I found myself in a bathtub, of all places. Tears streaming down my face. “Who am I?” I repeated over and over. “Who am I?” Surely, I couldn’t be this woman in a bathtub ugly crying with a glass of wine wondering who she had become or where her real self had gone. I was a strong, confident, driven, fierce female – and they aren’t supposed to completely lose themselves in a relationship.
Yet, I had. My personality. My dreams. My drive. My friends. My beliefs. They’d all changed. For a man. For love.
They say love blinds you, and frankly, it blinded me. When you finally find the one your brain connects with, your heart adores, and your eyes sparkle after, it is easy to do just about anything to keep that relationship in tact. ANYTHING. This led me to the familiar, scary trap of completely losing myself.
And I’m not the only woman who has done this. I’m sure many of you have been there.
Here’s the truth: eventually all relationships will demand some sort of compromise or sacrifice, but it’s entirely possible to sacrifice way too much of yourself for the sake of love. No woman wants to wake up days, weeks, or even years into a relationship and wonder what the hell even happened? “Where did I go?”
How do you avoid the oh-so-common trap of losing yourself– your life, career, personality, and other relationships – in a romantic relationship? Here are eight ways to help you keep to your true self while loving another.
1. Do you. Always do you.
After I got out of that all-consuming relationship, a good girlfriend of mine reminded me: “Do you, Taylor, always do you!” As I found a new romantic partner, her words kept ringing in my ears. I sat down and listed out all the things that made me…ME! That had to be the basis of my life moving forward in a relationship. Instead of doing everything like somebody else, I had to do me.
The same is true for you. Your personality, your quirks, your likes and dislikes, your hobbies – keep them alive and vibrant! It’s must better to share your awesome life with somebody than it is to lose your awesome life to somebody.
Single, dating, or married – just do you!
2. Invest in yourself and your passions.
It’s truly important to continue utilizing your resources to pour into your life – into things like job advancement, education, health, and passions. Your money and time are finite, so you have to make decisions about where they go. Any relationship will take some of these precious resources, but it can’t take them all.
During a much healthier relationship, I made it a point to go back to school and continue my education while seriously dating. Lots of money and time went into studying and taking classes; I wasn’t always available. But investing in myself gave me the full tank to invest into the man I love.
Nobody should try to pour into anybody else with an empty tank.
3. Go on a date…alone!
Spend time by yourself. Go out one night – just you and the things you love to do. Maybe you go see a movie that you really like, or hike your favorite trail, or sit at home with a box of chocolate, a glass of wine, and Netflix (no judgment here!). Whatever you do, make sure it makes you happy. It’s a time where you have to please nobody but yourself.
Learning to be alone is one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves. Making alone time a sacred routine is a great way to ensure that your time doesn’t get entirely sucked away by someone else.
When you learn how to be happy alone, you won’t need anybody else to complete your life. You are then free to choose somebody to add to your life.
4. Keep your friends close by.
Your circle of friendships is your tribe. You need to stay close to those who invest in you and speak wisdom into your life. Especially when you are in a relationship. I’m not talking about casual acquaintances; I’m talking about serious brothers and sisters. The kind who will tell you that dress makes you look fat, and yet you take no offense because they only speak the Honest to God truth!
One fatal mistake in relationships, especially new ones, is when women start filling up their time with their partner (good) at the exclusion of their friends (bad). If a relationship goes sour, and you’ve removed yourself from your friends, it is much easier to stay in and be consumed by that bad relationship for way too long.
Allow your partner to become your friend, but not the only one.
5. Stay connected with family.
Our families are often dysfunctional and quirky, but they are still family. No matter the romantic relationship you bring into your life, you’re going to need those family connections. Your roots are in your family. In order to stay connected to yourself, it’s important to find a way to stay connected to your roots.
Relying on my family was one of the best ways I recovered from losing myself in that relationship. They reminded me of the person I had always been, and they were there to pick me up when I fell. Of course, not every person is lucky enough to have positive family.
When you can, stay connected with those family members who will keep you grounded.
6. Set up boundaries quickly.
Remember that boundaries aren’t walls. You don’t need to keep every lover away for fear of getting hurt. But it’s always a smart idea to set up healthy boundaries right out of the gate. Lay down the rules of the relationship. How much space do you need? What aspects of your life are off limits? What things are most important to you?
If a partner wants to have a healthy relationship with you, he will want to have boundaries too. It’s always better for two independent people to come together while keeping their own space and interests in tact.
There needs to be boundaries so nobody consumes the other person.
7. Partner with someone who likes you.
You may think this seems painfully obvious, but is it? If a partner wants you to change, they aren’tshowing real love to the real you. When you find somebody who likes you, I mean really really likes you, that person won’t expect you to lose your identity. Because that’s the identity they have fallen in love with.
We all have our quirks and our flaws (and trust me, I know my list is long!). We enter relationships expecting that there will be some issues and hang-ups (or at least we should expect that; it’s life). It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be real.
If your significant other wants to change this or that or everything in order to fit into his/her life, OR if you find yourself changing to be kept around, your partner does not or cannot like the real you.
8. Hold on to logical thinking.
I’ve been there: the moment when the pitter-patter of your loving heart sounds way louder than the logical thoughts in your brain. When love is involved, emotions get incredibly heightened. Those emotions are great and wonderful and special, but in no way should logic be allowed to step aside. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. We need to keep listening to our hearts and our minds.
Take some time to think about your life and figure out what’s most important to you. You’ll need to decide the hills to die on (what you cannot let go of for the sake of love) and the things you can effortlessly let go of if need be. Once you look at your partner through the lenses of your heart and your logical mind, you can still be madly in love and yet look at what’s happening in your relationship with logic. Maybe stepping back and examining a relationship isn’t what’s typically considered romantic, but it’s incredibly important.
The heart can work so much better when it doesn’t ignore the head!
9. Find peace with the possibility of letting go.
As much as we hate to think about it, not every relationship is a healthy one that should stick around for a lifetime. Sometimes we must let go of a love not suited for us. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard. You will probably cry and yell and binge on chocolate and feel devastated and depressed. And then you will survive – and then thrive.
It is better to lose someone who wasn’t good for your self-identity than it is to stay in a suffocating relationship. You have one precious life to live, and the clock is ticking. Do not waste one hour getting lost in the life of another. Making peace with the fact that you may need to split up takes confidence and guts.
But confidence and guts are the first step in finding yourself once again!
Navigating through a romantic relationship can be tough, and there is no one-size-fits-all. I have been in relationships where I allowed myself to be changed by somebody else, but now I’m in a relationship where I am still exactly myself. We learn and we grow from our mistakes.
Sometimes love requires sacrifice. But no matter what, you can never lose everything that makes you, well, YOU. Your lovely self must stay in tact.
And remember the most important thing: no partner who genuinely and deeply loves you will ever want you to be anyone other than yourself.