“Hope for love, pray for love, wish for love, dream for love… but don’t put your life on hold waiting for love.”
~ Mandy Hale
It is easy to buy into this idea that being in a relationship is finally being “complete”.
Media tells us so, therefore it must be true. What we must realize is that relationships are comprised of two “complete” individuals choosing to be together.
What does this mean?
It means that to not lose yourself in a relationship you need to remember that who you are, what you love to do, your friends, family, career etc. are all a part of you and should not be surrendered for one person.
If you meet someone new there is this tendency to drown yourself in their company; when you should in fact seek to incorporate them into your life as they do you.
- Maintain your friendships and encourage them to do the same.
- Stick with your hobbies and past times if your partner enjoys them bring them along, if they don’t then continue to engage in them and encourage them to engage in their own interests.
- Maintain relationships with your family, encourage your partner to get to know your family and you their family.
We often become so focused on this idea that as a couple we must do ALL things together, often the ability to have our own activities gives us things to talk about and share with our partner.
Finding a balance between time together and time apart is key.
Yes compromise is important, but it is compromise not sacrifice there is a difference. If you find yourself pulling away from friends, stopping your leisure activities, withdrawing from your world outside of your new partner.
Take a moment to re-evaluate and to ask yourself if this is what you really want.
Your support system is crucial; too often we lose our support network and when the relationship falls apart we feel we have lost our entire world. Prevent this by maintaining that support but also encourage your partner to do the same.
A couple should have common interests and activities they do together but it is equally healthy to have time apart to pursue friendships, work relationships and personal interests.
If you find yourself worried that this occasional time apart or the pursuit of personal interests will result in a break up or infidelity well, that is an entirely different article series- but I will say this it would involve subject on “Trust” and its importance in a relationship.
Denise M Coyle, LMFT , CTS, CDAC – www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/denise-m-coyle
Psychological abuse can be silent and insidious.
One of the devastating side effects of an abusive relationship is a partial or complete loss of a sense of self. And as your sense of self disappears, it takes with it your self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect. Your autonomy and courage. Your belief in yourself and your own worth.
An abusive relationship can sneak up on someone who is knowledgeable and on the look-out for the signs.
It can be even trickier for those who have no training or background in this area. So here are a few red flags to watch for in your relationships.
1. Isolation. Step back for a moment. Does it seem as if your partner has been trying to separate you from your family and friends, your social support system?
2. Disapproval. Do you find yourself continually worrying about how your partner is going to react to something you say or do? Do you find yourself changing who you present yourself to be in order to avoid that incessant disapproval?
3. Enmeshment. Does it feel as if you and your partner are joined at the hip? As if true love means doing everything together, with no time for yourself and your own interests?
4. Insane Jealousy. Do you face temper tantrums and other acting out behavior if you are “too” friendly, if you spend some time away from your partner, if you don’t give an accounting of every minute of the day? Are you being falsely, repeatedly accused of infidelity?
Abusive relationships can suck the life out of you and leave nothing but a shell of your former self.
If you recognize any of these red flags, take back your power and walk away. Find someone who is your equal, who doesn’t have to build him/herself up by tearing you down. Find someone who brings out the best in you, not someone who wants to change who you are.
Dr. Loral Lee Portenier – www.linkedin.com/in/loral-lee-portenier-phd-62897b17
If you have a strong sense of self, it’s less likely that you will “lose yourself” in a relationship.
You need to be able to make yourself happy and not depend on another person to make you happy. Relationships augment our happiness and true sense of self.
That being said, usually it’s fear that leads to a dependency that leads to loss of oneself in a relationship.
Fear of being alone. Fear that this is the only person who will love me, because I am unlovable. Fear that I made the wrong choice, and I cannot face it.
Fear of being alone.
One of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves is to cultivate aloneness. It’s not only important to our development of self; it’s critical to our well being. In addition to taking pleasure in solitude, find things that you enjoy on your own, such as reading, gardening, walking, etc.
Fear that you are unlovable.
