Losing Yourself in a Relationship

I have spent the past month having conversations with women about their experiences while dating and during their romantic relationships. One of the themes that I am seeing from these conversations is about how women tend to lose themselves in a relationship and how this is still, to at least some degree, expected by our society.

I’d like to share a couple of these women’s stories that highlight our ongoing challenges with expectations of our role as women, especially in the role of wife.

During my interviews, one of the ladies that I spoke with shared how in her first marriage, as soon as the ceremony was over, everyone started treating her as someone’s wife, not as her (the individual) anymore.

She described her experience this way: “The minute the ceremony happened, all these archetypes flooded into our bodies of what we were supposed to be. The tendency is to lose oneself and be the archetype.The day before the wedding I was treated as me, and the next day, literally no one talked to me that way.

Everyone continually was asking questions like “What are you doing to help your husband’s career?” and never asking her about her own career. She shared with me how invisible this made her feel.

The fascinating thing about her story was how, as soon as her divorce happened, everyone again treated her like HER again and seemed puzzled that she had had her own career all along.

Another woman shared with me her story of how she knew on the day of her wedding that her marriage was not going to last. On her wedding day, her new husband treated her like his property (which he had NEVER done before)  and she was expected to spend the whole reception catering to the guests and not enjoying herself. When she asked him to dance with her, he replied “Today is not about you.” Her marriage only lasted 5 months.

What the stories I have been hearing through my interviews are showing me is that while we as women have made tremendous gains from the time in history when women had no say in who they married or whether they were expected to quit working and become housewives after marriage, there are still struggles to be treated as individuals with our own worth and value once we are in a relationship.

There are still common cultural beliefs that the man’s career takes priority, that a wife should still help her husband and focus on his needs.

The conversations that I’ve had have shown me that women still have to work to keep their own sense of who they are and their own individual needs when in a committed relationship.

It takes work and not bowing to society’s expectations of how a woman should behave when in a relationship… It takes supporting one another and getting support to stay true to your own needs, wants, and desires.

 

Do you have a story of how you struggle to still feel like yourself and that you matter in a relationship? Or do you have a strategy to help you not lose yourself to society’s expectations about women’s roles in a relationship? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

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3 Comments

  1. Lily on March 26, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    This is great Lyn. For me, tuning in to what I want and tuning out all the outside chatter helps.

  2. Siedah Mitchum on March 26, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    It is very common for us to become too involved in our husbands lives. I am slowly but surely trying to build a life for myself outside of my husbands. I got here in the first place because I moved to his hometown and never really found my tribe of people. A few things I suggest and a few things I am trying to do now that I hope will help women who are reading this.

    1. Do what makes you happy. We tend to get caught up in “we as a couple” or “he” too much and forget about what it is we love to do. I love art. So I am going to take art classes. I love cooking so I am going to take cooking classes. I want to try to garden so that is exactly what I am going to try to do. I love yoga so instead of doing yoga at home I am going to sign up for a class.

    2. Find your people. This is SOOO hard to do especially for me. I suspect that once I do more of what I like I will find my people.

    3. Visit your people more often. I visit home three or four times a week. I am going in a week for however long I need to. My husband isn’t going anywhere and he will be perfectly fine without me for a while. I need to spend some time with my family and friends and a week isn’t enough. Before I would go back home early because in my mind “my husband needs me”. But he is a GROWN man and he will do just fine.

    Do what you need for you to be happy!

    • admin on March 26, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      Great advice for sure! I know from my own experience it is easy to focus on “we” and “us” and not just do things I like too. Yes, do what makes you happy because the happy person is the person who your partner fell in love with to begin with!

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