Feeling like you’ve lost yourself in a relationship? It can be a really lonely experience. Anna, a 27-year-old fashion designer, who has been in a long-term relationship for 5 years, shares, “I have been feeling this way for a year now and no one understands how I can feel so alone and why I don’t feel like myself in my relationship.”
She feels hopeless sometimes because she is isolated in her experience. If you’re in a similar place in your relationship, understanding what feeling lost in a relationship can help you better navigate this situation and find a way to emerge from it, either with your partner or alone.
To do just that, in this article, trauma-informed counseling psychologist Anushtha Mishra (M.Sc. Counseling Psychology), who specializes in providing therapy for concerns such as trauma, relationship issues, depression, anxiety, grief, and loneliness among others, writes to help you better understand what losing who you are in a relationship feels like, along with the signs you’ve lost yourself and the way to finding yourself again in a relationship.
What Does It Mean To Feel Lost In A Relationship?
Simply put, feeling lost in a relationship is when you feel like you’re losing a sense of self and losing yourself in a relationship, unable to separate your identity from your role as a romantic partner. In a relationship, there’s always a need or desire to feel accepted as whole and loved as we are.
To achieve this and maintain harmony, we sometimes tend to give up parts of ourselves. Unless we are mindful of maintaining a separate sense of self, this tendency can cause us to lose ourselves in the process of loving someone else.
Selena Gomez in her famous song, Lose you to love me, says, “I put you first and you adored it, set fires to my forest, and you let it burn.” This is precisely what losing yourself in a relationship looks like. You let your forest burn to grow your partner’s garden.
In other words, feeling lost in a relationship can mean:
- You are so attentive and devoted to the relationship that you don’t know who you are anymore
- You find yourself feeling lonely in a relationship because of losing your sense of self, and your identity
- Your life doesn’t feel complete without your partner
How Do You Know If You’ve Lost Yourself In A Relationship?
You can identify that you’re feeling lost in a relationship by being mindful of how you communicate and propel your thoughts to each other. That can tell you a lot about your relationship and how you are navigating it. Besides that, there are general signs you can look out for to understand if you are lost in your relationship:
1. Everything is about your partner
Relationships are a two-way street. You do some for your partner and they do some for you. But when everything you do is for them or ‘us’, it’s important to pause and take a step back to reflect if you are losing yourself in this relationship.
If the clothes you wear are of their choice, you eat and drink what they enjoy, and partake in activities that they prefer, where is your individuality in the relationship? You, then, start to feel entirely responsible for their happiness and feelings.
2. You run on their schedule
We all adjust our schedules based on our partners to carve out some quality time together, especially if the work schedules are markedly different. However, this is done mutually. If you are the only one adjusting your calendar for your partner or rescheduling your calls for them with no effort from their side, it’s a sign that you are alone in the relationship.
3. You don’t have any ‘me time’
Spending time by yourself and focusing on your goals and hobbies is an essential part of any healthy relationship. It helps ensure that you nurture your individuality and grow in a relationship while also growing together as a couple. Developing individual interests, having time alone to think and breathe, being comfortable on your own, and allowing yourself some space to grow in line with your values are crucial for self-development.
If these elements are missing from your relationship, you’re most probably losing who you are. It might make you feel suffocated without any space to breathe by yourself, leaving you feeling alone and depressed.
4. You are the only one compromising
Being in a relationship is not all rainbows and sunshine or all colors of a Taylor Swift song. There’s a lot of hard work and effort required from both partners. There will need to be compromises made on both ends to become better partners for each other. But when it’s only you compromising, the chances you’ll end up feeling lost in a relationship soar significantly higher.
If you find yourself lost more often, second-guessing your decisions, and aren’t getting what you want, you’ll end up losing yourself and might even begin to resent your partner in the long run. If you find yourself giving too much but getting nothing in return, you might want to consider if you are okay with it. Otherwise, you might be left feeling lonely in a marriage or a relationship.
5. Your opinions are no longer your own
We all are wired differently and that leads us to experience the world in different ways. This means we have our own sets of opinions and beliefs that we form in alignment with the way we see life, which is bound to be different from our partners’ in some ways. This holds no matter how similar you both are.
However, if you find all your original thoughts, opinions and views have changed over time and you now mirror a replica of your partner, there is a good chance you are losing yourself in the process of loving or conforming to your partner. This also means your relationship is on the rocks.
6. You are codependent on your partner
It is normal to want your partner to like you and want to make them happy. However, there’s a clear distinction between a desire to make your partner happy and feeling obligated to bend over backward to please them all the time.
If you have a lack of boundaries, low self-esteem, a reflexive caretaking nature, a lack of self-image, or poor communication, the chances you are in a codependent relationship are high. In this relationship, you lose the sense of your convenience and happiness which eventually makes you lose yourself.
What To Do When Feeling Lost In A Relationship?
If at any point you feel you have lost yourself, deciding to reclaim your identity is a good idea. It helps you evaluate if your relationship should be saved or if you should prioritize yourself now and walk away. It doesn’t matter whether you are on the verge of saying that you are losing yourself or you have completely lost yourself, you can take steps to recover and heal, find yourself, commit to living your own life and potentially save your relationship if it’s not damaged beyond repair.
