Laura writes from the Pacific Northwest. She explores topics on relationships, mind-body wellness, social issues, and lifestyle.
In the beginning...
In the beginning of a relationship, it feels like you're getting your needs met because you feel good.
It's only after the initial good feelings wear off that you can take an honest assessment of the relationship and whether it's good and healthy for you or not.
You may still feel invested and continue to suppress, minimize, excuse, or ignore the small changes you've made to conform to the relationship and the compromises you've made to your core self.
If it develops into a long-term relationship, you may suddenly wake up one day and wonder, 'How did I get here?' "Who am I?" You don't even recognize who you've become.
Perhaps you realized none of your needs were being met anymore and GASP, you were "settling" and sacrificing.
You may have become apathetic in the relationship and slipped into autopilot; not rocking the boat, not expressing your wants and needs, and physically, emotionally, or mentally checking out.
Have you lost yourself?
My goal here is to bring awareness to some of the ways you may be slipping away or giving too much of yourself away in a relationship while suppressing your own wants and needs.
When I mention the signs of compromising yourself, realize that this rarely happens all at once. It's a steady diminishing. Sometimes it's an invisible pattern that emerges or a feeling that you've lost pieces of yourself over time.
That's why compromising and losing yourself in a relationship is so tricky to become aware of until it literally hits you in the face or you wake up one day, shell-shocked.
On an intuitive level, you know whether this is you or reflects your relationship, but I understand how many people shut out that intuition when they've compromised themselves too much.
I aim to get your head back in the game, become more conscious of your patterns so you can claim your life back!
A people-pleaser is someone who tries hard to make others happy. One way to tell if you're compromising yourself in a relationship with a romantic partner is if you're a people-pleaser in your other relationships.
People-pleasers want everyone around them to be happy and due to low self-esteem, they believe this is something they have to offer- to make others happy by agreeing, always saying "yes", avoiding conflict, taking the blame and over-apologizing.
Lost Goals = Lost Self
A sure sign of the beginning of losing yourself is when you've slowly lost touch with your own goals, passions, and interests.
Were you a goal-driven person before your relationship and now you feel uninspired?
Did you have specific visions for your life and now they've faded?
Did your accomplishments, energy, and personal goals dwindle the more you invested in the relationship?
Are you setting the bar lower and lower?
Have you forgotten what makes you happy?
Maybe your personal goals were set on the back-burner because your focus was on the relationship or your goals became synonymous with the relationship goals. Either way, the relationship became the focus and if it becomes the focus then that means your partner is not putting in their fair share and you're holding it all together. This includes trying to control or fix your partner- you may have goals for them, but have forgotten your own.
People who've compromised themselves in relationships have lost touch with their wants and needs and it reflects in the goals they have or don't have. They become enmeshed with their partner. They're blowing in the wind on the whim of their partner.
Notice how many of your endeavors are thwarted by your partner taking priority in the relationship.
Codependency is excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, for validation. It is characterized by imbalanced relationships where one person enables another person's poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or addiction. It includes high self-sacrifice, a focus on others' needs, suppression of one's own needs, and attempts to control or fix a person and/or the relationship.
There's another side to this other than what YOU do in the relationship: There's the other person.
You may be losing yourself if your partner is manipulative or stringing you along for their benefit. It's one of their subconscious patterns just like your pattern of compromising yourself for them or "the good of the relationship".
Takers: Givers often attract takers. An easy way to see how the relationship is working for each partner is to determine if your life has generally improved since being in the relationship or have some areas declined? Has your partner's life improved with you in it? How about you?
In a healthy relationship, both lives are improved or at least balanced (give and take) because there's mutual support. If there's an imbalance, one partner's life will have improved while the other partner's health is worse or career is on hold or personal goals are forfeited or they're lacking energy (probably going into the relationship while the other person coasts).
[Christiane Northrup has a wonderful book based on takers, called Energy Vampires]
Manipulators: Manipulators don't always blatantly take. The illusion behind a classic manipulator is that they seem to be putting in the effort or listening or fulfilling relationship qualities, but it's surface-level; they're only doing as much as what keeps you giving more.
