I remember reading a story awhile back about a woman who was married for a long time; she had a family and everything but eventually grew tired of it all. So guess what she did? She packed her bags, left her husband and kids, and traveled across country to California to begin a whole new life. It left me wondering, “what would cause a woman to do all of this?”
While I don’t encourage this type of behavior, I’m sympathetic towards her plight and willing to bet at some point or another she felt overwhelmed, frustrated and confused, which ultimately led to her feeling like she lost herself.
Although this story falls on the extreme end of the spectrum, a lot of us have either heard or experienced similar situations where it seemed like we lost our identity or we lost ourselves. We stopped hanging with our family and friends, stopped pursuing our goals and dreams and even worse, we placed our spiritual relationship on the back burner; and all because of a relationship…or lack thereof.
Ironically, sometimes love, or what appears to be love, finds us but we end up losing ourselves in it. So, how do we avoid this?
Get a life and let him have one too.
I’m not that woman who can’t let her man outside of her presence for more than five seconds. Just because we enjoy spending time with our friends doesn’t mean we love each other any less. We have a partnership that’s built on trust, honesty, communication and a mutual understanding and respect. Furthermore, even though we have two totally different careers and aspirations, I can pursue my goals and passions while he pursues his and we support each other. We both live our lives without living two separate lives going in two separate directions.
Before I met my husband, I had a habit of trying to change who or what I wanted to be based on the particular guy I was dating at the moment. Because I wanted so badly for them to like me and I craved the attention, I started taking on their lives and deserted my own plans. I stopped studying like I should. I stopped focusing on my goals. I stopped hanging out with my friends and family. At one point, I even considered dropping out of school just to take on his career choice as if it were my own. How crazy was that? I was making unnecessary sacrifices for someone I wasn’t even married to, let alone for someone I knew I wasn’t going to marry! I say all that to say, don’t get so wrapped up in someone else’s life so much so that you neglect your own life.
Be the woman a man needs, not a needy woman.
So, the theory is: women want to feel wanted and men want to feel needed, but most men don’t want a woman who is so desperately dependent on them that they can’t stand on their own two feet. On those days when my husband has dealt with all he’s dealt with or when he has a moment, he needs to know I can be just as strong and supportive for him as he is for me. Because I didn’t have my father around growing up and I craved the love and affection, I used to rely on men to validate me and provide for me what I couldn’t provide for myself – self-love. I wanted them to be the man that was missing in my life; not realizing they could never be that.
While compliments, attention and encouragement help boost our confidence and help make us feel even better ourselves, we can’t rely solely on other people – whether male or female – to give us what we can only give ourselves. Self-esteem has everything to do with myself, not everyone else.
“Men don’t want a woman who is so desperately dependent on them that they can’t stand on their own.”
Don’t always succumb to the pressure.
Sometimes as women, it can feel as if we’re being pressured on all sides for certain things – relationships, family, career, our audience, etc. Even though it comes from a place of love, people and society will try to pressure you into making life-altering decisions. When my husband and I got married, that’s all everyone asked about – even strangers – and sometimes people made me feel guilty about waiting to have children. It was as if I was being judged for my decision and wasn’t giving my husband what was “rightly due to him,” but what people didn’t understand was: 1) The real reason why I was waiting to have children based on my background and experiences, and 2) I was not willing to sacrifice the plans for our marriage merely because of what others wanted us to do. Besides, a lot of married folk who had been married for much longer than us almost always told us that we made a good decision by choosing to wait so we could enjoy each other and get to know each other even more as newlyweds.
So, don’t feel like you have to do things based on what other people say or do. Every marriage and relationship is different, and everyone is on a different life journey when it comes to careers and life changes. If you succumb to the pressure of doing something you don’t really want to do, then you could end up with a heart full of resentment and regret.
“Don’t feel like you have to do things based on what other people say or do”.
Always keep God first.
When I was single and didn’t understand how to wait, I was constantly searching and looking for love. It was easy to get caught up in the madness of dating, which resulted in two things: 1) I was more concerned about pleasing others instead of God and 2) I put God on the backburner. Now, as a married woman and despite just how much I love and adore my husband, I can’t neglect my relationship with God. There is no us without Him, so not only is God a priority for me but He’s a priority for my husband as well. Don’t neglect the relationship you need the most just so you can have the relationship you want.
Squeeze in some “me” time.
Because of our natural tendency as women to love and help nurture the lives of others, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves. Listen, I live for a good calendar, checklist and task list, but some of us give until we have nothing left to give, or until our bodies shut down and force us to sit down somewhere. While our main purpose here on Earth is to serve God and His people, how useful can we really be in helping others if we lack the spiritual, mental and physical nourishment we need? Sometimes saying “no” to everyone else means saying “yes” to yourself.
I used to struggle with saying “no,” and still do sometimes. But my husband has helped me with this. He’s reminded me that I can’t be everything to everybody and the fact that other people don’t have a problem saying “no” when they need to. At times, I’ve had to say no to certain events, outings or plans and not because I wanted to, but in most cases I had to because my schedule was so packed or I didn’t have enough rest. Just like the safety instructions on a plane tell us, “put on your oxygen mask first before you begin helping others.” It’s not about being selfish; rather it’s about being the best we can be to and for ourselves so we can be the best to and for everyone else.
Be willing to compromise as long as it doesn’t compromise who you are.
One of the things I love so much about my husband is the fact that he allows me to be myself, crazy and all, despite how different (yet similar) we are. While I love being my husband’s wife and I love being married, I also love being who God created me to be and carrying out God’s plans for my life. There was a time, however, when that wasn’t the case, and I was in love the idea of being in love carrying out the plans of whoever I was dating at the time. I often sacrificed my moral standards, forgot about who I was and what I was supposed to be doing and put everything else on the back burner for the sake of being with someone.
Compromise is especially important when it comes to marriage and relationships, but it doesn’t work if only one person is willing to compromise. You don’t have to settle for someone and sacrifice what you believe merely for the sake of being with someone. I have learned the one who truly loves you will love you for you and they won’t make you choose between what is right or wrong based on their own selfish desires/motives. For example, if it’s truly your desire to remain a virgin or celibate until you get married, then the one who is truly meant for you won’t make you choose between him and your standards. That may not seem realistic to everyone and we all walk a different path, but my husband and I remained celibate until we got married and I didn’t have to fight him about it. Moreover, when it comes to what I want to do in life and who I want to be, he doesn’t fight me on it. Hence, I don’t have to feel like I’m sacrificing who I am and who I want to be.
“The one who is truly meant for you won’t make you choose between him and your standards.”
At the end of the day, remember to do you, be you and love yourself. You can have love and still have a life. Don’t get so caught up in searching for something that you end up getting lost or losing what’s most important – you.