You might think that truly loving someone means caring about them with all of your being – but you can’t really give all of your being to the relationship. For you to continue to love someone, there has to be a “you” to do that loving. So, for the relationship to last, you must focus on your own happiness, as well as theirs. This is a balancing act that can be difficult to master if you’re someone who tends to lose yourself in your partner.
Many who lose themselves in relationships do so because they get caught up in trying to connect with, or earn the approval of, their partner. If you are one of those people, you may find that you are very sensitive to what poker players call “tells.” You are quick to pick up on, and read meaning into, even the slightest of your partner’s behaviors. However, your reading of their inner experience may not necessarily be accurate. For instance, if you notice that your partner is a bit withdrawn, you may tend toward inaccurately assuming the worst – such as lying or infidelity. You are also likely to absorb your partner’s emotions, which overtake your own emotions. As a result of your inner resources being so focused and sensitive to your partner, you may find that you have a stronger sense of your partner (though possibly inaccurate) than you do of yourself.
It is important – for the sake of yourself and your relationships – that you practice focusing on yourself. Regularly ask yourself questions about your inner experience related to different areas of your life, such as: What do I think? What do I feel? How do my thoughts and feelings differ from my partner? When you are discussing a situation or making a decision, you might ask for a moment to reflect before sharing your thoughts. You can do this with small decisions, such as what movie you want to see, or with big discussions, such as how you feel about your partner. If you have trouble doing it in the moment, practice by reflecting on your experiences after the event. If you choose, you can go back to your partner to discuss your new realizations. You may also find it helpful to talk with a friend, who is supportive of you learning to “find your voice.”
With practice, you can learn to give love to your partner without losing yourself. And with this more balanced perspective, you will be happier in yourself and your relationship.
Note: If you are in an abusive relationship, it is essential that you focus more on your experience and on how your partner’s behavior is dangerous for you.