Being loveable starts with your inner voice. Take the time to fall in love with your own sometimes imperfect, possibly atypical, and full-of potential self. Speak to yourself the same way you would speak to your best friend.
Fear that I made the wrong choice.
We’ve all heard stories about people breaking up right after they get married. You know that it was not an “all of a sudden” decision. When the signals call out, pay attention. You do yourself and the other person a disservice by not being brave enough to say when.
Losing yourself usually happens over time as you concede your own desires and needs to make the other person happy.
The longer this goes on the greater the imbalance and the more difficult it is to fix. You cannot expect the other person to be aware that you are losing yourself.
Relationships thrive on balance, understanding, growth and trust.
If this relationship has all that potential, you owe it to both of you to keep communication open and self awareness constant.
Linda McKenney, Personal Life Coach and Motivational Speaker – www.majok.org
When we first start dating a new person, we often strive to put our best foot forward so as to appear to be the “perfect” mate.
We put more time and care into our appearance, watch our words to make sure we say the “right” things, and check our love interest’s reactions for clues as to what they might be thinking about us.
In a nutshell, there’s a lot of energy expended outwardly, in the form of wondering if we’re measuring up in the other person’s eyes.
The trouble often comes months down the line when we realize we cannot sustain this façade of perfection.
By then, however, our partner has come to like and expect this less-than-whole picture of who we really are, and may be surprised and disappointed when it doesn’t hold up.
We, too, may be caught up in the trap of our own making, and may be scared to start showing the vulnerabilities and flaws that add complexity to who we are.
One way to avoid this is to check in with yourself from the very start of the relationship.
Balance that desire to look good in the other person’s eyes (the external focus) with a true look at your own feelings.
You may ask yourself: “How do I feel about the plans for tonight?
Am I being true to myself and my partner about what I really want, or am I just going along with the plan to avoid conflict?”
Holding an internal focus will serve to keep you honest about presenting yourself in an authentic light.
It may feel risky to show the real you, but, ultimately, isn’t that who you want your partner to know?
Marnee Reiley, MA, LMFT – www.youroctherapist.com
You can only lose something you have not remembered to keep safe.
Self-respect and self-value are necessary ingredients if you are not going to be absorbed by another.
When you know and treasure who you are separately from an intimate relationship, you are more likely to establish clear boundaries that your partner will honor in order to be worthy of you.
If you regularly lose yourself in intimate relationships, you may not feel entitled to holding those boundaries when you’re afraid of rejection, and allow your partner to define your availability and your worth. Within a short time, you will only know who you are by how your partner responds to you.
Many times people are not even aware they are giving themselves away when they begin a new relationship.
The initial joyful lust that is present at the beginning of most romantic relationships can weave a dramatic spell.
Within it, boundaries may seem like barriers to complete intimacy and are often ignored.
That oversight can leave both partners wide open to losing themselves before they even realize they are doing so.
As those seductive moments decline, they may only then become aware that they have not established their end game and now feel unable to retract what they’ve offered without threatening the relationship.
Very few people automatically give themselves away in the same pattern in every relationship.
Caring for a new partner can feel wonderful. Anticipating a lover’s needs is one of the most common expressions of love.
Being too careful is often seen as missing out on what could be possible. The feelings of blending hearts, fluids, and touch are a seductive trap that can minimizes potential threats of loss of self.
Certain partners are much more likely to take you there, and specific characteristics can be more blinding.
Childhood insecurities or traumas not healed are unconscious drivers that make us seek resolution in adult relationships.
If you meet someone, for instance who reminds you of someone from the past whose loss you may still be grieving, you will be much more susceptible to seeing that partner as a symbolic replacement, and drop your protective boundaries.
Charismatic people who have no conflict in taking what is offered without the obligation to honor it can focus in on those targets from large emotional distances.
People whose own needs dove-tail into yours can also seem too worthy of your automatic trust. Even someone who truly loves you may not be aware that what he or she is taking should have not been offered to begin with.
Intimate relationships can have many wonderful attributes and still ultimately fail because either partner has not established what he or she will ultimately need or be able to offer as the relationship matures.
Giving yourself away is a promise you will not be able to fulfill forever without harming yourself or indulging your partner in an unhealthy way.
The most potent enemy is the unwillingness to talk openly about that process early on even when the relationship may take a hit. That challenge will only grow greater over time and no one wants to feel like a fool when they have believed something that turns out to be untrue.
Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com
It can be so tempting to get wrapped up in a new romance and forget about single living, but it is important to honor your independence and identity while in a relationship.
We want to maintain our hobbies, lifestyles, friendships and other independent aspects of life so that we can still care for ourselves. Our partners, or any singular other individual, can never meet all of our needs.
It is important for the health of your relationship that you and your partner are interdependent, not codependent, and are able to exist as individuals, not just as a part of a coupled whole.
If you rely on your partner for your entire identity and emotional needs it will put a lot of pressure on your partner and on your relationship. As adults we need to be able to sustain ourselves individually no matter our relationship status.
I encourage you to focus on what is important in your life and on the things that you need as an individual to be happy. These are things you will want to hold onto as your relationship grows and evolves.
Make sure to maintain the friendships that you have for support!
Remember that each relationship plays a different role in your life, and that your partner may not be able to be the friend to you that your best friend is.
Don’t stop doing the things you enjoy!
Do not give up your interests, as your partner’s interests will not nourish you intellectually. There may be barriers or extra effort required, but it is important that you are able to do the things that make you feel good and alive individually, as you deserve it!
I know sometimes people jump into a relationship because of feelings of loneliness, and it can certainly feel wonderful to have a companion, however it is important that we all can spend time with ourselves,and that we are able to be “alone”.
Time with ourselves is unlike any other time, in that we get to focus on self-care, build a spiritual connection with ourselves, and allow for self-exploration.
Being able to be alone is a key way to enrich our relationship with our self.
In order to be truly happy, the most important relationship to have is the one with yourself. Be secure in your self-love, and you will never find yourself insecure with others.
It is important to continue having a similar social life to the one you had prior to entering a relationship.
We do not want to change who we are to be in a relationship, we want to be us and to have another person join us where we are, so keep being where you are, and doing what you like to do!
A relationship should not change you, except for the better, and should not require you to become someone new.
We do all have to make compromises in relationships, but we should not have to compromise who we are.
To be in a healthy and happy relationship maintenance of independence and identity are so crucial.
To have a good relationship with others, we must first start with a good relationship with our self.
Lisa Resnick, M.A., EdM, LMHC, CHHC – www.lisaresnickholistictherapy.com
An intimate relationship is not the answer to filling up a deep place of emptiness and longing.
That place is very old, and it is an inside job to fill it. “You complete me” is an insidious lie. It is not within the capabilities of another human being to complete you, nor is it their job.
Coming into the relationship as a whole person is how you find the partnership, mutuality, strength, support, and comfort that are the present in a healthy relationship.
The second part is learning not to abandon yourself in the process of the relationship by focusing so much on taking care of your partner’s needs that you discount, neglect, or even lose sight of your own.
This is the flip side of trying to get filled up by your partner, and it is giving away part of yourself in order to “fix” the other person.
It is not your job, nor is it within your capabilities to fix another human being. Again, it is an inside job!
Of course, none of us consciously makes a decision to abandon ourselves or to be excessively needy; those mechanisms are set up by emotional patterns of response that are very old and have little to do with logic or reasoning. Your body has the answers.
Pay attention to what your body is telling you about healthy boundaries and the balance between closeness and breathing room.
Practice conscious breathing and staying grounded in the present. A loving relationship is a precious and wonderful thing, but always remember that you are already complete, as is your partner, and you will be able to experience the joy of connection with another from a place of wholeness in your being.
Wendy Dingee, MS, LCPC, LCADC, BCC – www.livewellnevada.com
Falling in love is a science.
Literally, chemicals such as: adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin all affect our brain when we are in the attraction stage of our relationship. Serotonin is the feel good chemical that makes it hard to think of anything or anyone other than your partner.
