How I got over my fear of losing myself in a relationship

February 21 | Guest post by Katy
february morning.
By: saigeispeachyCC BY 2.0

As someone who spent years of her dating life struggling between simultaneous desires to be in a relationship AND be super independent and single — "sowing my wild oats," so to speak — I can relate to the fear of losing myself in a relationship.

But now that I've been in a relationship for seven years, and thinking about getting married, I can tell you, I couldn't be happier.

Part of what helped me get through my fear of losing myself was thinking about what I was actually afraid of…

Was I afraid that people would perceive me as less of an individual?

On that note, I basically decided those people could go to hell. Or at the very least shouldn't cause me any worry. The people who are my true friends continue to respect me and my significant other as individuals, and don't constantly refer to ME as "you two."

As for the others, you can either ignore what they think, or try to correct them. For example, when they ask "What are you-and-Significant-Other doing this weekend?" you can reply, a bit pointedly, "Well *I* am doing XYZ, but [Significant Other] has his own hobbies."

Would I actually lose some of my individuality, my personal tastes and hobbies?

I was I afraid that, in being more committed, I'd lose my individuality and interests. This was a much bigger issue for me, as I realized I struggled a bit with being dependent on my significant others. I noticed two things helped with that fear:

  1. Me-time really helps me reaffirm my identity and individuality
    In my most recent relationship, I've tried to avoid it by carving out regular alone time. (It's easy for us — I am a "morning person" and he is not, so I get to be alone in the mornings.) And using it to develop my own hobbies, listen to my own music, watch my own movies, and generally revel in me-ness. If I still have things I want to do when he wakes up, I just warn him "I'm going to want a couple hours of me-time today."
  2. Another thing that helps is that we have a "venn diagram" of friends
    He has some friends that are "his" and I have some friends that are "mine." And then we have some that we share. Going out with "my" friends, doing stuff he wouldn't be into, and talking about stuff he wouldn't be into, plus the crucial element of being out in public without him, all make me feel like a much more independent, confident person.

I would encourage you to think through some similar things

Think about that you waking up one day and you aren't "you" anymore — what happened? How did you know that you were not you? Was it the way people see you? Was it how your activities or time overlap with your partner? Once you know some of this, you can take some steps toward making it not happen or changing your perspective on it.

What are some of the ways you combat the fear of losing yourself in a relationship?

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  1. Yes to the Venn diagrams!! Of friends, interests, hobbies, media (movies, tv, music, books), etc. You need to have a good amount of overlap, but you won't do ALL THE THINGS together. What is a good percentage of overlap will vary from person to person, so you need to be on the same page or compromise as to how much of your resources are going to "me" versus "us".

    2 agree
  2. On the other side of this coin, I never thought a relationship had the capacity to make me lose any part of myself, but surprise! Now in the middle of a divorce, I'm noticing how much of my individuality I actually compromised in the marriage. Everyone says marriage is all about compromise, and I thought things like decor, music, and politics were things I could simply be more considerate about, but still retain my love for.

    Now a few months into being on my own again, it's a struggle to try and incorporate color, "girly music" and other things back into my life that I had tucked away for the sake of agreement and a shared environment. I find myself wondering what my ex (or anyone who is not me) would say about my choices before I make them, and it takes a conscious effort to not care. I saw an article recently in an online design mag about decorating for couples and it made me feel yucky. I now call any shade of beige or tan "Compromise Beige" because it's the only thing we could agree on together. It got to the point of fantasizing about an apartment of my own, decorated in all neutrals. Once I was actually on my own though, I remembered that that's not me, and I need color in my life. Individuality is a practice and a way of life. We can either "use it or lose it."

    I'm working on getting it back, but it's a strange feeling to look around you after being married, and realize that everything around you is now just yours, you, and your doing. I think there is a psychological term for this, in fact – something along the lines of dissociation. The good news is if you're someone with a capacity for change and growth, you can get "you" back and even make space for a new you by letting go of the old habits and preferences.

  3. I can definitely relate to this post. I was just like the author, fiercely independent and somewhat afraid of loosing myself in a relationship. But I must say that while the relationship with my husband wasn't all that hard and compromise came easily, the difficulties piled on BIG time after having a baby. That's when my morning time went out the window and I tried to grasp what had happened to the me I knew.

  4. I think the problem I'm having I that we have no friends? I'm a solitary being as is, coupled with generalized anxiety and no free time, I have really had a hard time making friends once they all moved to various places for grad school and I left that school as well. We're homebodies.
    My mom always says that we're spending too much time together and I don't know if that would bother me without her being the one to mention it. We're best friends, yaknow?

    1 agrees
  5. I loved this post. It taught me how important it is to stay true to yourself even when you are in a relationship that (supposedly) will last for ever, that even then you can't lose your individuality.
    However, I have a question I would like offbeat hommies to help me with:
    I sometimes find comfort in being with a partner because I don't have to be scared about my individuality (getting rejected for how I am if I dare to be "just" myself), so therefore I am ok losing it with/for a partner. How does someone go about building a stronger connection with their individuality so they're not afraid of having it or of facing "me" time? How does someone reach this really healthy point of wanting to preserve who you are even when you're married/in a long term relationship?

    I ask for myself but I think the answer could help other offbeat gals like me! And I ask in this post because it seems to be where strong people and people who might have gone through this path are.

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