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losing identity in marriage

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People don’t always change once they’re married. That isn’t necessarily the case 100 percent of the time. So I don’t like it when people joke that, now that their friend is married, they’ll never see her again. Or say things like, “There goes her social life” when a friend ties the knot. Marriage can be a wonderful thing. In the right union, two people can continue to flourish as individuals, while also strengthening their bond. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. In fact, if it’s only the latter (strengthening the bond), and never the former (flourishing as an individual) that is called codependency. And that’s not a strong bond at all—that’s something else. Like an illness.

 

But, the cliché exists for a reason—it does happen often. I’ve lost a few friends to their marriages. There was such an obvious drop-off in our social interactions after they got married, I was the only one trying to initiate plans, I always had to work around their schedule with their husbands, and I just got tired of putting in way more work than they were to keep this friendship alive. I understand, of course, that their spouses are their number one, but for some, it seemed like their spouses were also numbers two through 10. There was no room left for friendship or individuality.

 

That’s kind of scary, right? Nobody wants to lose their identity when they get married. But, if you are going to maintain your individuality, you have to work hard. You have to be aware, because marriage can try to consume you. That’s just the nature of being committed to someone and building a life with someone. It’s also a recipe for depression and relationship dissatisfaction. Here is the fast track to losing your identity in a marriage.

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Only having other married friends

Keep that friend group diverse! You don’t just need lots of married friends. They’ll share the same kinds of stories you have and make you feel very insulated from your non-married friends. Yes, having couples friends is convenient, but having single friends is good for your soul. So even if it means stepping away from your beau for the night, do it to see your single friends.

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Skipping the networking event

You skip that work drink thing to be home for dinner with your partner every time. You don’t attend that convention, that actually looked pretty interesting, on a Saturday because your partner wants you two to go shopping for an ottoman and hit the gym together. Naturally, you’ll skip some work events to have a “normal life” with your partner but, if you skip them all in favor of the married routine, you’ll lose yourself.

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Not taking on that project

There’s a great opportunity at work, but it would mean traveling and being away from your partner for a week or two (or a month even). Or, it would mean working a few extra hours each night for a month. You have a hard and fast rule of never doing such things, because your partner wants a “traditional” married life. So you don’t advance your career.

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Sitting out girls’ trips

You just push for it to be a couples’ trip, every time, so you don’t have to be away from your partner. You feel bad leaving him alone while you run off to Palm Desert with your friends for the weekend. Hey, he’ll be fine. And it’s important to have that special female bonding time. You connect with a part of yourself your spouse just can’t bring out.

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Conforming to his friends

So his friends are different than you. Maybe they’re a little neater, like they belong to country clubs, never do shots of Fireball, and wear tailored suits. So you try to clean up for them. Or, maybe you’re kind of preppy, but you try to be “one of the guys for them.” Look, whatever it is, cut that out. Your partner knew who he was marrying, and his friends should accept you for who you are.

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Giving up hobbies

It’s hard to find time to do everything, like spend quality time with your partner, see your friends, see your family, and keep things up like hobbies. It’s normal to cut back on the latter a bit—something’s gotta give—but don’t give up on your hobbies entirely. They are a part of you. They’re a more important part of your identity than you may realize. Even if you have to cut back to doing them monthly, instead of weekly, still do them.

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Making him your new bestie

We all want to marry our best friend and hope that there is a deep friendship with our spouse. But, your partner is not your bestie. Your bestie is your bestie and you know who that is. You text her silly things and talk every day. You make a point to see her regularly. You’re always there for each other. Maintain that best friend relationship with the person who is not your spouse.

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Never taking alone days

You still need days that are just for you. You don’t need to have some social or work obligation to have a reason to just take a day to yourself. Your partner should respect your need for alone time. Everybody pulls you in a million directions, and if you don’t take a day, say, once a month or even once a fiscal quarter to just be alone, you will feel like you lose touch with yourself.

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Supporting him, rather than yourself

Naturally, you need to be a support system to your partner as he needs to be one to you. However, the relationship shouldn’t be all about him. If there are times when you’re going through your own thing and really need to give yourself your attention/support right now, and just can’t listen to him vent or complain about work, you should be able to say that. Sometimes.

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Conflict avoidance above all else

Too many couples make the mistake of wanting, above all else, to just avoid conflict. So they pretend to agree with their partner. They don’t speak up. They don’t want to have an argument. But you know what? Your opinions are a part of who you are. You and your partner should be able to survive a disagreement, and, in fact, it’s important you feel free to have them.

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Obsessing over the home

Fixing it. Renovating it. Decorating it. Updating it. Maintaining it. Beautifying it. A home takes a lot of work, but some couples become so consumed by their home, that they’d rather take on a useless project like redoing their bathroom tiles than do things like, have a social life or go out to cultural events or have fun.

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Scheduling everything around him

You are allowed to have your own schedule. If a friend asks you to do something on a given day when you are free, you don’t always have to say, “Let me make sure my husband didn’t want to do something with me that day, first.” That’s very disrespectful to your friend, as it makes her feel like a second rate citizen in your eyes.

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Not enforcing you-time

If you are good at taking time to yourself, you need to also be good at enforcing that time. That means that, just because your partner really wants to vent to you right now about something his friend did, you can say, “I’m reading for the next half hour. You’ll have my attention in a half hour.”

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Becoming socially lazy

You see an invitation to an event or party and immediately groan. You don’t feel honored to be invited; you feel annoyed. You’ve jumped right to seeing a social life as an annoying obligation. You always find excuses to get out of things, and all you want to do is stay in.

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Not trying new things

You stop experiencing new things together. You eat at the same places. You do the same hikes. You see the same friends. If you’re tied to this person for life, and you still want to grow and develop, then you two need to be open to experiencing new things together, rather than getting stuck in a routine.

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