losing yourself in a relationship

I remember it like it was yesterday. Tears streaming down my face, staring in my bathroom mirror after another fight with him. I didn’t know how I was going to be good enough, how to make the relationship work, or how I could keep living this way. I remember the moment, looking in my own glassy eyes, and saying, “Who even am I anymore?”

I had lost myself in the relationship. It was a relationship with very little trust. I couldn’t go anywhere without being questioned about who would be there and what I’d be doing. If I said there were going to be other guys, it was an immediate fight.

Nothing I could do was good enough. I spent so much time trying to “prove” myself. I needed to show all the ways I was “perfect” for him. I listened to his music, watched the movies that he preferred, learned about all the things he liked, which would have been fine if I hadn’t given up all my interests for his.

It was in those moments that I realized that I had lost my independence in the relationship. I had changed so much of who I was just to make him happy.

Was the relationship salvageable? Maybe. I suppose I’ll never know.

I became somewhat destructive at that point. Getting caught up with other guys and sabotaging the relationship all around. It was the only way I knew how to reassert my independence, though I wouldn’t recommend it. It was a lot more heartache than I would wish on anyone.

Nevertheless, I gained so much from this experience. I learned about losing myself in a relationship, finding myself again, and how to have a healthy relationship where you still have independence. It took me doing everything the wrong way to figure out how to do it better.

What does it mean to lose yourself in a relationship?

Do you know who you are? What makes you tick? Do you know what you would do with a free weekend if money wasn’t an issue, and you could do anything in the world? Where would you go? Would you want to be with others? Or be alone? Would you learn something new or do something familiar? Would you do something active or relaxing?

What matters to you? What are the causes that pull at your heartstrings? What do you spend time reading about? What television shows do you watch? What are the things that are interesting and important to you?

What are your values? Do you value your independence, family, friendship, caring for others, time alone, humor, success, personal development, spirituality?

What does any of this have anything to do with losing yourself in a relationship or independence? See, these are things that matter to you. They’re part of who you are.

From the first date, most people look at the other person and immediately start judging and assessing what they believe the other person desires in a partner. They immediately try to change any part of themselves that they have decided does not fit with what they believe the person desires. Do we see the issue here?

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This is all based on assumptions. Even worse, both parties in the relationship are doing this. Therefore, I might look at a new boyfriend and decide based on my views of who he is, or what he wants, how I then need to be. Simultaneously, he is looking at me, who he believes me to be, and is changing himself to fit into that mold. Ironically, no one is their true self anymore, even though this was the person that intrigued you in the first place.

What did you answer to the first questions in this section? In a relationship, are you still those things? Or do you get into a relationship and decide that the things that were most important to you are somehow less important now that you have a significant other?

Is it normal to change some things in your schedule now that you are in a relationship? Absolutely. However, when you give up all of it, you lose who you are. When “my opinion” becomes “Well, we think…” and “We like…” in a relationship, you may want to look for YOU again.

Is it normal to change some things in your schedule now that you are in a relationship? Absolutely. However, when you give up all of it, you lose who you are. Click To Tweet

Changing yourself for a relationship

Have you ever seen a friend after a long time and felt like they had suddenly “become one” with their relationship? Did they no longer seem to be the person you knew the last time you saw each other?

I remember having this experience where a very close friend was in town with the man she had been dating. She was making jokes and laughing at things that would have never previously been within her integrity. It was like the twilight zone! I didn’t know the person sitting in front of me anymore.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? So deep into a relationship that you no longer know where the other person stops, and you begin? And somehow the person you’ve become just isn’t the person you once were? Maybe not even someone you very much like. People say things like, “You’ve changed.” And defensively, you say things like, “Yeah, I’m happy now.” And if that is the true case, cool. But my guess is that generally, this won’t be. Are you happy with the person you’ve become or with the fact that you have a significant other and are no longer alone?

In these situations, I generally ask people, “Is it working for you?” Not like, “Are you doing all the work, and your significant other is doing nothing?” But more of, “Is this really who you are? Who are you without your significant other? Are you still an independent person from them? And what do you truly desire?”

How to find yourself in a relationship

Are you making choices for yourself? Or do you feel like you are losing independence in a relationship? If you get the sense that you are no longer making your own choices, how can you regain your independence?

When you have this awareness that you’ve started to lose yourself, it doesn’t mean the relationship has to end. Here are seven questions you need to ask yourself and steps to take in order to find yourself again.

Step 1: Who were you before?

Look back to the beginning of your relationship – who were you then? And before that?

Step 2: Who are you now?

Are you still that person? Do you still like the things you used to like and have either blown them off or haven’t made time for them? Or have you changed? Are your tastes genuinely different now? Ask, “If I was being me here, what would I choose? How can I start to live for me again?”

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Step 3: What are your needs?

