The Importance of Personal Growth in a Relationship

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Have you noticed that many women tend to lose their identity once they are in relationships? Is it possible to maintain the “me” while being part of a “we”? The short answer is yes, but there is much more to this occurrence than just simply being lost in love.

Psychoanalyst Beverly Engel opines that many women are hard wired and encouraged since birth to be dependent, whereas males are given more autonomy. She believes that girls are often taught to be helpless, whereas boys are taught to stand up for themselves and act out their aggressions. Engel goes on to say that a parent’s protection can often stunt the development of a girl’s pride and self-confidence so that once she is in a relationship, it is very easy and comfortable for her to lose herself in it. Engel may have a point as far as the inequalities between sexes in child rearing, however, could we by physiologically and biologically designed to behave this way?

Dr. Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist, explains that:

“The anterior cingulate cortex is a whole system in the brain that allows for critical thinking—it’s the reason why you’ll buy one brand over another or shop at one store over another—that part of the brain is turned off when you’re falling in love with someone. When it comes to falling in love, part of the wiring of the female brain is that she will start to see the world through his eyes and she’ll buy it hook, line and sinker.”

So not only are we influenced by our child nurturing, but the way our brains are designed can also predispose a woman to slowly lose herself when she’s in a relationship.

With that said, we can argue that some of the most independent and dominant females can turn into completely different people when they fall in love. We all come from different backgrounds and react differently to situations, thus one cannot really say there is a hard and fast rule to this circumstance. We can recognize that our upbringing and biology incite us to behave a certain way, but what is more important is to discover ways for us to not lose ourselves when we get into a close relationship with someone.

Dr. Lisa Firestone, PhD, a clinical psychologist and Director of Research and Education for Glendor Association, provides the following tips to help maintain your personal identity while you are romantically involved.

  • Keep up friendships and interests that were important to you when you were single.
  • Avoid spending all of your time with your partner and maintain contact with friends and family whenever you can.
  • Support your partner in maintaining contact with his friends and family as well as continuing to pursue his interests outside of your relationships.

Some things to avoid are to exaggerate your partner’s negative qualities or distort flaws so that he fits into your ideal man framework. See him for who he is and be honest with yourself. Your partner should add to your life and personality instead of take away from it. Compromise is key in order to have a healthy relationship but do not give up your personality or being true to yourself, such as dressing differently or doing/not doing certain things to please your partner.

A healthy relationship should complement your life and your partner should not have the role of completing you or him. If your friends or family members tell you that you’ve changed or you’ve been absent from their lives, take time to listen and think about it and make changes. It is completely possible to have your own life and identity outside of a successful relationship; it just takes some balancing and work. Have you ever found yourself in this situation or know someone who is? How did you deal with it?

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