One of the things I’m asked more and more, by people in and out of relationship, is something to the effect of “How do I hang on to myself in a relationship?” Or, “How can I not lose myself when I’m with someone?”
Initially, this was fascinating to me as I began my Coaching practice, because I, myself, was someone “hell-bent” on maintaining a separate, individual life when I was in love. After living for years with an emotionally unstable, control freak father, I put a stake in the ground early on around living my life “my way”, for “me” and never merged with my boyfriends or husband in the way I see some so easily do. Trust me, that certainly caused its own issues. Because it stemmed from reactivity and a sense of protection, it was one of the first areas I needed to address when I began my own healing and “waking up” process.
What was more common, though, as girlfriends vented or clients questioned whether to “stay or go” in their relationships, was this belief that they had “lost” themselves and given up too much. They seemed to believe that the only way out of the mess they had created was to leave. A new client shared with me yesterday “I feel like I’m invisible. Either I have a hissy fit so that I can be heard and have my thoughts taken into consideration, or it’s all about him, what he wants, what we’re going to do. It changes now, or I’m outta here.
My guess is that there’s no way it’s just going to change now. Why would that happen?
If the dynamic is in place, it’s been working for BOTH parties in some way.
I know you may be saying right now “Well, I can tell you for sure it’s not been working for me!” but really, is that true? We do what works. We do what we get something out of, or we wouldn’t do it. You know that way that a person gives in to what their new, gorgeous, fun loving date wants all the time? She’s getting to look like an easy going gal who will do anything for her man. The wife that takes on more and more responsibility, letting all the things she used to do that fed her heart and soul fall by the wayside? She thinks she’s being seen as a strong, dedicated partner. (and maybe even, soothes herself by feeling a bit “better” than him.)
Walking out the door is never the answer unless you want to drag this habit with you to the next relationship. Taking responsibility for losing yourself and committing to making powerful, positive change from your end is where you start.
Ready to rumble?
1. Grab yourself a journal and for the next 2 weeks, answer these two questions in full:
A. Who am I?
B. What do I want? (REALLY want?)
2. Commit to staying out of the blame game and take full ownership of what you did to set this dynamic up with your partner (no, your partner does not need to also do this!)
3. Remind yourself that you love this person (if you are asking yourself these questions after a breakup, remind yourself that you used to love them very much) and tell him/her that you’d like a few minutes to “share” some things you’ve been realizing about yourself
4. KEY! With a calm tone and no blame, apologize. Yes, you heard me right. Apologize for having helped set up a dynamic in which you no longer feel like the vibrant, fun-loving, engaged person you used to be. Say that it must be sad for them to see that in you. Tell your partner you want a healthy connection and that you’re going to begin taking really good care of yourself and appreciate their support. (You might get support, a blank stare or even push back. Don’t react. You’re not looking for approval )
5. Find one healthy thing you want to bring back into your life and do it, immediately. Let go of 2 unhealthy things you were doing out of obligation, appearance or trying to prove something
6. Be assertive, bold and yet kind. Remind yourself that you have a right to express your feelings, beliefs, concerns and desires openly and honestly. And to have them honored. Repeat this to yourself until you begin to believe it!
It’s amazing the old, stale patterns and habits that can change in a relationship when one of the partners makes a solid personal commitment to “revolutionizing” the way they love and live. Being a happy, fully engaged person is one of the greatest gifts we can give another person. Coming from a place of wholeness gives others permission to do the same. Claim what you want, create the life you are longing for and be the fullest expression of YOU that you can be. There’s truly no one stopping you!