“Never lose yourself in a relationship. Love your partner fiercely, but always follow your unique dreams and desires. Be true to yourself.” ~Unknown
Before I met my husband, all my previous relationships drained me.
Not only because I was with the wrong men, but also because I was a queen of justifying, accommodating, and compromising. I accommodated men because I wanted to be loved and avoid rejection. I justified their lousy behavior because I wanted to be in a relationship and not be alone. I compromised on my values and romantic ideals just to have someone in my life.
On the surface, I was an independent woman. I was strong, fierce, and full of energy and opinions. But when it came to relationships, I’d lose my power and myself completely in them.
I would become a meek mouse with no voice or opinions. I would put each boyfriend’s needs first and ignore mine. I would keep quiet about how I felt. I wouldn’t question my boyfriend’s words or behavior, even when they cut me like a knife or made me feel unworthy or unwanted.
It took me several toxic relationships with emotionally unavailable men to recognize my unhealthy patterns.
First, I was subconsciously mimicking my mom’s dysfunctional relationship behavior with my father. I didn’t know any better until I learned the hard way. Second, I didn’t feel worthy of love. I didn’t feel like I was good enough for anyone. I was afraid to be myself, as I didn’t feel like I had much to offer. And third, I wasn’t happy with myself or my life, and I believed a relationship would change that.
These patterns made me feel and act like I was desperate for love. So, once I landed myself a boyfriend, I’d do anything to please him and keep him in my life. I’d be a cheerful giver. I’d avoid conflict and confrontation at all costs. I’d accommodate their busy schedules, moods, and selfish behavior. I’d boost them up but ignore my own needs. I’d completely disappear in my relationships.
I would abandon myself. I would give up my friends, my passions, and my dreams. I would lose my own identity in the name of love. My main priority was to keep them happy, so I could keep the relationships.
But no matter how much I gave or sacrificed, each dysfunctional relationship inevitably imploded. And even though those toxic relationships needed to end, each break up left me feeling empty and worthless. It almost felt like a little part of me died after every relationship.
I didn’t know who I was anymore because I was focusing so heavily on the relationship that I’d completely neglect myself.
It didn’t feel healthy at all.
When I became aware of my unhealthy relationship patterns, I made some promises to myself:
- My relationship with myself comes first.
- A man will never be more important to me than I am to myself.
- I will always love myself more than any man in my life.
Although they might sound a bit harsh, these rules have served me amazingly well.
The truth is, your relationship with yourself is the most important one in your life. It’s the foundation of all other relationships, so it makes sense to prioritize and nurture it.
If you love someone else more than yourself, you’ll always compromise too much, ignore the red flags, get hurt, and lose yourself in your relationships.
You can’t love in a healthy way unless you love yourself first. The love you have for yourself will help you set stronger boundaries in relationships, make self-honoring choices, and find the courage to walk away from any relationship that doesn’t serve you.
Along with these promises, I decided to break the unhealthy relationship patterns that my parents had and that I’d had in the past.
To do that, I needed to become someone different. I needed to be braver and more authentic in my relationships. I needed to start speaking my mind, expressing my feelings, and asking for what I wanted. I simply needed to become more vulnerable in my relationships.
Otherwise, what’s the point?
Here are some things I did differently, before and after getting into a relationship with my husband, that you can do too to make sure you don’t lose yourself in your romantic relationship:
Establish a strong foundation while you’re single.
We lose ourselves in relationships because we don’t feel worthy of love and our boundaries are weak. When you love yourself, you know how you want to feel and be in your next relationship. You also set healthy boundaries, which prevents you from losing your identity in a relationship.
Start every day by asking yourself: What do I need today? How can I be loving with myself today? Follow the answers, as they’ll help you be more loving and respectful of yourself.
Operate from a loving, compassionate place within yourself. Choose people, situations, and things in your life that serve you and don’t harm you. Honor your own needs and feelings. Be kind to yourself. Stop judging yourself. Set some powerful boundaries to protect your time and energy. Become your own cheerleader. Listen to your own intuition.
Change your priorities. You come first, everything else comes after. Choose yourself. Make your own well-being a priority. Stop people pleasing.
When you start following the path of self-love, you’ll start showing up differently in your life and your relationships.
Know who you are.
Know your needs. Know your desires. Know your dreams. Know your values. Know your priorities. This knowledge will prevent you from compromising too much in a relationship. Your strong sense of self will help you stick to what’s truly important to you. This will give you a sense of security, which comes from within and not from your relationship.
Have strong boundaries.
Know your non-negotiables in relationships. Things you won’t tolerate. Things you won’t compromise on. And communicate them so your partner knows and respects your limits.
Healthy boundaries will make you feel stronger and more empowered in your next relationship. If you don’t honor your boundaries, you’ll feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and drained. Healthy boundaries prevent you from losing yourself in love.
Have your own friends.
It’s very easy to get infatuated in a new relationship and forget about the whole world outside. As much as it’s a natural part of every new relationship, don’t forget about your friends. Schedule regular time with them. They’ve been your rock and a sounding board many times and that shouldn’t change now. Don’t limit your life just to your new partner. You need other perspectives.
Have your own life.
Just because you’re in a relationship that doesn’t mean you need to give up the things you love doing—even if you feel tempted, especially at the beginning when things are exciting, and you want to spend as much time with the person as possible. It’s important to maintain your normal routine as you can.
Make time for the things you love doing. Make them your priority because they contribute to your happiness, so they’re just as important as your relationship. Keep some hobbies you only do on your own or with people other than your partner. Plan some time every week when you do things separately. Schedule solo dates. Cultivate a spiritual practice. Stick to your exercise routine.
Doing things on your own will help you stay connected to yourself and cultivate a sense of self. It will also keep your relationship fresh. No relationship can fulfill all your needs and desires. That’s why you need different things in your life, apart from your relationship, to keep you growing and expanding in new directions.
Stay true to yourself.
Don’t suddenly change who you are for someone else. Be honest with yourself and communicate what you like and what you don’t with your partner.
Also, make some independent decisions. You don’t need to consult your partner about every single decision. Express your opinions. Share your thoughts. Speak your mind. Tell them how you feel. All of these will help your partner to understand you better.
Talk about how you feel. Talk about what isn’t working for you. Talk about what you like and dislike. Honest and open communication will only bring your closer. You can only improve a relationship when you know what’s not working. So, talk openly!
Stop the over giving and accommodating.
Over giving usually comes from not seeing your own value and seeking approval. We believe the more we give, the more love we’ll get back from our partner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. In the long run, it’s a surefire way to increase resentment and feel taken for granted. And resentment is one of the factors that determines the happiness and longevity of the relationship. So, when you over give, you don’t only risk losing yourself in the relationship but also losing the relationship.
Reflect back on your relationships. How you felt, how you compromised, how you betrayed yourself. Our previous relationships can give us a ton of knowledge about ourselves. So, look at the mistakes you’ve made in the past and learn from them.
Decide what you don’t want to repeat and what you want to do differently in your next relationship. Commit to staying strong and true to yourself. Set the rules which you’re going to follow once you meet someone. You can build strong foundations now by getting to know yourself, exploring life on your own, and establishing habits which make you happy.