in service of your partner, you are potentially setting yourself up for either failure of the relationship or for you to become really resentful at a later date.
Let’s talk about some do’s and don’ts when it comes to your holding onto yourself and your identity when you’re in a relationship:
- Spend time away from your spouse or partner. Socialize with others and find a balance of spending time together and apart. Whether for work or play, support your partner in the experiences he/she wants to have without you, and curate your own adventures apart from him/her.
- Stay connected to your friends and family. It’s healthy to have relationships outside of your primary relationship. No matter how amazing your partner is, you’re a full human being complete with all the facets of you. That includes being a friend, a daughter, sister, a cousin or a granddaughter. There’s a stability that comes to your life when you stay connected to all of the parts of yourself through ALL of the people that matter the most to you.
- Know your value and know your values. What’s really important to you? If you truly value yourself, that means putting your values first, whether you’re in a relationship or not. You need to be the writer, the producer and the director of what goes on in your life, and your values should guide you along the way. Make decisions based on how you feel so that you don’t have regrets or end up in the blame game.
- Set healthy boundaries from the start. If you’re at the beginning of a relationship, this is your chance to express your wants, needs, and desires as well as your lifestyle preferences. Setting effective boundaries early on and being truthful and honest is so important to lasting success in love and trust me, it’s better to find out that you’re incompatible earlier than later. For more on boundaries and real love, watch this.
- Don’t give up on your health, wellness, or passion pursuits even if your partner doesn’t share your particular interests. If your partner doesn’t like to work out or sleeps in on Saturday mornings where you like to get up early and hit the gym, it doesn’t mean you can’t still do you! In fact, catering to someone else’s preferences over your own all the time can only lead to resentment and martyr syndrome…and that’s not good for anybody.
- Don’t take on interests of your partner’s if you’re not actually into it. Allow them to have a separate interest, and keep pursuing your own as well. Being in a healthy loving relationship doesn’t mean always being attached at the hip, and if you have some insecurities around that, go within and ask yourself why. Trust is the foundation of lasting love, and spending time apart can make coming together again all the sweeter. (Note: This is not to say that compromise is not important. It is the difference between attending a classical music concert because your partner loves it even if you don’t and trying to become a classical music expert because your partner is obsessed.)
- When you disconnect from your partner, don’t stay connected with your devices the entire time. If you’re texting or messaging your partner the play-by-play of your girls’ weekend away, you’re not really being fully present in the moment. Take the actual space. Your relationship will be better for it.
- Flip the script. Instead of always asking, “What do they want?” or “How can I be what they want me to be?” ask: “What do I want?” “How can I meet my own needs or get them met?” and “What would make me feel really good about this right now?” Again, it’s more about becoming the director of your own life than being an actor in someone else’s.
I hope that some of these tips inspire you and help you shift your perspective around who you are and who you can be in a relationship. You can continue to “do you” even as you’re part of an “us”.
As promised in the video, here’s the self-love meditation that I’m gifting you to help you remember that even when you love someone else, loving and caring for yourself should always be your top priority.
All you need to do is click the download button on the meditation page, put in your email address and you get immediate access to this beautiful guided meditation.
If you liked this episode, please share it on your social media outlets and with others who could benefit.
As always, take care of you.
Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. Sign up for Terri’s weekly Newsletter, check out her blog and follow her on Twitter.