It starts out innocently enough. You agree to watch the new horror movie that just came out (although you really want to watch a romantic comedy), and when your sweetie orders a drink for you, it’s the one that he likes, not you. Sure, losing your identity in your relationship is a slippery slope, but there are ways to gain traction again. Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell, a psychologist, author, and dating/relationship expert, weighs in on how to lose the mask in your relationship.
You check in with your boss, with your spouse, and with your kids. But do you check in with yourself? “It’s easy to get caught up in the responsibilities of marriage, parenting, and career—and frankly, these roles often require we do something we’d prefer not to do,” says Dr. Abrell. “Repeatedly denying our desires in order to be the ‘good wife’ or ‘good mom’ can leave us feeling far away from our true selves.” So notice when you’re comprising, and if you’re finding that it’s happening too much, or over issues that are important to you. You’re less likely to feel a loss of self if you are already aware of your emotions, advises Dr. Abrell.
Clarify your values.
You want to stay at home and binge watch The Walking Dead. But your spouse wants you to attend his company’s holiday party. So you begrudgingly slip into a party dress, and spend the night together eating crab cakes, chatting up with his boss, and yes, having a pretty decent time. But something inside of you thinks that you’re losing yourself because you didn’t get to do what you wanted. Dr. Abrell suggests clarifying your values first so that you can understand the value system you have in place (which prioritizes your marriage above your desire to swoon over Daryl Dixon). By understanding your values, you might realize that you are staying consistent with your true self after all.
Talk it out.
Sure, it’s easy to lose your voice (and yourself) in a relationship…but only if you let it happen. “As you perform self checks and clarify your values, be sure to speak up if you find anything amiss,” advises Dr. Abrell. “Recognize your right to renegotiate your contract—at work and at home!” If you have a hard time speaking up, schedule “State of the (Marital) Union” addresses in which both you and your spouse work out any kinks in your relationship as well as your parental responsibilities. By speaking up and taking the time to fix any issues now, you’ll ensure a healthier and happier relationship where you’ll always feel free to be you.