Hello everyone and welcome back to The Journey to Wellness! I’ve had some well-deserved time to make some great discoveries and have epiphanies to help me on my personal Journey to Wellness. Now that I’m all rested and well- let’s embark on that journey together!
In the last post I wrote before my leave of absence, the poll at the bottom suggests that the topic for this week’s blog post would be about Relationships and Identity. I imagine this is a very exciting post for everyone, because in some way or another, we have all encountered issues of being in any kind of relationship and maintaining our identity at the same time. So let’s get started!
First things first, let’s define what a relationship is as well as what an identity is. According to the Psychology Dictionary, a relationship is a particular type of connection or association between two or more entities. Moreover, according to Changing Minds, an identity is considered a unity separated by its boundaries and recognized by the differences with others unities- it is the I, the self, the coherent person I see in the mirror. It may be cloaked by the many mechanisms of coping, but there is assumed to be a true self, the ‘real me’ hidden inside.
Whether the type of relationship we embark on be sexual, romantic, friendship or familial; they all have the same premise at heart- that two individuals are choosing to share themselves as well as their time together as a result of an attraction, connection or bond. What most people don’t understand about relationships is the importance of regulating oneself to keep the relationship healthy. To some this might be counter intuitive, since the mechanics of a relationship take place by working WITH another individual. Examples of this would be compromise, communication, trust, freedom, equality, respect, understanding, etc. However, it is actually EQUALLY as important to have a good relationship with your partner as it is to have a good relationship with yourself.
One of the most classic examples as to why is true is found in an article by Madame Noire named How I Realized I Was Losing My Identity in Relationships to Avoid Dealing with My Own Problems: “One of the greatest things about being in a relationship is the ability to get lost in something larger than yourself — to submerge your former identity beneath this new persona as part of a couple. But for me, this is also one of the pitfalls. I tend to lose myself in relationships so completely that my life starts to revolve around my significant other while my personal and professional growth grinds to a halt. Then inevitably the relationship ends, and I find myself returning to a life that no longer exists.”
I imagine many of you severely empathize with the quote from the article mentioned and that is because in our society, media and culture, it is encouraged to lose oneself in a relationship. In fact, it is promoted that we make it our life’s goal to find that “perfect someone” to make up for all of our insecurities, doubts, fears, etc. Nowhere in the media, society or our culture is it stated that we look inside of ourselves for what is missing instead of using other people in our relationship to make up for our losses. Granted, we don’t have go to extremes. There is the possibility of a healthy middle- which is where both individuals in a relationship feel bonded, loved and assured by one another as well as by themselves.
We often act as if our single purpose in life is to love our partners and absolutely nothing else. As mentioned by Elite Daily in the article Being in a Relationship Doesn’t Require Losing Your Identity: “Giving our lives the singular purpose of loving someone else, the purpose of living for someone else, is what we call obsessing — not loving. The reason why I say this is because no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you obsess or sacrifice, you will be you and your lover will be someone else.You and your partner can never become “one” — it’s impossible. Your thoughts will always be your own. Your actions will always be your own. This isn’t something to be depressed over; it’s a beautiful thing. Being able to share your life, your travels and mishaps, with another person is a huge part of what life is about. But more important than that is keeping your own, separate identity from the relationship.Yes, you and your man form a “we,” but at the same time you and he must remain completely separate and live separate lives. Every person needs his or her own space, his or her own hobbies, and his or her own friends. Doing so will allow you to have an identity of your own, a life outside of your relationship.Having such a getaway is key to a healthy relationship; when things get messy — which they always do — you can pause and step out of the relationship for a few hours, or a day or two, and stabilize yourself within your own shoes. If you fall into the trap of losing yourself within a relationship you will eventually panic. It may seem nice now, but a few months or years down the road you will come to the conclusion that you need your freedom. And, like most people, instead of taking a step back and breathing, you’ll cut all ties with the person you loved because you will blame them for your own inability to hold on to your life. You will feel like you lost control of your life and lost sight of who you are; so you decide that the single life is better than your current situation. At least that way you can be yourself and not some convoluted “we” that you and your soon-to-be ex ignorantly formed. And that is how the love of your life gets away; not because your relationship couldn’t work, but because you got so obsessed with getting to know your partner better and spent so much time with them that you forgot who you are.You can either be you and alone or be you in a relationship — but you and your lover will never become “one”; it simply goes against human nature.”
The only way for us to have a healthy relationship with someone else is for us to have a healthy relationship with ourselves. This is possible by having a life of your own while being in love at the same time. A technique the magazine Everyday Feminism suggests that we visualize our lives as if they were a movie on a big screen in a movie theatre.
In order for this movie to function well and properly, the following beliefs must be put into place:
1. The only person I am responsible for in the movie is myself
2. There are three characters that make up a relationship: me, my partner and the relationship. This makes perfect sense because think about it. There would be no relationship without you or your partner so that’s why in order for a relationship to work, it needs to be maintained by both individuals. Both parties must tend to it and nurture it. In order for this to occur, both parties must be healthy to do so.
3. The relationship is what both people have in common, which means both people are responsible for it.
4. What each partner is not responsible for is the other. A lot of maintaining who I am in my relationship comes from not getting involved in what are my partner’s issues. Melody Beattie in Codependent No More says, “Detaching does not mean we don’t care. It means we learn to love, care, and be involved without going crazy.” The key takeaway is that it’s impossible to solve other people’s problems.
5. Feed Yourself First. To keep one’s side of the street clean (and healthy), what one has to do was figure out how to feed oneself first in the relationship.What this means is keeping yourself a priority and continuing, like I had when I was on my own, to make yourself feel good, happy, sexy, beautiful, and fun.That is, being in a relationship doesn’t suddenly mean it’s now my partner’s responsibility to make me feel good. What you do is keep to the rituals you had before you went into the relationship. To do this, I had to create time and space just for you. You- and the relationship- will be healthier for it.
6. Say What You Feel. The only way to get your needs and wants met is to directly express what they are. The goal is to drop the story around the feeling and simply deal with the emotion.
7. Checking In. Check-ins are an easy way to make sure that I’m staying true to yourself while in love. This requires monitoring and thinking about your issues, your partners issues, and the relationships issues as well as how that all works together. This requires self-regulation and making sure that you are well and taking care of yourself. Because the reality is You deserve to always be taken care of, and you know that it’s your responsibility – not anyone else’s – to make that happen.
I hope this post has found you well in terms of how to manage healthy relationships with others and with yourself. The reality is that we cannot ask others to make up what we lack, but instead ask for guidance and use the tools discovered and necessary to make ourselves the better versions of ourselves possible and have better relationships because of it.
As usual, there is a poll below for you to vote for the topic for next time. Now that I’m back from my leave of absence, I will be writing here regularly again. I hope you enjoyed it.
Your blogger and friend: