Ever Feel Like You’re Losing Yourself in a Relationship?
Enjoying intimacy with a lover can easily lead to neglecting our truest, happiest selves. Here’s how to find your way back — or avoid getting lost.
I look around at the women in my life and realize many of them have one thing in common: They seem to have lost themselves in some way. Sadly, that also includes me.
Whereas I was once this fiery, sassy chick who went out and did her own thing, not really worried about who had an issue with it, homegirl is muted now. Somewhere along the way, while tending to my husband’s needs, parenting, running a household and doing what feels like hundreds of tasks each day, I lost myself.
And as I mentioned, I see this in many women. With so much on our plates, it seems our identities become all about being wife, mother and employee (not to mention chef, cleaner, chauffeur and the many other hats we wear).
While it’s definitely a good thing to go hard in your relationship and the other areas of your life, it shouldn’t be at the expense of yourself.
Here’s how to love and live without losing you — and find your way back if you’ve already slipped away.
Forget the “other half” stuff. “A lot of times, we get caught up in this idea of ‘You complete me,’ but in reality, you’re already a complete individual,” says Wiyatta Fahnbulleh, Psy.D., known as Dr. Wiyatta, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. She likens it to a favorite pie. You already have all the necessary ingredients for the pie: your characteristics, ideas, thoughts and life experiences. So it’s not that your partner fills in what’s missing. It’s more like they’re the ice cream on the side. Together the two are delicious, but the pie is just as yummy on its own.
Keep doing you. If you enjoy dancing, shopping or watching space documentaries, do it. Yes, even if your partner isn’t interested. Maintaining your hobbies and interests will help preserve your individuality. Speaking of which, keep in mind what it was that made your partner fall for you in the first place. Was it your ability to make folks laugh, your tell-it-like-it-is attitude or how you kicked butt at pool? Whatever it was, nourish that part of yourself so you can remain that same fabulous person.
Don’t abandon your social life. Hanging out with your love is cool, but don’t forget your other people. Spend time with your family and friends. Encourage your partner to do the same.
Speak your truth. Don’t censor yourself or be a “yes” woman. Share your opinions (respectfully, of course), express your wants and needs, and establish boundaries in relationships. Otherwise, you’ll lose parts of yourself, and your partner may lose interest because they see you as someone who doesn’t have a personality or mind of her own, Dr. Wiyatta says.
Stay curious about yourself. Each year as we get older, our ideals and ideas change, so it’s important to constantly explore who you are, Dr. Wiyatta says. What topics pique your interest? What’s something you’ve always wanted to do? Expand your knowledge. Pursue your goals. Try new things. Or do something old in a new way.
Find your equilibrium. It’s easy to abandon yourself when you have so many other things to tend to each day. However, don’t put yourself on the back burner. Find a way to balance your responsibilities and personal needs. Try to separate your work life and your home life. Don’t overschedule yourself. Take time to recharge every day (yes, even if that means camping out in the bathroom or sitting in your car for 15 minutes just so you can hear your own thoughts or do absolutely nothing).
Prioritize your health. Continue to take care of yourself even if you’ve already snagged your dream guy or girl and have kids. Be physically active, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, manage your stress and practice self-care.
If you’ve already lost yourself (or feel you’re slipping away):
Go back to basics. Think about the things you liked to do before or what you wish you had time for now, Dr. Wiyatta. says Slowly incorporate those activities into your life. For example, if you loved reading, pick up a book. Into karaoke? Sing, sister, sing!
Reconnect with folks. Remember that favorite cousin you haven’t talked to in months? Reach out to the people you miss and set something up so you can spend time together, Dr. Wiyatta says. Do it often.
Boost your confidence. Reduce negative self-talk. Work out to get feel-good hormones flowing. Practice mirror work. Do whatever it takes to make you feel like your old (or new and improved) self.
Talk with your partner. Dr. Wiyatta says it’s good to let your person know you love them but that you feel like you’ve lost yourself in some ways. Give them a heads-up that while you enjoy spending time with them, you’ll also be hanging out with other people you care about and doing more activities you enjoy. If it’s a healthy relationship, your partner will want what’s best for you.
I’ve been working these tips into my daily life, and I’m loving it! I’m more opinionated. I’ve gotten back to watching scary movies, dancing and having fun. I take breaks to relax and recharge. And I’m making time for my loved ones. I feel like me again. And I must admit, it’s been a pleasure getting reacquainted with this sister. She (as in me) is pretty cool!