One of the most frightening and detrimental things that can happen in a relationship is when one or both parties begin to lose their individuality because their lives have become so consumed with their partner. Maintaining your own identity while being in such a close relationship is challenging. I know because I’ve been there, several times. But, for time’s sake, I’ll only go into detail regarding one of the more significant experiences. You know, THEE experience. The one that made me say something has got to change and immediately.
I had always prided myself in being a great and supportive girlfriend. Regardless of what he (whatever guy I was exclusively seeing at the time) needed, I would be there for him. At this particular time I had been dating a musician, a bass player, which meant that my weekends consisted of sitting front row and center at concerts and open mic nights. It also meant that a few of my week nights consisted of hanging out around late night rehearsals and studio sessions. And of course, the countless hours spent in Guitar Center and Sam Ash. He “wanted his girl to be there” while he made his magic happen and so I was there. No questions asked.
And then, one August morning, something happened. It was the first day of classes, my junior year in college and my professor requested that as an icebreaker, each person team up with a classmate whom they’ve never met before and for five minutes share some things about yourself and then each team will get in front of the class and share out about the new person whom they had the chance to know within the allotted time. As I sat down in front of the girl who would be my teammate, I thought surely this exercise wouldn’t be a problem, but as she rambled off some facts about herself and what she liked to in her spare time, I became mortified. I searched my memory bank for things I did for fun and leisure that didn’t involve my bass-player boyfriend and I could barely come up with a handful.
That night I stared at my ceiling with my stomach in knots as I realized that with the exception of school and work, my entire life revolved around him. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d hooked up with my friends for a girls night out or read a great book. Honestly, I couldn’t even remember the last time I held a real conversation with one of my friends, let alone spend time with them. He had become my best friend by default as he was the only person I seemed to have time for. My life had become so consumed and wrapped up in my boyfriend’s that I barely knew who I was anymore. It was a hard thing to come to terms with, but I even had to admit that my vision for my future had even become disoriented as a result of my relationship with him. As I listened to his big dreams of being a legendary musician who traveled the world and played for popular recording artists, my dreams of being a journalist and author somehow began to fade into the background.
Needless to say, the relationship ended not long after this revelation. And guess what? I was pretty much alone and I had no one to blame but myself for forfeiting everything else in my life for the man who had entered my life for that particular season. He made his grand entrance, exited stage left and I was left to reap the consequences for my actions. Once I got my life back on track, I vowed to never allow myself to get lost in another person like that again.
Years later as I reflect on that situation, I realize that it is more common than not for women to lose themselves in their relationships. We are passionate and giving creatures who love hard, but any healthy relationship has balance and that is where many of us seem to go wrong. For some women, maintaining individuality while in a relationship comes naturally, for others it is a challenge, but it is not impossible. Here are a four realizations that helped me to get a grip on my unhealthy relationship behavior.
1. “Me” is time is just as important as “we” time when it comes to maintaining a healthy relationship.
2. Healthy relationships consist of two whole people that come together, not two incomplete people looking to be made whole.
3. Space isn’t always a bad thing.
4. Maintaining your relationships with God, family and friends is absolutely essential.
Coming to the realization that you’ve lost yourself in your relationship isn’t exactly the end of the world. It may just mean that you have a little soul searching to do in order to reconnect and reunite with who you really are. Try not to panic, it happens to the best of us. The task at hand may not be easy, but I’d say the lady who mistakenly got lost is certainly worth finding.
Jazmine Denise is a writer living in New York. Follow her on Twitter @jazminedenise
All photos are courtesy of Shutterstock.