Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

Being “we” without losing “me”
by Teresia Smith

Sometimes, in the beginning of a relationship, you present the very best version of yourself. You go the extra mile to display your best characteristics and subdue those that may not be super attractive, producing the best version of yourself you have ever been. But after some time, playing a charade gets old and you tire of not being able to just be yourself and you start trying to find a remnant of who you were before. How can you be in a healthy relationship and not lose yourself; how can you be part of a “we” without losing “me”?

The goal of a healthy relationship is to be close but still be able to maintain an identity as a separate person. Have you ever watched the movie Runaway Bride? The main character changed herself to fit whoever she was with at the time, even down to how she liked her eggs cooked. As she prepared to marry her partner, she found herself running away from the altar because she couldn’t maintain a pretense of her true self. When people are able to be their authentic self, they are happier and more optimistic. They are capable of more intimacy, love, and passion in their relationship because they have a clear sense of themselves.

Sometimes people go into a relationship thinking their partner will alleviate all their insecurities and heal all their hurts from the past. That then puts undue pressure on their partner to “fix” them but instead, this extra pressure can cause the relationship to deteriorate as they both return to old patterns of behavior. No one else can heal your pain. No one else can change patterns of behavior that leads to relationship issues. You must work through your thoughts and feelings and figure out who you are and who you want to be.

A healthy relationship provides a great opportunity to be validated by a partner’s appreciation and love for who you are. Both people blossom and grow as they enjoy a healthy relationship that allows them to be authentic. As you experience each other, you realize you each have distinctive identities, ideas, interests and even friends. This individuality makes you interesting.
How can we maintain our individuality while also growing a close, healthy relationship? Start with maintaining interests that were important to you before this relationship. Continue to cultivate those important friendships that you had before. Encourage your partner to pursue interests that were important to them before knowing you. Encourage your partner to maintain his long term friendships. Strive to have significant communication. Sharing a life together, there is much to talk about. Work to develop an accessible style of talking and listening to each other. Make time to sit down and have deep conversations regularly. Make eye contact during these times. Listen without judgement.

You may see movies or hear someone say they found their “missing piece”. That figure of speech is based on a misconception that you need someone else to make you complete. Feeling this way assumes you are less than or lacking something. If you enter a relationship feeling this way, looking for someone else to make you whole, sooner or later you may resent your partner. Idealizing your partner can put tremendous pressure on them and at times it can even create a fantasy bond where you idealize each other and believe the other person will make everything perfect. Then as time goes by and you begin to see the real person and their faults, partners become cynical, dissatisfied, and nitpicking. Because the fantasy relationship has been disrupted, overreaction occurs because of the focus on the partner’s imperfections. Small deficiencies suddenly become game changers. None of this has a place in a healthy relationship between two adults. Instead we must realize we are the sum of our positive and negative attributes, peculiarities, and flaws.

If you have suffered sexual assault or intimate partner violence, you may struggle with identifying and maintaining healthy relationships. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free services to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, including access to shelter, crisis counseling, identifying unhealthy relationship red flags, and advocacy. You may reach our Jackson County office at 256.574.5826 and we also offer a 24/7HELPline at 256.716.1000. Talk about it.

Your Community Newspaper

Local Weather

Clarion Facebook