Getting swept up in new love can sometimes lead to sacrificing individualism. Here’s how you can remain an individual while staying close with your partner.
Falling in love can be exciting, and it’s natural to want to spend all of your time with the object of your affection. Losing your identity in a relationship can happen for many reasons, and it doesn’t always mean that you or your relationship is inherently “unhealthy.“
Giving up parts of your individualism in a relationship can look different to different people. You may find yourself:
- no longer doing activities you once enjoyed
- not making time for your friends
- giving all of your energy to your partner or relationship
Ideally, relationships can enable you to grow together with your partner(s) while you continue growing independently as well. Compromise and maintaining a sense of personal autonomy can often be essential pieces of this puzzle.
Giving up your identity in a relationship may happen slowly, and it can be hard to tell when it’s happening. Loved ones are often the first to notice changes that might indicate a loss of individualism.
Attachment style may play a key role in how much of your identity you sacrifice in your relationships.
“Some people may lose their sense of individuality in a relationship easily if they have a tendency to attach too quickly to that person or have a tendency to seek their sense of worth from the external world,“ says Samara Quintero, LMFT, CHT,a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Although losing yourself can often be a subtle and slow process, there are signs to be mindful of if you think you might be sacrificing too much of your identity to your relationship.
Your well-being takes a back seat
While it’s okay to want to please your partner, losing sight of your needs around mental and physical health to tend to your relationship can be a clear sign you’re giving away too much of yourself.
Deprioritizing your wellness can have serious health impacts and may look like abandoning personal routines that provide structure, such as:
- sleep habits
- exercise routines
- nutrition and eating patterns
You sacrifice your happiness
There is a difference between compromise and sacrifice. Quintero encourages asking yourself: “Am I skipping out on things I’d like to do or brushing my own desires off in order to please my partner?“
If this happens frequently, it may be a sign of imbalances in your relationship.
You’re afraid to speak up
Discomfort or fear around voicing your needs in your relationship is a common sign that you may be sacrificing too much of yourself to your partner.
Feeling afraid to speak up can sometimes be linked to a fear of abandonment, which can lead to inauthentic behaviors. You may present a different “version“ of yourself to avoid rejection, explains Quintero.
Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine and host of the “How Can I Help?“ podcast, recommends looking for the following signs:
- Decisions are not a compromise but end in something like a “surrender.“
- You always ask your partner what they think before making up your own mind.
- You constantly defer to your partner on decisions.
- You feel you can’t discuss difficult emotions with your partner, like unhappiness or wanting something more or different.
Understanding the reasons behind your behavior can often be the first step in making changes.
Some possible causes for losing your identity in relationships might include:
While it can be natural to want to spend every second together in the beginning stages of a relationship, Quintero says that a lack of balance can lead to developing codependent patterns and behaviors.
Saltz explains that codependency can happen for many reasons, including:
- low self-esteem
- extreme uncertainty or questioning your identity
- fear of abandonment
- emotional or narcissistic abuse
- some personality disorders
Many behavioral patterns can also stem from childhood experiences. “If you grew up in an environment where you witnessed codependence, you might be more likely to replay that relationship dynamic,“ Quintero adds.
Remaining an individual in a relationship may require examining beliefs that might be holding you back. Being willing to do the work it takes to heal emotionally can also be powerful in breaking unwanted behavioral patterns.
1. The root cause often holds the answer
Saltz recommends self-reflection to find possible causes, then working to resolve the roots of your behavior.
“Think about why you feel insecure, why you’re afraid of being abandoned or alone, or why you’re unsure of who you really are,“ she says.
2. Prioritizing your needs works wonders
Sticking to a daily routine that prioritizes your needs can help you feel more like “you“ while boosting your mental and physical wellness. Overall wellness can also help you think more clearly and make better decisions in general.
“Keeping up with what makes you feel balanced can help decrease the need to find a sense of well-being solely in your relationship,“ says Quintero.
Doing things for yourself that make you feel good can also raise your confidence and self-esteem. Some ways to prioritize your needs might include:
- exercising regularly
- eating nutritious foods
- sticking to a sleep schedule
- making time for friends and hobbies
3. Communicating honestly can be key
Open and honest communication is often a cornerstone of healthy relationships.
Once you understand what your needs are, you can try talking to your partner honestly about how they can help support you in honoring your individuality. Consider asking your partner to help you stay connected in the relationship, but with a more defined sense of individualism that allows for differences between you and your partner.
“Stating your needs from a place of confidence can help you assert that your voice and feelings matter just as much as your partner’s in the relationship,“ Quintero explains.
Honest conversations about your needs can also help “maintain a sense of equality and balance of power in the relationship,“ she adds.
Calling in the help of a couples therapist can be a good idea for particularly difficult conversations.
4. Your authentic self deserves to shine
Losing sight of your authenticity can be easy in codependent or imbalanced relationships. Try to remember that you are worthy as you are.
Acceptance can be foundational to healthy relationships. Feeling accepted and comfortable being your true self around your partner is typically a good sign that they are right for you.
“When you start to hide parts of yourself for fear that you’ll be abandoned, the subconscious message you send is, ‘I am not good enough the way I am,‘“ says Quintero.
These subconscious beliefs may slowly chip away at your self-worth, which may cause you to develop codependency or seek validation from your partner, she explains.
Being in a relationship can be incredibly rewarding. It can be easy to lose parts of your individuality amid those good feelings. To some degree, this can be an expected part of falling in love.
But sometimes, sacrificing too much of yourself can lead to imbalances in your relationship or codependency.
The ability to grow together as a couple while also growing independently as an individual can be the hallmark of a healthy relationship.
If you feel like you’ve slipped into losing your identity in your relationship, there are ways to regain your sense of self, such as:
- identifying and communicating your needs honestly
- making time for healthy habits, hobbies, and friends
- being true to your authentic self
Working with a therapist can be helpful in changing behaviors and patterns that may lead to a loss of identity in relationships. If you’re having trouble communicating with your partner, working with a couples therapist can be equally beneficial.
Check out Psych Central’s guide to finding mental health care to find the right therapist for you and your relationship.