These are what I call bread crumbs. They give a little and take a lot or expect a lot more from you. You become thankful for their minimal effort.
They say they'll change and they'll do it for a week or two then revert back to old patterns. They "let you" be yourself to a certain extent- they limit you in some way or there's unspoken rules about you and your position in the relationship.
They'll do a grand gesture out of the blue but overlook the everyday support and relationship maintenance that typically falls on your shoulders.
They'll do something great a handful of times and consistently point out that one thing they did or that one time they did something, but dismiss ALL the accumulated efforts you've given.
As mentioned above, there's more expected of you in the relationship than there is of your partner. It's like an unspoken contract. If you step out of line, there's rejection, disapproval, and anger from your partner.
Perhaps they say what they want and you keep it nicer, never daring to say the hurtful things they do. If you find yourself not wanting to stoop to their level, you can bet they're banking on that.
They are controlling you due to your low self-esteem and people-pleasing/niceness patterns that you may have developed early in life and are now reflected in your relationships.
You may eventually realize your partner has set limitations on you- how they expect you to be or what they expect you to do. If they're a narcissist, then what you do reflects on them.
They've essentially created a "box" for you. What you do becomes expectations because your partner will not acknowledge any of your efforts, support, or sacrifices as they are all merely expectations so according to them you're reaching the bare minimum while they have less than zero expectations of themselves in the relationship.
You can be happy but not too happy. You can be successful but not too successful. You can be yourself if it doesn't affect them too much. They keep you in a box. It's small so you have to let go of pieces of yourself in order to accommodate them.
A true test of whether you are equally represented in your relationship is saying, "No".
Try saying no to your partner's requests or "no" to the usual way of doing things. Watch their reaction the more you say no.
Your partner may passive-aggressively take it out on you with the silent treatment or other slights and insults. Or they may get visibly upset right there on the spot. You may be fearful of saying no because you, yourself don't like rejection. In this case, it's helpful to do some inner work on your people-pleasing patterns.
Once you get used to saying no more, begin to ask for what you want. Express your needs and wants. Again, see how they receive it.
There's plenty of resources online for learning the art of assertiveness. This will help you put the pieces of YOU back together again. This should be a gradual process so you partner has a chance to accept new patterns in the relationship and it doesn't feel like an attack on them.
- Learn assertiveness- it's a skill and there's many free YouTube videos on this. Say no and ask for your needs to be met. Express your wants and needs. Do for yourself as you would expect others to do for you.
- Take stock of changes- what has changed about you and your life since being in the relationship? Good or bad changes? Sacrifices? Why did things change? It doesn't happen all at once so its important to look back and see the trail of changes. Maybe you're not getting as much sleep or you're more anxious...
- Do more by yourself or with friends- time away from your partner is crucial to separating yourself from them and checking in with yourself as an individual.
- Inner work- Inner work helps you become self-aware so you're not focused on the other person while ignoring yourself. Often times our own dysfunctional patterns from the past, translate into current relationship issues. Learn about codependency, people-pleasing and always ask "Who am I?
- Keep a "You" file or a "Confidence" file: I have a file folder with various awards, magazine images of things I want to manifest, printed fan mail from readers who appreciate my work. This helps you to be confident, keep your focus on your goals, and never lose the spirit of your authentic self.
It's natural to grow, but not change ourselves for someone else.
dashingscorpio from Chicago on May 13, 2021:
Don't be a passenger in your own life. Take the wheel!
Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.
Each of us has our mate selection screening process and "must haves list".
Each of us has our own boundaries and "deal breakers".
Until you are comfortable in your own skin and have a "buyer's mentality" over a "seller's mentality"/"pick me mentality" you're likely to indulge in people pleasing more than staying true to yourself while hoping he/she will change.
Life is too short to be trying to change water into wine.
The goal is to find someone who (already is) what you want in a mate.
No one is "stuck" with anyone. Suffering is optional.
"Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."
- Oscar Wilde