We have written about the three identities in a marriage, and about the need to keep all three going, and growing. Since the wife is the partner most likely to “lose” herself in the marriage, let’s dig a little deeper into the importance of her (and his) individual identity.
A worthwhile read is Losing Myself in Marriage by Anonymous (Reiner, 2019). An anonymous person details a difficult journey through losing herself (shutting down and essentially losing her voice). She stays in the marriage and is eventually able to open up:
Firestone (2011) addresses the question of how to be in a relationship and not lose yourself, or How to be part of a We without losing Me. Going into a relationship with the expectation that the marriage will take care of insecurities and unresolved issues—a “fantasy bond”—results in the deterioration of both individuals. She maintains that individuated partners are happier and more optimistic, and are capable of more intimacy, love and passion in their relationship.
Firestone (2011) suggests ways to maintain your own identity:
- Maintain your interests in things that were important to you before marriage, keep up old friendships, and encourage your husband to do the same
- Keep your communication meaningful by doing more than small talk, making time to talk about yourselves personally, making eye contact, and listening respectfully
- Give importance to your sexual relationship by being flirtatious (a way of acknowledging each other as separate people), by giving equal time to romance (date nights) and being fully present with each other
When discussing what not to do, Firestone (2011) makes a very important point: “The idea of finding your “missing piece” or “soul mate” is based on misconceptions about needing someone else to be made complete. Unfortunately, to try to accomplish this, a person has to be less than they are. In the process of giving up part of themselves, they come to resent their partner” (What Not to Do section, para. 1). She recommends the following:
- Don’t assume you know what the other person is thinking or feeling; don’t speak for your partner or complete their sentences
- Don’t role-play, either by being a parent/child, or use substitutions for genuine expressions of love.
- Don’t idealize or put down your partner: “Neither idealization nor cynicism has a place in a relationship between two adults who see each other as real people with positive attributes, amusing idiosyncrasies and personal limitations and flaws” (What Not to Do section, para. 4)
- Don’t take your spouse for granted (as an extension of yourself). Use meaningful actions of love.
When a wife gives up being a whole person (an equal half in the marriage) she may see that as sacrificing for the benefit of the marriage. In reality she’s setting up a situation which is very detrimental to the marriage in the long run. It is thus extremely important for the wife to continue being her own person while she participates in the union!
Firestone, L. (2011, April 12). How to Not Lose the “Me” When Becoming a “We.” PsychAlive. https://www.psychalive.org/how-to-not-loose-the-me-when-becoming-a-we/
Riner, R. (2019, November 18). Losing Myself in Marriage by Anonymous. Wives’ Tribe. https://wivestribe.com/losing-myself-in-marriage-identity-crisis-seeking-approval-finding-a-voice-by-anonymous/