When I was married, I completely lost myself in the role of wife. Whether or not I was happy in my marriage is irrelevant – fact is, I forgot who I was. Who I was, without the labels of wife, mother, partner, etcetera. It had never occurred to me not to lose myself - the relationship was just who I was.
The concept of 'how not to lose yourself in a relationship' was certainly something I had never considered - or even heard of.
When that union very unexpectedly ended, I struggled find my place in the world. I just wasn't sure of who I was. I gave myself the label of ‘abandoned wife’ for a time – try as I might I just couldn't seem to separate myself from the whole debacle and grasp the fact that I no longer needed the name or role of ‘wife’ at all!
Of course, this was all part of the grieving process and in time, I managed to find acceptance of my situation. And with a little more time, that acceptance grew into a full-blown love affair with my new life and role as a single woman and mother. I didn't have to answer to anyone and the pleasure I found in rediscovering me was intoxicating - quite unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.
Now, I am in another committed and loving relationship. But this time around, things are different. This time, I've made a commitment to myself - I'll never again forget who I am. I'll never forget that while having a companion and being in love is truly a beautiful thing, I am a single and whole entity and I don’t need another half to complete me.
Whether you’re a woman or a man, it is really never a good idea to rely on your relationship for a sense of identity, purpose and happiness. Here are some practical things you can do to retain a sense of independence and NOT lose yourself in your relationship. Enjoy!
1. Have your own friends
My partner and I each have our own friends. As he’s never been married, he probably has a wider and more diverse circle of friends - both male AND female. Admittedly, it took some time for me to curb my jealousy with regard to his female friends but the fact that I have – coupled with his completely honest and transparent nature - has no doubt helped both me AND our relationship grow. Although we spend time as a couple with friends, I'll admit that I truly treasure the time I spend alone with my friends.
Of course, when endorphins and dopamine are running high in the early stages of a romantic relationship it can be tempting to put your buddies on the back-burner and spend every free moment with your betrothed. Don’t do this! Your relationship needs to be able to survive each of you spending time with the other important people in your lives.
2. Spend some time alone
To maintain a sense of autonomy, you need to get good at spending time alone. This will help you uncover and remember who YOU are without your significant other. I made myself do this on a regular basis during my divorce, just to find out who I was without a kid screaming for me, or a husband bellowing my name.
And when I entered my current relationship, I maintained this routine. No doubt, it is an adjustment not seeing my partner for a night or two, particularly after we've just spent a good chunk of time together, but the fact that I need to adjust tells me just how important it is for me (and him) to do it. I spend my alone time doing whatever it is that I want to do – read, watch movies, clean the house. I'm absolutely certain that the time apart from each other makes both of us better relationship partners.
3. Have your own source of income
Super important. It is never a good idea to rely on your partner for income, even if he or she is earning mega bucks and can afford to support you. I'm sure we've all heard stories of women who, after having suddenly lost a husband to death or divorce, were left utterly clueless when it came to handling money and paying the household bills. Don’t be her! DON’T!
I know not everybody will agree with me on this point, and that is OK. But even with very small children I believe it is possible and even necessary to have some form of employment and income. Even one or two days a week is something, just to keep your foot in the door and maintain a sense of both independence and contribution when it comes to finances.
4. Set some personal goals
Whilst married, any goals that I had were all centred on – or at least related to - my husband and children. Which was fine, we were a family after all, but after my divorce something deep inside of me changed. I realised I didn't want to die without doing at least some of the things that were important to me – JUST me.
So, this is my advice to you now. Plan your future with your beloved, by all means. But also set a few goals just for you. A job that you've always been interested in; a holiday without your partner; a creative endeavour of some sort. Don’t sacrifice all of your personal wants and needs for the sake of the relationship. Know what it is that YOU love and want out of life.
5. Don’t allow the relationship to dictate and affect everything
This last point pretty much sums up everything I've already said. In a nutshell… ensure that you have some semblance of a life of your own. Don’t get so caught up in the idea of being somebody’s ‘other half’ that you forget you are actually whole.
If you and your partner are going through a rough patch, don’t let it affect every other part of your life. Recognise that the relationship is one part of your life – it is not your whole life. Remember that nothing in life is ever really permanent – neither bad nor good times last forever. Enjoy the good times while they last, and work at making the not so good times better. Most importantly, NEVER lose you.
Do you have any other ideas about not losing yourself in your relationship? Tell me in the comments!
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