This is where we may struggle to create a healthy boundary from our partner in order to not “lose ourselves in our relationship”.
When we identify that our brains are being affected when we fall in love, we can gain awareness and create an action plan, which includes time without our partner.
Map out your values and your schedule.
This means identify what you value most in your life. Do you value spirituality, a religion, spending time with your family, physical fitness, creativity, your friendships, time in nature, reading, traveling, socializing, a certain hobby, sport, or activity?
Create time and space for yourself while in your relationship.
Make it a priority to spend personal time on what your value most, aside from your partner.
If your relationship is solid and built on equality and mutual respect for one another, your partner will only love you more for spending time doing what you love, which in turn only makes you more happy and therefore more attractive.
Brooke Campbell, M.A., RDT-BCT, LCAT – www.creativekinections.com
Whether you are in a new relationship, or have been together for a while, most of us have felt this way at one time or another.
Couples (especially couples in new relationships) find it easy to get so wrapped up in each other, that they lose sight of themselves.
Yet, losing your identity is not good for you, or the relationship!
In order to maintain a healthy relationship with your partner you want to have a solid foundation, and part of building that foundation includes not losing sight of yourself!
Below are tips to remembering ‘Me’ in the midst of ‘We’.
1. Don’t forget to maintain your own interests.
Do know that it’s okay for you and your partner to have different interests and hobbies. Keep up with your old hobbies and friends from when you were single, and encourage your partner to do the same.
Maintain a healthy balance between doing the things you and your partner enjoy doing together, as well as continuing to do the things you like to do individually.
2. Don’t forget the future goals that you had for yourself when you were single.
You will definitely want to talk about future goals and plans together, however, just be mindful of your own personal and career goals. There will be goals and dreams that are negotiable and goals and dreams that are not negotiable.
Figure out what you are willing to negotiate or compromise on.
After all, you don’t want to feel resentful towards your partner down the road if you had to sacrifice too much.
3. Do establish healthy and meaningful communication patterns.
Set aside time to talk with each other about your future goals and dreams. And remember, it is okay to disagree. If you disagree with something your partner is saying respond from a curiosity perspective.
Listen with compassion, and take a non-judgmental stance.
Ask questions and find out where they are coming from. Ask your partner to show you the same respect when they disagree with you.
Remember: one of the keys to maintaining a healthy relationship is to remember yourself and to keep your own identity.
Not only is this healthy for you, it is also healthy for your relationship as well.
Brooke Schmidt, M.A., LAMFT – www.arrowtherapymn.com
Being in a healthy relationship can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.
In a committed relationship, more often than not, you spend most of your time with your partner. You learn what makes them “tick,” their philosophy on life, their favorite foods, bands, books, etc.
Part of being a supportive partner in a relationship is meeting your partner where they are – trying new things, participating in their hobbies, i.e. exploring their world. Therefore, both partners make compromises and invest in one another equally to maintain a balance.
When you lose yourself in a relationship, chances are, you are defining yourself by the relationship.
These are dangerous waters to tread because you may feel lost, overwhelmed, or even resentful towards your partner.
Here are a few tips to maintaining your identity while remaining a supportive partner:
1. Find a balance.
There will be times when each of you will do things for one another that you would never do if you were single. It may never sound like a fun idea to you to go white water rafting, or take a wine and painting workshop, however, your partner does think it is fun and therefore you do it. This is a dance, meaning both partners are getting their needs met.
2. Stop putting yourself last.
Relationships certainly include selflessness and giving, however, sometimes it is okay (and appropriate) to say “no.” We all have needs that deserve to be met. A healthy relationship is not one in which you are always doing what makes your partner happy and neglecting yourself.
Take time to do things that are just for you. You cannot take care of you partner if you do not first take care of yourself. A supportive and loyal partner is one who is content, fulfilled, and confident.
Make time to see your friends, do the things you enjoy but wouldn’t dare ask your partner to accompany you in because you know they wouldn’t enjoy it. Relationships are about growth – two people grow together as each is growing oneself.
