Whether you just got into a new relationship or you’ve been married for decades, it is common to feel like your whole identity has been swallowed up by your role as a wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend, and you have no room to be anything else. You might wonder if you will ever know how to find yourself again.
You can depend on your partner without losing yourself.
Your role as a partner is an important part of your identity, but it shouldn’t be the only part of your identity. If you want to find yourself again, you should allow yourself to get in touch with every aspect of your identity and accept your uniqueness.
Differences are good. They can make your relationship strong, dynamic, and fulfilling.
I used to avoid differences. I planned on marrying someone who would agree with everything I said and praise me no matter what I did.
That didn’t happen, and I’m so thankful! Finding myself would have been impossible.
A Personal Experience
One of the things I love most about Sabe is that he doesn’t always let me ‘be right’.
I have a really hard time owning up to my mistakes because I feel like if I admit fault, it acknowledges the existence of my flaws that I mistakenly think make me “bad person.” I have to work on this deep-seated, unhealthy thought pattern every day.
Sabe was the first person I ever dated who told me when I was doing something hurtful and didn’t let me explain my way out of sincerely recognizing it and apologizing.
Sabe’s fearlessness to speak up and get to the root of every problem spoke to my soul, and for the first time in my life, I realized just how deeply I had buried my insecurities inside me by pretending my weaknesses didn’t exist.
It was our differences that made us so good for each other. And still, it is our differences, and how we respect them, that make our lives so fulfilling.
Our goal is to help each other be our truest selves.
I am so thankful to be in relationship where my partner supports and encourages my individuality and my journey to finding myself.
Finding myself is a life-long process, and nothing should get in the way of that, especially not my relationship.
How to Find Yourself Again in a Relationship: The 5 “Dos and Don’ts”
1- Being Together vs. Being Apart
Don’t: Do Everything Together
Do: Spend Some Time Apart
“I can enjoy spending time with you and with myself.”
Give each other the space and freedom to do your own things. I love to write (if it isn’t obvious), but I write best when I’m all by myself. I love having zero distractions and zoning into what I am creating.
It’s currently 6:30 AM and Sabe and my puppy are still asleep, I’m in the other room with my heated blanket from Costco and a mug full of apple cider, deep in thought, research, and emotion.
I’m in my element. This is my time and space that makes me feel alive and grounds me and would not be the same if I had company.
And that’s okay! You can enjoy alone time and still be completely in love with and devoted to your partner. Sabe is loving his alone time too right now; he’s not being woken up by my clicking keyboard.
So, establish respect for each other and honor each other’s boundaries.
Do what makes you feel alive, what helps you find grounding, what makes you feel like you.
Do what helps you find yourself, whether it’s with your partner or not. And don’t feel guilty about it.
2- Dependence vs. Self-Love
Don’t: Depend on Your Partner to Feel Good About Yourself
Do: Love Yourself
“I can love you and myself.”
Sometimes we feel a desperate desire to be our own person in a relationship but don’t realize that we are the only ones holding ourselves back.
“I have to care about you more than I care about myself” is a BIG FAT MYTH.
In order to find yourself again in a relationship, you have to love yourself too. There is power in a quiet confidence that no matter what others say, you will always love yourself.
Your relationship will actually be happier and healthier if you love and respect yourself and your partner equally.
Don’t put unrealistic demands on your partner to constantly keep you happy and make you feel good about yourself. On the other hand, don’t unrealistically and unhealthily expect your partner to constantly need you either.
You need to find happiness within yourself and value yourself enough to help your partner feel emotionally secure and be emotionally secure yourself.
You want to know how to find yourself again? Love yourself. I have a whole post for you to learn more about how self-love will help you transform your relationship.
3- Self-betrayal vs. Self-confidence
Don’t: Betray Yourself
Do: Speak Up
“I can respect your values as well as my own.”
Stop pretending you are okay when you are not and stop saying “yes” when you’re feeling “no.”
Self-betrayal is consciously or subconsciously disregarding your own needs and values to “fit in,” or avoid shame, pain, or conflict.
Self-betrayal might look or feel like:
- Insincerely apologizing just to resolve a conflict.
- Overlooking your discomfort so your partner can have their way.
- Basing all of your choices off of your partner’s opinions.
- Resentment because you feel like your partner controls your life.
