Copious articles and blogs have been written about how people - predominantly women - change, acquiesce, and lose themselves in marriage only to find themselves again when they divorce. But it need not just be women. Men need to connect with their inner self as well. There are numerous advantages when a person uses this transition in their life to become more introspective, change, and create greater health, happiness, and growth. It's very empowering. Yet I have mixed feelings about it and I will tell you why.
Although I know its a time to shout loudly - 'you go!', on the other side of the equation, is the question that continues to naw at me - 'how did that happen? And more importantly, why does it continue to happen over and over especially with women? What is it about us that we continue to dumb down our power, acquiesce, and forgo and give up what is rightfully ours - our voice? Are women less comfortable with themselves than men are? Maybe men need to be more in touch with their feelings.
I am witness to people I help everyday who admit to becoming a person they never thought they would (yes, I did that too in a far away time!). They became a version of themselves they grew to resent. Over time, they didn't recognize the reflection in the mirror staring back at them. They were not honest in their relationship. They settled and acquiesced. They said yes when they wanted to say no. They would forgo time with friends and family to be with their partner or spouse because they felt it would upset him - all for the sake of couple hood. They gave up a part of themselves for the sake of the couple.
But what is the irony in all that? In giving up of self, they lost themselves and ultimately the relationship ended. And after it ends, they ask, 'Who am I? 'How did this happen?' 'What do I do now?' Sure, those are important questions, but the more important question is why did it happen at all?
A significant factor and one that keeps relationships healthy is the ability for each person to function independently in a relationship where they can each express how they feel, embrace and share their opinions, hold on to their values, and maintain their individual identity outside of the relationship.
So, before you embark on your next relationship, ask yourself:
- What is it about me - history, personality, and attachment style - that prevented me from being honest with my partner and more importantly myself? Did I give him/her a fair chance?
- Why did I allow myself to change? Why did I neglect what's important in my life?
- What was I fearful of? Him or her leaving? If so, why? When did I become so fearful?
- What factors made it difficult to be myself?
- If I were my authentic self what would that have looked like? What prevented me from staying true to my values, opinions, and what I find important in life?
- Why couldn't I communicate how I was feeling to my partner?
- How will I communicate my needs and feelings to my next partner to prevent this from happening again? What are my challenges doing that and why?
Keep in mind:
- Spend time with friends and family without your partner. Don't neglect those relationships. They were there before the relationship and need time and attention too.
- Have individual hobbies and interests. Spend some alone time. This creates the space that couples need that relationships need to thrive.
- Be open to new things, experiences, and opportunities.
- Don't allow the status of your relationship to affect other things in your life (too much) or your outlook. This is one (though very important) aspect of your life.
Learning to live an authentic and true life, one that means being honest about what is important to you is key not just for the health and growth of the relationship, but for you!
Dr. Kristin Davin (AKA "Dr. D") is a Divorce Mediator and Clinical Psychologist practicing in New York City. Her approach is based upon Cognitive Behavior Therapy combined with Solution Focused Therapy. You can learn more at www.kristindavin.com .