People act in really unappealing ways when they lose themselves in their relationships.
I know this intimately because I see it every day in my work, but also because it’s happened to me.
I’ve been going through a rocky time in my own relationship. And after a LOT of rational self examination, I’ve come to the depressing conclusion that I’ve done exactly the opposite of what I teach, and that thing is…
I’ve totally and completely lost myself in my relationship.
Now, “losing oneself in a relationship” is a trite phrase thrown around ALL THE TIME by relationship coaches— myself included. But I’ve noticed that while people might talk about it, they don’t deal with it as it’s happening very often.
I can look back on many failed relationships of my own and nearly pinpoint the exact time it happened, but this time, the terrifying realization has dawned on me in real time that I’m screwing up.
That’s why I had to write about this— both to help you lovely readers AND to make myself a rough guide– a roadmap– so that this never, ever happens again.
Here are the 9 most obvious signs you have completely lost yourself in your relationship:
1. You’ve lost touch with your own goals, passions and life purpose.
Remember when you were so full of hope? Feel like that’s been crushed and you’ve let your life’s purpose fall by the wayside?
That’s a big red flag that you’ve allowed yourself to take the backseat in your relationship.
2. Instead of speaking up about your wants and desires, do you consistently let them fall by the wayside?
I’m not sure why sometimes it seems so important to forgo what we want for what we THINK someone else wants in our relationships.
Do we do it in favor of… approval? Not rocking the boat?
Maybe because like hoovering down an entire bag of Doritos, ignoring what we really want feels great in the moment.
When we ignore things like our desires and wants that are messy and take hard work, we can put our head in the sand. We don’t have to do anything about them. We can go on like it’s all not happening, until we’re so overtaken with regret and resentment that we just can’t stand it any longer.
3. You’re going through the motions.
For most, life goes something like wake up, take kids to school, go to work, deal with the kids, sleep. Rinse off. Repeat. Carve out a few minutes of “quality time” on the weekend.
This probably wasn’t at all what you pictured when you were a kid and you plotted out the way you thought your life would go. If it wasn’t bad enough, your sense of humor seems to be on hiatus as well.
4. You’re living a worried, hand-wringing, fear-based life.
You’ve allowed the creepy “what ifs” to lurk around and rule your life. “What if” you die in that fiery crash? Better not buy that motorcycle. “What if” you never get famous and make doing your art? Better not even bother to sketch anything. “What if your spouse doesn’t take the right exit on the freeway? You could be LATE!” The horror. “What if…” “What if…” “What if…”
It’s exhausting, and it’s a trap. Fear and worry tell us that we have control, when we really have zero control. That groundlessness is both terrifying and freeing, depending on the amount of joy you’re allowing into your life. Right now, this sign you’ve lost yourself in your relationship is downright overwhelming.
5. You’re controlling and perfectionistic with the people in your life.
Even though the reality of your daily life is that you’re bored to tears and working at half the level of joy you could be, you’re weirdly attached to it all, so it’s vitally important that EVERYONE ELSE act how you expect. Perhaps because you don’t even know who you are anymore, but you’re pretty convinced you’re right about how everyone else is.
If someone else were to be happy or follow their own bliss, it would force you to consider your own lack of the same. Ouch.
6. You attend to everyone else’s needs first, which is silently eating away at you.
Except it’s not really silent, since everyone around you can sense the toxic resentment that seeps through your pores like sewage in a leach field.
To everyone around you, you come off like a long-suffering, put-upon martyr. Martyrdom might work for religious figures, but sacrificing yourself for your relationship isn’t good for you and it’s the death knell for your partner’s attraction to you.
When you don’t take responsibility for the fact that you’ve let your OWN light go out, it’s easy to look around and decide that it’s someone else’s fault. This is both a cop out and a way to absolve yourself of responsibility for your own happiness.
7. Your emotional range is blunted and negative.
You live in that emotional limbo territory between neutral, angry and resentful.
Joy and true happiness are fleeting. You might not be anxious and depressed (many are), but you’re flirting with them at least. Unfortunately, your ability to experience anger is probably bubbling there right below the surface at any time, ready to jump out and hurt someone in it’s path.
8. You use anything to fill the void.
Since real joy feels like such a long way off that it’s practically unobtainable, it’s tempting to look for something… anything to fill the gnawing hole in your gut and your soul.
Temporary relief, like losing whole days to Netflix marathons, eating yourself out of house and home, drinking and shopping is at least relief, however temporary it might be.
9. The hopeless feeling that you’ve sold yourself out won’t go away.
“This isn’t all it’s cracked up to be” is pretty much your mantra.
Remember those hopes and dreams I was talking about before? You wake up every morning with a vague sense that “it’s not gonna happen.” Real talk: if you keep going in this sleep-walk, zombie, half-life direction you’re headed in, it’s NOT gonna happen.
Unless you make a change. Now.
You know how on planes, when they do the safety demonstration, they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first? You know, because you’ll die if you try to help everyone else before yourself? Losing yourself is like throwing your own oxygen mask out the window and then trying to share your partner’s mask.
Letting yourself get lost in your relationship is claustrophobic, toxic for both of you and impossible long term.
If you see yourself in this, it’s time to make a change. Let this be your gentle wake up call.
We’ll do it together.