New couples tend to pay attention to their similarities and minimize their differences to prove to themselves that they are “meant to be.” But you really don’t have to be “perfect for each other,” and you don’t have to agree on everything.
In The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman says that it’s not differing views and core values that predict divorce, rather it is when you deal with these differences by building up reserves of contempt for each other.
Sacrifice and self-betrayal are two very different things; one will help you find yourself, the other will make you lose yourself.
Another Personal Experience
Sabe has a champagne taste on a beer budget and I pinch pennies. We used to argue more about money when we first got married. But over time, we realized that our different viewpoints both have something important to contribute to our decisions about money.
It’s very common for a couple to have differing views about finances, but there are no hard and fast rules about managing finances that work for every couple. When disagreements happen, for example if one wants to buy what the other considers an unnecessary purchase, a couple can communicate their desires openly and clearly and find a solution that they are both comfortable with.
For me, how can I complain about a $30 heated blanket while I’m comfortably wrapped up in it?
So Here’s How to Find Yourself Again AND Have a Healthy Relationship: Speak Up.
Speak up because your happiness is just as important as your partner’s. Compromise because you respect each other’s values, feelings, and differences.
No one needs to forget what they care about and lose who they are to have a happy relationship. In fact, a happy relationship should encourage you to be who you are and continually find yourself.
4- Control vs. Trust
Don’t: Try to Control Your Partner
Do: Encourage Your Partner to Find Him or Herself.
“I can encourage you to be yourself, respect yourself, love yourself, and enjoy alone time.”
I cannot stress this enough—you cannot start to find yourself in a relationship until you allow your partner to do the same.
If you find yourself expecting your partner to always feel the same as you, stop. Your partner deserves just as much freedom of thought and conscience as you do.
If you find yourself trying to monopolize your partner’s time, take a step back.
The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work also explains that it is important to “encourage an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her convictions.” This is a crucial step to honoring yourself and your partner.
Support, encourage, and allow your partner to “become”; allow them to learn, change, speak up, pursue their passions, and be their own person.
One of my favorite books, Sexual Wholeness in Marriage says, “We each feel a need to develop to our fullest potential, to become what our unique combination of attributes and talents intended us to become. ”
I believe a big part of our identities is our desire to be better and the ability to learn and change. I know that finding myself will always be tied to my desire to “become”.
Learn more about allowing yourself and your partner to change in my post, How to Let Go of the Past and Embrace Change in a Relationship.
5. One Relationship vs. Many Relationships
Don’t: Neglect Other Relationships
Do: Maintain Meaningful Relationships
“You can have other meaningful relationships, and so can I.”
Sometimes our best friend becomes our only friend, and this can put a lot of pressure on you and your partner. It’s healthy to have your own friends.
You may be thinking “I have friends,” but when was the last time to talked with them? And no, liking their picture on Facebook doesn’t count.
When the only person we have more than small talk with is our partner, we can lose important social and emotional regulation skills that turn us into extreme versions of ourselves.
Last Personal Experience for Today
I remember when Sabe and I were engaged, we spent so much time together planning the wedding and being in love, which was great, but I neglected many other relationships.
The only reason I talked to anyone was to get things done. Sabe and I argued a lot during this time because we put our problems under a magnifying glass and never took a break from them.
I was unloading all my intensified emotions on one person, and I didn’t realize how unrealistic and unhealthy I was being because I was losing touch with reality. I was in an engaged-college-girl-bubble and the only things I paid attention to was Sabe, wedding stuff, and grades.
Sabe noticed I was slowly starting to lose it, and he suggested that I have a “girls’ night out” with some friends. Honestly, even just that one night with good friends, talking about life, school, and career plans helped me remember who I was and put the small relationship problems that I had made so big in my mind back into perspective.
Finding myself was made easier with a little friendship and a little “girls’ night out”.
Trust me, you can have a healthy relationship and still have some time left for family and friends. In fact, making time for other relationships help you find yourself again, and that will make your relationship better.
Listen to Your Heart
Beyond it all, I believe that following my intuition is the best way to finding myself. Find yourself and your voice by taking time to be alone, or with friends, and listen to your inner self. Be brave and love yourself. Be brave and speak up. Be brave and do what makes you feel like you, encourage your partner to be brave and do the same.