I was listening to Pandora the other day as I got ready in the morning. It was a girl-power station, and I was feeling it. Demi Lovato came on as I was winging my eyeliner, and I belted out the lyrics to Tell Me You Love Me, and then…wait.
In this midst of my celebration of female badassery, I found myself disagreeing with my girl Demi. This record-screeching realization came after the following lines:
And all my friends, they know and it’s true
I don’t know who I am without you
Those lyrics hit me for multiple reasons, but mostly because I’ve known one too many women who’ve lost themselves in a relationship. I’m sure you have, too. We’ve all had at least one friend who got in a relationship and dropped off the radar. She was the friend who never missed a girl’s night out, or a spur of the moment shopping trip, then BAM!—girl got in a relationship, and you never heard from her again.
Ladies, this is not OK. It’s not healthy either.
For those of you ready to roast me over a spit, while explaining the dynamics of a committed relationship, let me just say, I’m speaking as a woman who’s been in a strong, committed relationship for 15 years. I’m proud to say I know who I am with and without my husband. If anything, my husband has helped me realize who I am. It’s possible to be in a committed relationship without becoming the committed relationship. In fact, it’s important to maintain your own identity and sense of self no matter what’s happening in your life.
A strong sense of self is important because it provides security and confidence, even self-esteem. In a relationship, our individuality keeps us interested in one another. It also helps us establish healthy boundaries with our partner. Maintaining friendships, hobbies, and other interests you had before your relationship is a big part of this.
Relationships are great for companionship and intimacy, but you shouldn’t depend solely on Prince/Princess Charming for your happiness. Co-dependency isn’t healthy. To clarify, co-dependency is not the same as commitment, and the two words should never be used interchangeably. Co-dependency is excessively relying on your partner for approval and a sense of identity. Commitment is a form of dedication that does not infringe on your personal identity. See the difference?
Relationships require two people to come together and compromise, but it should be an equal compromise. Your partner may not love Grey’s Anatomy or your old college roommate, but that’s OK—it’s good, actually. You shouldn’t be expected to give up something or someone you love to be in a committed relationship. When two people enter a relationship together, it’s a blending of two worlds, not a “your world is now my world” thing.
Does my husband love all of my friends? Nope. But that’s OK; they are my friends, not his. Does he enjoy all of my interests? No, not at all. Some of them annoy him, to be honest. But he loves me, and he supports me. He encourages me to pursue my goals and to spend time with my friends. And I do the same for him. I love him, but you couldn’t pay me to hang out during his fantasy football draft. Hard pass on that one.
We are two different people with completely different interests and identities, but in a committed relationship, founded on love and trust. We both have interests and enjoy activities outside of our marriage, and yet I truly feel our relationship is unshakeable. I hope there never comes a day when I have to live without my him, but if that day comes, I’m confident in who I am.
As people, we are constantly evolving and growing. Some of us are still rounding out the edges of who we are, but we are meant to be individuals. We are unique. Your relationship should foster your journey, not stifle it.
Ask yourself: What would I have if I didn’t have this relationship? Who would I be? Be confident in your answer. Never let anyone dim your light. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to shine, and never lose sight of who you are.
And, if you are with someone who dims your light, makes you feel anything less than amazing, or isolates you from those you love, please know you deserve so much more. You deserve better.