I never thought I’d put myself second in a relationship. An intense Aries and Dominicana, I am a go-getter and usually take no bullshit. Yet there I was in a committed relationship, getting along to get along. It felt like an out of body experience, watching myself agree with my partner when I meant no. Deferring to him for all decisions, including choices that affected my person directly, when I once stood my ground. By the end of my relationship, I became a caricature of myself that neither I nor my loved ones recognized. It’s taken a lot of inner work to evolve and heal so I don’t lose my identity in a relationship again.
Maybe you’ve been there or you’re there now. Maybe you’re currently submerged in a relationship and desperately want to come up for air. Or perhaps it’s a close friend. Her need to please has shifted her personality so much she is unrecognizable. Everything has turned into a “we ”and she had forgotten that “I” also matters. This is when our emotional satisfaction and overall happiness suffers. This is when we lose our identity.
Science also backs up the importance of a woman’s identity outside of romantic relationships. In a 1963 study, Betty Friedan talked to hundreds of women struggling with depression. At that time, women didn’t have separate lives from their husbands and their marriage. Therefore, they felt they lacked personality and undergoing an identity crisis. And, although women have become a lot more independent since then, we still have a default mode, which is to give of ourselves despite ourselves in personal relationships.
So, how do we love our significant other without forgetting to love and be ourselves? Here’s some advice on how to stop losing your identity in a relationship.
How to Stop Losing Your Identity in a Relationship
Connect or reconnect with your friends.
It’s easy to wrap ourselves up in our relationship when in love, and that usually means forgetting about our friendships. Like, we only call our girlfriends when there’s trouble in paradise or when we need something. That is a recipe for isolation because you’re living in a bubble. And when we live in a bubble we can’t see outside ourselves or our relationship.
If you continue to include your friends in your life when coupled up, they will help ground you so you don’t forget about yourself. So continue to have galtime regularly, even if you take a page from Sex and the City and have to schedule your monthly brunch dates.
Schedule Me Time
It’s important to spend time with your friends and your significant other, but what about setting out time just for you? It may be challenging to have alone time if you’re married with kids or you’re a single mom. But taking time out for self is essential for self-preservation.
In order to stop losing your identity in a relationship, you have to either start or continue to nourish your relationship with self. Start with just 10 minutes a day to be with only you. During that time, listen to music, read, write, dance, meditate, lay on the coach – do whatever the fuck strikes your fancy and connects you to your identity. Set boundaries with loved ones and tell them you need alone time. Walk away if you need to. Do what is necessary to spend quality time with yourself.
Write a Letter to Yourself Reminding You of Personal Goals
You may have stopped pursuing your goals when you became a Mrs. and especially Mom. Thing is when we stop cultivating personal aspirations we lose our identity. Instead of starting that garden or launching that blog you’ve always wanted, you focus your energies outside of yourself. That’s why I encourage you to write a letter or a list of all of your current personal goals. Do this yearly or even quarterly. Our goals evolve as we do. And reminding yourself of the things you love to do and want to continue to pursue will help you continuously tap into your authentic self.