I was talking with my dad the other night about relationships, and how easy it is to lose yourself in them. At 52 years old or at 22, we've both seen it happen to others and had it happen to us ourselves. When you're in love, it's so tempting to throw all of yourself into your life with this other person: it feels comforting. Your life becomes "our life," which doesn't have to be a bad thing. Plenty of people have happy, functional relationships where they're part of a whole but still whole themselves. But today, I want to talk about the other kind: the kind where "you" ceases to exist in favor of "us."
When I was talking to my dad, he described getting out of those types of toxic relationships as being reborn as a person. That might sound a little intense or dramatic, but it holds true for a lot of people. I loved my long-term relationship while I was in it and would never regret it, but I can say that in the time since it ended, I've discovered a thousand times more about myself than I did during the years I was sacrificing me for us. In a matter of months I've accomplished more personally and become more self-fulfilled than I did in years in an all-consuming relationship.
But that's the point: I would have never found me, and the things that make me happy, if I hadn't had the experience of losing me. My independence and strong-will were something I had always taken for granted because I just assumed they would always be there. It wasn't until I started shrinking into a relationship and changing myself to make someone else happy that I realized that part of myself could slip away so quickly. In fighting to get it back, I've learned to appreciate it that much more.
That's why I like to think of everything in life as a lesson: losing my sense of self was a learning experience, and now I know that when I do decide to get into a serious relationship again, I want to do so without disappearing into it. For now, I think it's important to just focus on rebuilding the person I want to be. When I was focusing all my energy on my relationship, I didn't have the time, the energy, or the drive to put my all into my writing or my career goals- now I do, and it's really paying off already. But when the time comes, I know the right person will encourage my goals, love my big personality and opinions, and help me grow. The right person doesn't make you disappear- they bring out the best in you.