Tara Gogolinski, MS, LCMFT – www.linkedin.com/in/tara-gogolinski-ms-lcmft-737b0036
Being in a relationship sometimes involves compromising and learning new ways to connect with your partner.
Maybe even developing a new interest in your partner’s hobbies or activities in order to spend quality time together.
But how do you not lose yourself in this process?
It becomes important to be truthful and communicate openly about your likes and preferences and balancing them with those of your partner.
A relationship is about two separate individuals coming together and complementing other.
Not about completely giving up your own interests or desires for the other person or the relationship. Sure this may avoid short term conflict, but over time, you may slowly begin to feel like you have lost yourself.
Find time to participate in those activities that you enjoyed before you entered into the relationship and maintain or develop outside relationships with family and friends.
When you nurture yourself, your romantic relationship can become healthier and fuller. Two complete individuals make an awesome couple.
New love often goes through stages.
In the beginning, an all consuming infatuation can have you wanting to be together 24/7. This should be a stage and not the final destination for your relationship. Finding a balance between individuation and togetherness allows for a more mature and deeper love to develop.
Another trap to lose yourself in a relationship is people pleasing.
Always agreeing with your partner’s decisions and never speaking up about what you want can lead to resentment and bitterness which can become toxic in a relationship.
Don’t be afraid to express your opinion or wishes.
If you really want to go out for Chinese food, don’t stay silent or say you don’t care if you really do care. Over time, these little moments of self denial can create feelings of being disconnected from yourself and ultimately your partner.
Having the healthiest, stable and longer term relationship involves setting boundaries so that you don’t lose yourself in the process. Remember, your partner fell in love with you. Not a mirror image.
Megan Logan, MSW, LCSW – www.meganloganlcsw.com
There are two life forces that need to be balanced in order to live a fulfilling life.
There is the force for self that propels us to define ourselves as individuals. It includes our thoughts, feelings, personal dreams and our sense of values and ethics. From the day we are born, we are incorporating influence from the people around us.
In general we filter the information we get from our environment through our families.
Although we are born with some sense of personal identity, a lot of it comes from how and where we are raised.
The other life force is the one that propels us into relationships.
Ironically we spend about the first eighteen years of our lives focused on becoming autonomous; then we start looking for a mate with whom to share our lives and raise a family. The drive for individuality and the drive for togetherness are inherent. Balancing the two drives is not easy but is necessary to a healthy life.
People lose themselves in a relationship when they have failed to create a solid sense of self.
Being unsure of who you are creates a reliance on others for validation. Less defined people become relationship focused, even obsessed. They lose themselves in relationships to feel safe and loved.
Because they are dependent, they are afraid to self-define for fear of losing the relationship. It is difficult to live with the constant fear of rejection or abandonment.
Feeling good about yourself, knowing who you are insures that you won’t spend the rest of your life with a jerk.
Needy people settle. People who can stand on their own two feet make deliberate choices based on a personal assessment of how that choice will enhance or detract from their lives.
Needy people are people who have not learned to value themselves.
Secure people look within. They are confident and strive to know themselves. They are secure in the knowledge that they have something to offer, and that the people worth cultivating will recognize that worth.
Not everyone is raised in an environment that contributes to high self-esteem.
Here are some tips to help you feel so good about yourself that you’ll never settle for less than you deserve.
- Remind yourself daily that everyone is unique, including you. We are like snowflakes. No two are alike, and we each have something to contribute to the whole.
- You have your own unique purpose for being. Try to find that purpose by looking within. Look for activities and vocations that express your unique gifts.
- Don’t try to impress people. You have nothing to prove.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. This is a common pitfall and a sure way to feel less than. There will always be someone prettier, smarter richer, etc. So what? Life isn’t a contest; it’s a journey.
- Be grateful for what you have, even when striving for more. Give to others; it’s the best way to affirm the goodness that is in you.
- Be yourself. In that way you’ll continue to feel good about yourself (even when you mess up), and you will be more likely to put yourself where and with whom you are really meant to be.
Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
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