When I was younger, I let myself be consumed with my relationships. I was mesmerized by whoever I dated, I looked past any red flags, and didn’t care about setting boundaries.
But that led to a lot of distress and sadness. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I can see clearly how easily I lost myself in every relationship. I wish I’d seen the signs because I could’ve avoided a lot of pain.
But we live, and we learn, right? And I learned a lot from letting my identity be taken over by my relationships. Now that I have a new partner, I look out for the signs that led me to feel overtaken by my relationships in the past.
It’s easy to look back on a relationship and realize its faults, but harder to identify things as they happen. If you’re worried you’ve lost sense of self in your relationship, ask yourself if any of these apply to you:
You never see your friends
Part of who you are is who you surround yourself with. It’s not healthy to only spend time with your partner; you need to spend time with your friends, too.
If trying to remember the last time you hung out with your friend draws a blank, it might be time to consider how things got this way. Given the current situation with the novel crisis, seeing your friends might not be an option. In which case, FaceTime and Zoom are great choices. Make dates to video chat with your friends or give them a call to catch up.
You only do things your partner enjoys
I always say a relationship is all about an equal balance. In my current relationship, we switch off doing things that I enjoy with things that my boyfriend enjoys. In fact, we both revel in the idea of introducing the other to something we love.
Your interests are part of what makes up your relationship, as a whole. Keep doing things that make you happy. Without them, part of your identity is lost, and that’s not healthy for you in the long run.
You’ve lost sight of your goals & passions
A relationship is not an end goal; instead, it’s a support system for achieving your dreams.
Think back to before your relationship began. What were your goals and passions? Are you still pursuing those same things today? If not, ask yourself why things changed. If you’ve put your life on the back burner for your relationship, it’s time to reconsider if your relationship is supporting you or hindering you.
You’re always on edge
I’ve been in relationships where I constantly felt on edge. I was either worried I’d upset my partner, or I never felt I could relax and be myself.
Feeling anxious and worried about your relationship changes who you are. Instead of living without inhibitions, you’re holding yourself back out of fear. A relationship should make you feel happy and comfortable — not distress you to the point of altering your behavior.
You attend to your partner’s needs, at the expense of your own
The best tools for maintaining your sense of self in a relationship are boundaries. In my young 20’s, I had no idea how to create these. I gave and gave and gave to my partner and it drained me.
Being able to draw the line on what your needs are and what you’re willing to sacrifice helps tell your partner who you are. Without these, you may be feeling unhappy, and like your partner doesn’t care for you.
You’ve lost touch with your emotions
If you feel like you’re numb or simply floating between existing and sadness, then you may have lost touch with your emotions. For some, it’s a defense mechanism to keep from getting hurt.
But whatever your reason, this way of existing is robbing you from all the miraculous emotions that we as humans get to experience. You deserve to feel all your feelings, and being in a relationship that prevents you from that is like having your life stolen from you.
You let your value be determined by your partner
I am guilty of this way of thinking. In the past, I felt like I wasn’t worthy of being in a relationship with one of my ex’s. I felt the need to continually prove I was good enough to be his partner.
My feelings hung on every word that came out of his mouth. He would criticize me and I would internalize his words. And when we finally broke up, I was a mere shell of who I used to be.
Your value is inherent and isn’t determined by your partner. You create joy and love in your life, but you are valuable no matter what another person says.
If you think you’ve lost your identity in your relationship, be honest with yourself: Are you allowing the relationship to consume you, or is your partner being emotionally manipulative?
The answer may be one or both, but becoming aware of this will help you determine how to move forward. If you’re in a relationship you think is holding you back from being yourself, make changes and spare yourself wasting time.
Life is too short not to be yourself. Experience it to your full capabilities.