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"I feel lost in my marriage. I don't even know who I am anymore!"
This is a common cry from women in my relationship coaching office.
Do you feel like YOU in your relationship? Like, really who you are?
It can be easy to lose yourself when you are in a long-term relationship.
- It can be hard to tell where you start and they begin.
- It can be hard to tell what is changing due to age and maturity and constraints of the family.
- It can be hard to know what you really want after so many years of compromise.
So how do we find ourselves again?
I believe we need to re/consider our approach to being in relationships.
Here's the thing. There is not just one way to be in a relationship, there are many. There are 7 billion people on the planet, which means that there are 7 billion different ways to be in relationship. A relationship is basically just 2 people coming together to be a team in the world. And there are endless ways to do that.
But, we go in thinking there is a right and a wrong way.
Have you ever considered how a relationship would truly work best for you?
If your answer is no, you are not alone. Rather than thinking about who we are, we are often guided by the vision of the fairy-tale “happy ever after”.
Let's take a moment to consider;
Who am I? Who is my partner?
How does our current relationship reflect who we are?
What we are doing that actually suits us?
What we are doing that doesn't actually suit us?
When we don't ask these questions we set up the foundations of our relationships and marriages, by default, on rules and beliefs that may not even suit us.
But we don’t even stop there. We add to those rules, additional lists of shoulds & presumptions about what it means to be in an intimate relationship. For example;
- We should always feel loving
- We should never feel attraction to another human
- We should never feel like we want to get away from them (ever!)
- We should not argue (at least not too much)
- We should not want something different to what we have got
All this pressure makes us feel trapped which feels terrible because deep down we love our partners.
Living by these rules is not a true expression of who we are it is instead an expression of; the culture, the religion, the family, the social pressure & all the amazingly happy people we see on Instagram and want to be like.
We can easily get drawn into trying to fit ourselves into a box of all those expectations. But the box, inevitably, starts to feel constricting.
Often, in my relationship coaching practice when we strip relationship distress back to its starting point, we find a lack of permission for a woman to really be who she is in her relationship. Without permission to be herself, she holds herself back in an attempt to fulfil the “wife” role in her head. Instead of challenging her beliefs around the role or checking if it even matches her partner’s, she shrinks herself.
Years of shrinking herself later, she feels lost and filled with resentment.
Our true selves long to be free.
A healthy thriving relationship works when it considers exactly who we are, who our partner is and builds from that interface.
But don't stress! What might spring to mind when I say “there are so many ways to be in a relationship” are some of the more extreme ways such as open relationships or living in different cities. These are options and great if they suit you, but what I am talking about is much more subtle than that.
I am talking about giving yourself permission to be yourself and express who you are within the realm of your relationship.
The problem is that the pressure of trying to fulfil a good "wife" role results in us not sharing ourselves.
This is where we get lost.
And it is also what holds us out of the relationship we truly desire. Sharing ourselves is, by definition, intimacy. It is the secret sauce of connection, closeness and relationships that work.
But we stop. We stop sharing our true selves, our real needs and our deepest desires.
Which is what happened to me.
I got stuck & disconnected for many years because of a presumption that I had about marriage.
Deep down, I held a belief that I did not have permission to find other humans attractive once I was married. In my mind, I had chosen my human and forever more, it was only okay to find him attractive (I know right!!) It wasn’t that easy though.
In order to fulfil this belief, I had to close down my attraction radar entirely. For me it was all or nothing. Having my attraction radar on, meant I would feel it beeping and going off for another human and then I would feel guilty, shameful and wrong. So, I switched it off. But the consequences of it being off were that I didn’t feel attraction to my partner either. In other words, bye bye desire and libido.
This presumption did not come from my husband, it was my interpretation of the cultural narrative of happy ever after and what a “good wife should do".
Challenging this belief & sharing it (myself) with my husband gave me the permission I needed to find other humans attractive and thus to turn my desire and libido back on. Loving life, seeing goodness, beauty and attraction around me (yet knowing my boundaries) allowed me to be more me. And so much happier as a result, especially in my relationship.
Find yourself in your relationship by sharing who you are with yourself and your partner.
This requires 3 keys;
To share who we are with our partner, we have to trust that we are enough. It may take some work, but we need to trust that who we are is okay and that it is okay to want what we want and ask for it. It can be scary to trust. Which is why we need the 2nd key.
We also need to trust our partners. Take it easy if this is an issue for you.
It takes courage to challenge old beliefs. It is not easy nor is it always comfortable. But taking this brave step comes with the reward of a relationship that is much more you.
If sharing yourself with your partner feels like a step too far, my tip is to start small. Take tiny little baby steps; share an easy little part first and then another little bit and build it slowly as you go.
- Know your values
Get really clear on your core relationship values. A lot of us don’t know what our relationship values are as we have never thought about them. But knowing what they are helps you find yourself and then build your relationship with intent and direction. When things feel off, you can check in with your values – more than likely it will show that things are not in alignment with your values and that is why they feel off. It might just be a little tweak or a new boundary to get back into alignment.
Your relationship can be a beautiful safe vessel for you to be fully, truly and freely YOU.
Squashing yourself in a box that is not made for you is not sustainable. Over time we get cranky and more often than not the object of our fury is our partner when mostly it is not their fault that we are squashed, but our own self-imposed presumptions.
Feeling stuck in a box in your relationship, builds resentment.
Are you filled with resentment for your partner? Join my Online workshop Release resentment to explore where it comes from, how to release it and keep it gone.
I hope you feel inspired to explore your ideal relationship and to share more of YOU.