Look at whether you are doing things just to make your partner happy or because you’ve told yourself, “It’s just what WE do.” Start to look at what is YOU versus what is you with your partner when it comes to values, desires, activities you enjoy, etc. What do you like to spend your time doing? What is important to you? Don’t take your significant other’s interests or opinions into account here. This is about you.

Step 4: What can you change in your life?

How can you incorporate or re-incorporate these things into your life? What could you add to your life to feel as though you are living a more authentic life? Look for things that you enjoy that are yours – whether it is activities, books, classes, or other forms of personal development. Make time for activities without your significant other, whether it would be with friends or alone.

Make time for activities without your significant other, whether it would be with friends or alone. Click To Tweet

Step 5: Can you do anything about your relationship?

Is there a discussion that needs to happen with your partner or a way to compromise in order to allow more time, money, or energy to come back to the things that light you up? If your partner is a partner in living, he will get it and will be happy to help you come back to you. It may even spark some questions in him to come back to who he is.

Step 6: Is your partner willing to cooperate?

You should be able to have a life independent from one another, but also come back together and discuss your day, what you learned, thoughts, ideas, dreams. It will help you to get closer with your partner. When you come out of needing to prove how much alike you are, you actually create more space for conversation and curiosity about one another.

Step 7: Does the relationship help you grow?

Note that if your partner seems irritated, frustrated, or angry that you are looking to find yourself again, you may have to ask yourself some important questions: “Are they afraid of losing me, or is it about control? If they are afraid of growing distant, how can I show them that being more independent will actually help us to grow closer?” On the other hand, if it is about control, you may ask, “Does this person really have my best interest at heart? Is this relationship helping me to create a joyful life?”

Never lose yourself in the process of loving someone

If you’ve read up to this point, probably you are thinking, “Yep, I’ve definitely done that!” Even if you are no longer in that relationship or you are in a new relationship, you might be swearing to yourself, “I am never doing that again”! But how do you avoid it?

Yes, it can happen fast or in a way that sneaks up on you. When you get into a relationship, you are overrun by endorphins and oxytocin, leading you to feel blissful and yet, forget all the other things that were important to you. And that’s okay! You can still enjoy all the feelings for what they are in the moment.

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One thing that people tend to mess up is they get so excited about someone new that they start spending all their time with, that they forget to leave time for themselves, friends, and other things they enjoy.

Something to try from the very beginning is to have a date day with yourself one day per week. Try your best to keep this day consistent. Maybe you have a yoga class on Tuesdays that is important to you. Do your best not to compromise on this; otherwise, it can easily fall to the wayside. Maybe after yoga, you enjoy working on things at your favorite café, or you enjoy watching your guilty pleasure television show. But allow this to be a day or a few hours, at the very least, just for you.

Then it might also be helpful to plan at least one night a week to spend with a friend. This way, you are nurturing those relationships with people who know you well (and who will tell you if you’re starting to lose yourself in your new relationship). It can be affirming to spend time confiding and laughing with a close friend.

It’s also possible that your significant other will introduce you to new hobbies, activities, music, and points of view you never considered before. This is not the same as losing yourself in a relationship, as long as you are genuinely having fun. You may find that you still enjoy some of these things even if the relationship doesn’t work out.

It’s normal to grow and change in the course of a relationship; it is all part of the journey. Just make sure you’re doing these things because you enjoy them or agree with them, not just to “prove” you’re something you’re not to your partner.

When you get into a relationship, you are overrun by endorphins and oxytocin, leading you to feel blissful and yet, forget all the other things that were important to you. Click To Tweet

Have a healthy relationship with yourself

Whether you are single and looking at how you might do your next relationship differently, or in a relationship, looking to change things up, you absolutely can turn things around. If you commit to yourself that you will love yourself first, not depend on someone else to define who you are and stay true to your values, you will have no problem doing this.

Remember that a healthy relationship allows you to be you and your partner to be him. If you change who you are for each other, you end up with diluted versions of both of you. As independent people, with your own thoughts, opinions, passions, and interests, you will be a great contribution to each other and the world.

Communicate with each other about things you’d like to explore, and how to spend your time. Discuss how you can balance time together versus time doing things independently. Remember to discuss your day with each other. It’s important to allow your partner to know you, what makes you light up, and brings you joy, even if they don’t share in those things. Don’t forget to ask questions about your partner’s interests, thoughts, and activities as well. Listen for the sake of learning about each other.

You can enjoy your life, your partner, and your independence. If you stay mindful of what you desire while creating a relationship, it is possible to have harmony with all of it.

Melissa is a Dating and Relationship Coach based in the Chicago area, working with both individuals and couples to increase their self-confidence and relationship skills. She is also a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, with a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology. Melissa’s mission is to empower others to trust themselves, release limitations and live more joyful lives. She offers a complimentary coaching session to discuss your dating needs. You can learn more on her website Journey To Present.

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