HOW TO AVOID LOSING YOURSELF IN RELATIONSHIPS

Trying to find myself through them

This is a matter very close to my heart, so I’m going to start with my story. The first time I felt I’d found ‘the one’ was in my early 20s – an intense and long term relationship which was both incredible and extremely challenging. We were both looking for depth and intimacy which made for times of intense closeness and magical openings. But while he wavered on the commitment front, I felt like we could become enlightened together! … or at least ‘find ourselves’ through being with each other.

On the surface this may look like a naïve, romantic ideal but really it was a symptom of a deep lack within myself, not feeling enough on my own and desperately trying to fill that hole with another. With this guy, I’d had enough tempting experiences of fullness, bliss and joy to convince myself that it was through this relationship that I was finally going to find myself. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Looking back, I see that it was a terrifying responsibility to land on anyone, especially a 21 year old – ‘I want you to solve all my problems and make me complete’.

Generating insecurity and dependency

Instead of becoming full, I spiralled into a pit of insecurity and dependency. I painfully learned that placing your sense of worth and self-esteem in the hands of another is a dangerous game despite how much they seem to love you. As my boyfriend started withdrawing and hinting that he wanted a break, my confidence and sense of self went with him. By the time he broke up with me, I fell into such a deep hole of despair and depression, I didn’t want to leave my room for months. It honestly felt like I couldn’t live without him. The truth was that I couldn’t live without what I’d handed to him – my self worth and promise at real happiness.

‘Your other half’

This experience may well be the reason why I am so allergic to the term ‘your other half’. Although many people I know use it and it sounds endearing, what it says to me is, ‘you are half a person’. And that is BS! I’ve learned the hard way, that a relationship can’t be healthy and sustainable, if your partner fills a massive gap that you believe you can’t fill yourself. What does that mean if they withdraw, leave or die? That you are going to be missing half of yourself? That you’re not going to be able to go on? What a horrendous and hopeless prospect!

So, what’s the other option?

Being a whole person

The first thing to do is the essential work on yourself so you can feel whole on your own. This doesn’t mean being closed off and no longer needing anything from anyone. But it does mean being able to be on your own, spend time with yourself and feel totally okay. Not sad, longing, anxious, but at peace and content. This entails finding the courage to address the gaps – what you feel is missing inside you – with a technique like ISIS to see and feel where this lack comes from within so it can be presenced and filled.

Having clear boundaries

It’s also vital to have a clear boundaries, to feel where you end and another begins, to make decisions based on what you need and what is best for you rather than being at another’s whim. This was a big lesson for me. I enjoyed feeling merged with another, it anaesthetised the sense of lack I felt. At that time, I couldn’t have told you what I wanted or needed, I was so wrapped up in what was best for him or us. This is a muddy place from which to develop real self worth.

Unfortunately, whether consciously or not, people often encourage us to lean on them, become entangled with them, depend on them. They can derive a sense of being important, even indispensable, in such an arrangement. But at what cost to you?

Being at the centre of your life

I often hear people say (my old self included), ‘becoming the centre of my life is selfish, resting in myself will cut me off from others’. My response? Becoming the centre of your life doesn’t mean disregarding others. It’s actually the only place from which you can truly give to others. If you’re relating from any place other than one that is deeply rooted in yourself, then you’re not only compromising and hurting yourself but you’re holding back the fullness of what you can truly give.

People generally don’t want you to be any less than you truly are (and if they do, then you might need to ask yourself some difficult questions). They will actually be able to connect more with you when you are being, well… more you!

It’s from this solid inner foundation that you can then love, open to and share with another. In fact, because it’s not coming from a place of lack or with an agenda (eg. ‘make me whole’), the love and connection is so much more intense, fulfilling and lasting.

What about you?

Have you experienced losing yourself in an intimate relationship? And what hard lessons have you learned from the experience? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. What resonated with you most from this post?

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2 replies
  1. Julie
    Julie says:

    Great article, I can so relate. After two difficult relationships it became clear that it was not going to be via another person that I would find happiness, it had to come from inside me. After a great deal of soul searching, I feel amazing, seriously fantastic. I feel I’m in a position to be more present in a relationship, and actually be myself, and that’s huge in my book.

    Reply
  2. Emma Swan
    Emma Swan says:

    Thanks Julie, it’s really great to hear of your experiences – I light up inside to hear you now feel seriously fantastic! And I agree, it is huge to really be yourself and be present in an intimate relationship.

    Reply

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