In so many marriages, it is common to see a spouse—typically, the woman—extend herself to the point of exhaustion. But you might ask, isn’t that what love is all about? Making sacrifices and compromises for the sake of your beloved? The truth is that healthy love doesn’t require you to change who you are just to keep your marriage intact.
If you compromise your identity you may actually be sabotaging your marriage–you will certainly be sabotaging your own health and happiness. Dr. Hawkins talks about the dangers of losing your identity in a relationship. He explains the self-sabotage that takes place when you compromise too much of who you are for your spouse, and what you can do to escape this trap.
The Dangers of Losing Your Identity in a Relationship
Love is often considered one of the most beautiful and powerful emotions that humans can experience. It’s a force that drives us to connect with others on a deep and profound level, to extend ourselves for the welfare of another person. However, there’s a fine line between selfless love and losing one’s identity in a relationship. In this article, we will delve into the dangers of losing yourself in a relationship, particularly when dealing with issues like narcissism and emotional abuse, and how to embark on the journey of reclaiming your true self.
The Perilous Path of Self-Abnegation
In a conversation with Dr. David Hawkins, the director of the Marriage Recovery Center, the concept of losing one’s identity in a relationship is illuminated. Dr. Hawkins specializes in dealing with cases of narcissism and emotional abuse, and he points out a disheartening truth: many individuals, primarily women, find themselves caught in a relentless cycle of self-sacrifice. They wrap their lives around their partner, bending and molding themselves to fit the relationship’s demands. This relentless extension of oneself can be perilous, as it often leads to the erosion of one’s identity, personhood, and vibrancy.
The Pretzel Effect: An Unhealthy Transformation
Imagine a pretzel. Twisted, turned, and bent to take on a new form. This metaphor mirrors the experiences of individuals who lose themselves in a relationship. They pretzel themselves into someone and something they are not, all in the hope of maintaining the balance within the relationship or helping their partner become emotionally stable. This process involves repeated changes and adaptations until they no longer recognize the person they once were.
The Awakening: What Has Happened to Me?
Years down this tumultuous road of self-sacrifice, many wake up to a harsh reality: they’ve lost parts of themselves. The vibrant, unique, and individualistic aspects of their personalities have been overshadowed by the demands of the relationship. The awakening is often accompanied by a profound sense of loss and confusion. “What has happened to me?” they may ask. They find themselves adrift in the vast sea of their partner’s needs, desires, and expectations, struggling to discern their own wants and identity.
The Fear of Change: Unpretzeling Yourself
The prospect of change can be terrifying, especially when your life is so intricately entwined with your partner’s. Shared assets, children, a home, and dreams for the future are all at stake. Thinking about unpretzeling yourself, about reclaiming aspects of your life that have been surrendered to the relationship, can feel like a death sentence for the relationship itself.
The Threat to Reclaiming Yourself
Moreover, it’s important to acknowledge that your partner may not champion your journey to reclaim your lost identity. In fact, they may feel threatened by it. Your efforts to regain control over your life and discover your true self can be perceived as a challenge to their dominance or control. This is why it’s crucial to understand that you may need to undertake this journey largely on your own, without the full support of your partner.
The Hero’s Journey: Reclaiming Your Identity
Despite the challenges and fears that come with reclaiming your identity, it’s essential to recognize that this is your hero’s journey. You are the protagonist in your own life story, and you have the power to rewrite it. To embark on this path, consider the following steps:
1. Identify Lost Aspects of Yourself: Take time to reflect and identify the parts of yourself that you’ve lost in the relationship. What were your passions, hobbies, and dreams before they were overshadowed by your partner’s needs?
2. Seek Support: You don’t have to go through this process alone. Join support groups, connect with friends and family, and consider professional counseling. Having a support system in place can provide emotional strength and guidance.
3. Start Slowly: Initially, you may not want to push too hard against your partner. It’s essential to prioritize your well-being, but it’s also wise to take gradual steps towards reclaiming your identity.
4. Journal, Pray, Reflect: Writing in a journal, engaging in self-reflection, and finding solace through prayer or meditation can be powerful tools for self-discovery and healing.
5. Embrace Your Inner Hero: Remember that you are the hero of your own story. This journey might be challenging, but it is also empowering. Embrace the strength within you and the resilience that will guide you towards rediscovering your true self.
Losing your identity in a relationship is a perilous path that can lead to a profound sense of loss and confusion. However, it’s never too late to embark on the heroine’s journey of reclaiming your true self. While it may be a daunting and challenging endeavor, it is also empowering and transformative. Your identity is worth preserving, and by unpretzeling yourself, you can rediscover the vibrant, unique, and beautiful person that you truly are.
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.