If you find yourself saying, “I don’t feel like myself in my relationship” and feel lonely and isolated, the following tips for dealing with this experience of feeling lost in a relationship can help:
1. Create your boundaries
Gillies, LCPC in his paper, The importance of boundaries in romantic relationships says, “In a romantic relationship, the boundary line helps define where you and your partner start and stop. It creates natural limits. These limits work to your benefit when each partner understands them and agrees to abide by them.” He also stresses that boundaries help eliminate blame, by saying, “I’ll do everything I can to take full responsibility for what’s mine.”
You can create healthy boundaries by:
- Being honest about what you need
- Taking responsibility for your choices
- Listening to what your partner needs
- Communicating honestly and openly
2. Feeling lonely in a relationship? Validate your feelings
To rely upon validations from the external environment can leave you feeling anxious or depressed. You can’t depend on others to make you feel good all the time. When you do this, you allow others to dictate your value and worth. You, then, also tend to become needy and ask for validation in ways that turn others off.
It sends a message that you lack self-esteem and you need them to tell you that you are okay. When feeling lost in a relationship, try these ways in which you can validate yourself:
- By noticing what you feel and need
- Accept your needs without judgments
- Don’t let your feelings define you
Related Reading: 19 Things To Reassure Your Girlfriend Of Your Love
3. Don’t overcompensate or over compromise
You are fighting a losing battle if you are trying to overcompensate or compromise to balance out your genuine feelings for your partner. A battle that will compound your problems by creating an image of neutrality when, in fact, you are covering up underlying issues. Feeling lost in a relationship? It’s probably because you’ve fallen into the pattern of over-compromising.
Reach out to your support system or a mental health professional when you find yourself doing this because it will only leave both you and your partner hurt and bitter. At Bonobology, we offer professional help through our panel of licensed advisors who can help you embark on a path toward recovery.
4. Build your personal space
Personal space in a relationship can be commonly misinterpreted as getting away from your partner; however, it is one of the most important ingredients of a successful and healthy relationship. It is normal for you to depend on your partner but losing yourself in the relationship is never ideal and can harm you.
Building your personal space by carving out time for friends and family and by prioritizing your needs can benefit both you and the relationship. You can practice this by,
- Communicating better with your partner
- Not welcoming excessive interrogations
- Encouraging your partner to make use of their personal space as well
5. Accept healthy conflicts
Conflicts are a normal part of any relationship. People disagree sometimes and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What’s important here is that you communicate effectively and in a healthy way that allows you to understand each other better and make your relationship stronger.
- Effective conflict resolution can be achieved by
- Setting boundaries
- Getting to the root of the real issue
- Agreeing to disagree
6. Start saying NO
Paulo Coehlo said, “When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself.” I understand that feeling of guilt and shame takes over when we disagree with or disappoint our partners. But this can be changed with a shift of perspective, which can be achieved through an awareness of our true intentions behind saying no and by internally validating our experience.
Constantly saying yes to everything your partner asks or expects of you can make you feel burnt out because of overstretching yourself. There might also arise feelings of resentment because your partner is not able to meet your expectations. For a change, learn to say no and see how that feels.
How Can You Find Yourself Again After Losing Yourself In A Relationship?
Feeling like you’ve lost yourself in a relationship? Not sure where to begin finding yourself again in a relationship? Wondering how to get yourself back after losing yourself in a relationship? Below are a few ways you can reclaim yourself in your relationship, the place where you lost yourself:
- Look out for the signs and act on them as soon as you figure that you are losing yourself
- Start by saying, “me” and “I”, instead of “we” all the time
- Think about your dreams and future
- Spend more time with yourself
- Indulge in self-care
- Be decisive and stick with your decisions
- Feeling like you’ve lost yourself in a relationship can be a really lonely experience
- It means that you are so attentive and devoted to the relationship that you don’t know who you are anymore
- When everything you do is about your partner, you run on their schedule, you don’t have any ‘me’ time, or find yourself codependent on your partner, you might start to lose yourself
- Create boundaries, start saying ‘no’, create your personal space and reach out to your support system to reclaim your lost identity
I hope these tips helped you figure out if you are feeling lost in a relationship and what to do if you are experiencing this. This can be overwhelming sometimes to navigate all by yourself and that’s why it’s important that you reach out to your support system or a mental health professional. They can help you overcome your difficult experience and can also help you reclaim your identity.
Sometimes, it can all happen so subtly that you don’t even realize that you have lost yourself in a relationship, however, this is never healthy. It is normal to go through a phase where you don’t feel like yourself, where you put yourself in the back seat of the relationship, but if this feeling persists for prolonged periods, it can be detrimental to your health and that of your partner.
Feeling lost in a relationship? Try creating boundaries for yourself, communicate openly and honestly with your partner about your experience of the relationship, be open to healthy conflicts, and take the time you need to evaluate your relationship. These can help you not feel lost in a relationship.