A universal theme that comes up in the practice is the idea of “losing yourself” in a relationship. What exactly does that mean – losing yourself? At the core, you begin to give up parts of your self, little by little, until you become, usually, the version of what you think your partner wants. It’s about you not letting the world see you. It’s about how we mitigate our anticipated rejection by turning ourselves into what we think is the other person’s version of us.
Some simple examples include (but are definitely not limited to): If you prefer tea but your partner likes coffee, and all of a sudden you start switching from tea to coffee (because you think you are pleasing them, or believe yourself averting imagined rejection); you love to wear pants but your partner prefers you in dresses so you change your wardrobe habits (because maybe you think you are avoiding a conflict); you’re a carnivore but your partner is a vegetarian, and you don’t order a meat dish (because you’re concerned about how you’ll appear); if you love tennis but your interest doesn’t appreciate it much and you end up not playing (because otherwise there will be no “us”); in all these examples you are not sharing who you are at all, and bit by bit are losing your self.
Sometimes in this work we talk about boundaries. Some people show us a boundary that operates in relation to the “other”, their boundary is an expression of the “other” rather than “self”. Other clinical language sometimes refers to an external locus of control. When our stance in relationship is geared toward “other” that is where we “lose” our self. We behave in ways we believe will bring us closer, or will protect us from rejection. Our boundary is meant to define who we are as a person. Inside my boundary is my love for clay, for my kids, for activity, for knitting, my stubbornness and love of the colour blue .. it’s me. If my partner doesn’t like knitting, or clay, l do not become a wrong version of myself to please him. His notion of who I am shouldn’t seep into my boundary, thereby changing the definition of me.
It is your absolute responsibility to let the world know who you are, what you want, what makes you happy, what scares you. It’s your absolute responsibility. Period. That is not to say that from time to time I won’t negotiate giving up something I like for something my partner likes – but it’s negotiated, it’s discussed, the choice is made clear and loud. That compromise will also be reciprocated at some point. That’s how that works.
If the real expression of yourself is not respected, appreciated, supported, encouraged, please re-examine the relationship that this is happening in. Strong and healthy relationships are ones in which you are nurtured, where the best and realest expression of yourself is sought after, held up, necessary! Even if that expression is one of sadness, doubt, longing .. not just strong, happy and confident! The world and everyone in yours, deserves to know the real you.
Peace to you.