Are you a wallflower, fading in the presence of your mate? Is your personality in hiding? Have you suppressed or swapped out some of your beliefs and attitudes, dropped friends or activities for those of his/hers? If you have a nagging sense of feeling out of touch with yourself, feel frustrated, angry, or upset and can’t put your finger on why, maybe it’s because you’re neglecting your own needs … losing yourself in your relationship.
The Give and Take of a Relationship
Losing yourself in a relationship doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen spontaneously. Loss of self is the culmination of a series of thoughts and actions, a gradual behavioral change that is tied to a special someone you love – your partner – and to the relationship you’ve established with that person.
Maybe what’s going on is new, occurring for the first time in the new relationship you’ve entered. Or maybe it’s a pattern, behavior that repeats itself whenever you become romantically involved. There’s a good chance you may not even have noticed the shift consciously; or if you did, you may have dismissed it, telling yourself that it’s natural, just part of being a couple.
To some extent, couples, as they grow closer to one another, do change the way they express their attitudes and opinions, conceding to one another’s likes and dislikes at times in order to solve problems, be open to something new, or as an expression of love and support.
The difference between those healthy changes and getting lost is a matter of how extreme those changes are and your level of awareness, whether there’s intention, and whether it’s reciprocal. In other words, when you lose your identity, you’ve gone through major internal changes, you’ve given up pieces of yourself rather than merge who you are with that of your mate. You’ve suppressed your identity rather than created a relationship based on give and take.
What’s Behind Your Disappearing Act?
So how can you sort out what’s going on? First, it’s important to be brave and open Pandora’s box to see what might be happening. You might ask yourself if any of these statements ring true for you:
· You have a general lack of self-esteem and tend to hide behind others because it feels safer.
· You fear that if you express disagreement or your own wants and needs, that your mate will abandon you.
· You hide behind someone you’re close to because you don’t feel worthy or that what you have to say or your opinions are not valuable.
· It seems easier to let your mate run your life for you, answer for you, make decisions for you rather than speak your mind.
· Your mate tends to overshadow you, encouraging your acquiescent or submissive behavior.
· You feel lazy and lack the strength to stand up for yourself. This could be a sign of an underlying condition, such as depression or stress.
On the Road to Recovery
Explore the you before and during the relationship and how you feel about it – not only by yourself, but with a close friend, a therapist, and your mate.
Honor yourself, take care of yourself, learn or relearn to be independent, meet your basic needs first. You need these things before you can have a vibrant, meaningful, fulfilling relationship. It takes two.
You need to know where to draw the line, how to establish boundaries. If your partner has a strong personality – one that enables your wallflower behavior – recognize that, then call attention to it so that s/he’s aware of the effects s/he might be having on you, intentionally or unintentionally.
In a healthy relationship, we make deliberate decisions on how we want to express ourselves and when we want to flexible or stand firm. We have our own “voice” and we need to be clear within ourselves how we acknowledge and act upon that voice. Likewise, our mate needs to decide how to behave based on his/her voice and allow you yours … that give and take.
The underlying cause of your disappearing act might be simple tweaking or it might take some deep digging to unearth. Either way, you should be encouraged that there is a way out of the mess. The fact that you know something isn’t right and want to change means that you’re on your way to rediscovering yourself.