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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: Losing Yourself in a Relationship: When "Me" Gets Lost in "We"

In a prior article, Reclaiming a Lost Part of Yourself, I discussed how people, sometimes consciously or unconsciously, disavow parts of themselves and what they can do reclaim those aspects of themselves.  In this article, I'm focusing on a related subject, which involves losing your sense of individuality while you're in a relationship.

Losing Yourself in a Relationship: When "Me" Gets Lost in "We"
Most people know that being in a relationship involves certain compromises, a give-and-take in every day life.  Without a willingness to compromise and be flexible, it would be hard to sustain a long term relationship.

This isn't what I'm referring to in this article.  Rather, I'm referring to situations where you're in a relationship and you don't know who you are any more and where you begin and your partner ends because you've become so merged with each other.

It can be challenging to be a couple and still maintain your individuality, especially if you're spending all your free time together and you're not spending time with your own friends or engaging in your own interests.

Often, this happens over time, and then you find yourself saying, "Who am I?  What happened to me?"

Losing Yourself in a Relationship: When "Me" Gets Lost in "We"

Not only is this a problem for each individual in the relationship, it's also a problem for the relationship.

The very things that brought the two of you together, where each of you brought new and interesting aspects of yourselves to the relationship, gets lost.

It's as if you've both merged and become one person, which can cause boredom to set in (see my article: Relationships: Resist the Urge to Merge).

Some Tips that Might Be Helpful to You:
  • Take Time to Reconnect With Your Inner World: A life that's based only on getting pleasure from the external things is a shallow life.  Whether you engage in meditation, yoga, write in a journal or engage in self exploration in therapy, it's important for you to dip into your inner world from time to time because this is the source of your strength, resilience and well-being.  This is also what keeps you in touch with who you are as an individual (see my articles: Discovering a Quiet Place Within Yourself and Reconnecting With Your Inner World).
  • Maintain Your Friendships:  The mistake that a lot of people make when they get into a relationship is that they get so involved with their partner that they forget about their friendships.  While it's understandable, especially when a relationship is new, that you want to spend time with your new partner, it's a mistake to give up close friends.  Your friendships need nurturing too and mutually supportive friendships can sustain you through life's ups and downs.  Also, your partner can't fulfill all your needs, so you need different people in your life to fulfill different needs (see my article: Relationships: Your Partner Can't Meet All Your Needs).
  • Maintain Your Interests:  If you had interests or hobbies that you really enjoyed before you entered into the relationship, stay connected to those interests.  Having hobbies and interests outside of your relationship can make life more fulfilling and meaningful for you.  It also allows you and your partner to each bring new vitality into the relationship.
  • Make Time to Talk About Things That Are Meaningful to Each of You:  Casual conversations are fine, but if all of your conversations tend to be superficial, not only is that boring, but you won't be sharing meaningful parts of yourself with your partner.  Having meaningful conversations means that you're a good communicator and a good listener.  Don't assume that your partner knows what's going on with you or that you know what's going on with your partner without communicating with each other in a meaningful way.
  • Be Open to New Experiences:  Not only do you need to maintain your friendships and your interests, but you need to be open to new experiences (see my article: Opening Up to New Possibilities).  That's what keeps life interesting and keeps you growing as an individual.  Your partner might not be interested in the same new experiences that you might want to try, and that's okay.  He or she doesn't have to be.  You don't have to do everything together.  There should be room in your relationship for each of you to pursue new, healthy experiences.  

If you or your partner aren't comfortable maintaining a sense of individuality while you're in a relationship, sooner or later this is going to create problems for each of you as well as the relationship.

Maintaining Your Individuality While Being in a Relationship Can Be Challenging

If each of you is secure with the other and with your relationship, balancing your individuality with being in a relationship will enhance you as individuals as well as enhancing the relationship.

Getting Help in Therapy
As I mentioned before, it can be challenging to maintain your individuality while you're in a relationship.

Both people need to be committed to growing as individuals and as a couple.

If you find that you're unable to do this on your own, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional who has experiencing helping people to create this balance in their lives (see my articles: The Benefits of Therapy and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing Therapist who works with adult individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.

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