Is it healthy to have “individuality” in your marriage? Can you maintain a sense of identity while “becoming one” with your spouse?
Although many may disagree, I would say YES! Having independence and autonomy is extremely important in marriage. You need to continue enjoying who you are and growing into who God created you to be. Marriage shouldn’t end your personal development. It is designed to enhance who you are and provide a supportive, caring partner to share life with.
It’s important that you don’t sacrifice your personal identity to assume that of your spouse. The person you were before you say “I do” still matters. I didn’t know this before I got married. I thought I had to be who my husband wanted me to be so we could be happy. I didn’t recognize that who I was and who he thought I should be were not the same. He had his thoughts of what a wife should be- how she should act, what she should wear, what she should say, etc. That expectation was unrealistic (as many expectations are early in marriage). I tried hard to be someone that I wasn’t. This led to a lot of heartache until I realized that my independence mattered.
You shouldn’t come into a marriage incomplete- you should be a whole person. Many people think that getting married “makes them whole.” If that’s the case, you’re marriage may not be as blissful as you hope it to be. You have to be whole for happiness. And wholeness doesn’t mean conformity. It means identifying what works and what doesn’t for your marriage AND for you.
I came into my marriage thinking my husband would make me whole. But I had it all wrong. My husband should enhance me- make me better. NOT complete me. If he completes me, that makes us codependent. And that is NOT healthy. Be your own person. Don’t depend on someone else’s opinion of you to make you feel complete. Know what you like and don’t like. Know what you want and don’t want. Having your own identity is healthy for your marriage.
“Becoming one” takes work. It doesn’t mean giving up everything to make your partner happy. Yes, it means sacrifices, but it doesn’t mean losing yourself. Many people find their identity enmeshed in their partner’s. They can’t figure out who they are without considering who their partner says they are. It’s not a surprise that many seasoned couples come to counseling saying “I lost myself in my marriage.” This often leads to discontent and many times divorce.
Losing yourself can happen for a variety of reasons. You may be too stressed to consider your own thoughts and feelings. You may be consumed with your career or kids. You may be a people pleaser and you don’t know how to be happy without serving someone else. Regardless of why or how, it’s NOT good when you find yourself confused about who you are outside of being a husband or wife.
My experience suggests the following:
#1- It’s NOT good to conform to someone else’s version of you. BE YOU! Enjoy your life- the point of having a relationship is so you don’t have to enjoy life alone- NOT so they can tell you how to live your life!
#2- Consider your likes, dislikes, hobbies, friends, etc. Weigh this against your values and vision for your marriage. For example- you enjoy golf. You played every week prior to getting married. Now you have young children. You can’t afford to spend every week playing golf while leaving your wife at home with the kids (I promise you- this won’t end well!) Learn how to compromise- spend so many hours golfing and so many hours at home with your family. BALANCE is key. Everyone should be able to do things they enjoy- only in moderation.
Your relationship becomes unhealthy when your self-esteem or self-worth is determined by your spouse’s opinion of you. This becomes codependency. Sometimes the more you give- the more they take. When you start to sacrifice yourself for their happiness, you lose your identity. Over time, you may feel insignificant and empty as your needs are being neglected.
This unhealthy relationship is defined by-
- Becoming consumed with the need to please your partner at your own detriment
- Staying in a painful or abusive relationship because you don’t want to be alone
- Overly giving without receiving- giving to the point of depletion
- Feeling you will be punished when not serving your partner (I have to do this or he will be mad at me)
- Feeling guilty because you are “selfish”- doing nice things for yourself is NOT selfish as long as your family is taken care of
If there is anything that I have learned, it’s that you should not depend on ANYONE else for your happiness (including your spouse). You have to maintain a sense of identity so that you can continue to enjoy things that made you happy prior to marriage- exercise, art, singing, dance, family, traveling, etc. You may not be able to do as much of the things you enjoy, but you should still incorporate activities into your life. YES, responsibility as a spouse changes everything. But you should still find time to enjoy your life both with and without your partner.