How to maintain a personal identity in your marriage (while staying close to your husband)
Now, there are certain women who can come at this post from two very different angles:
- Those who already feel like they have lost themselves, and
- Those who are terrified of losing themselves.
To the first group of women: maybe you have spent years just doing what you do to maintain your lifestyle. Going through daily routines, running errands, caring for others, managing households; which are wonderful, necessary, and extremely honorable! But many times a woman can become so overwhelmed with the responsibilities of life that she will eventually start to make many self-sacrificing decisions, which again, are often necessary. But many women, in being so sacrificial, completely forget how to maintain an identity apart from being a self-sacrificial caregiver for their families.
To the second group: maybe you haven’t been married as long, but even before you got married, you knew your marriage was going to be different from the rest. You made up in your mind that your marriage, in every way, was going to be a 2-way street where you and your husband are crazy about each other, but are complete individuals as well. They say opposites attract, but you never knew how true that was until you were married for more than a month. You might be seeing now that you and your husband are definitely your own people, but in being so individualistic, you’re noticing that you might not jive as well as you see some of your friends doing. More and more now, you’re noticing that you and your husband need to play catch up to get on the same page about as issue; or, opinions you thought were unanimously accepted, you’re now finding are actually… not everyone’s opinion after all. So, you and your husband definitely have the individual thing down, but the closeness- the jiving- not so much.
How do we mix the two?
I mean, doesn’t that idea just sound beautiful? The idea of a close, jiving, intimate relationship where both individuals are unique, complementary, and have their own skills, loves, favorites, and strengths.
You want to know what I find so cool about the above idea?
The fact that this is actually how God wants a marriage relationship to be! God knows that husbands and wives are unique. He knows that we each have our own skills, strengths, abilities, and weaknesses. God designed marriage with a redemptive plan in mind for those weaknesses.
Let’s talk about it:
You’re not going to be good at everything
As much as you (and me too, believe me) would like to be completely self-sufficient, lacking nothing, never-forget-my-grocery-list at home type people, lots of times we’re not. If all of us already made the choice to get married, my guess is we already decided we don’t want to go-it-alone anyway.
Therefore, I’ve come up with several ways we can maintain our personal identity, even after years of living self-sacrificially for those we love all the while maintaining a close, jiving (yes, I like that word. It sounds like java) relationship with our spouse.
1 Develop the hobbies you had before you got married. Or find new ones!
You know what I loved to do when I was in high school and college? Draw! I loved drawing or just sitting down and getting creative with something. You know how much I do that now as a mom? Not very much- let’s just say that. But once in awhile on a Saturday, or an evening that my husband is working late, I’ll break out the markers and pencils and just draw. If my son is still up, I’ve give him some crayons and we can draw together.
More recently, I’ve taken up the new medium of writing! In my youngers years, I used to love writing songs or journaling. These days I use blogging not only as a creative outlet, but a productive way to help others, develop a loved skill, and to bring in a little income for my family!
As we get older, we might not be able to participate in our old hobbies the same way, but we can often use our hobbies in productive ways, as well as creative outlets!
2 Do things that scare you a little bit- with and without your spouse.
You know what used to scare me? Talking to people. The funny thing is though, the more I did it, the better I got at talking to people. The better I got, the more I actually enjoyed talking to people! If you haven’t ever taken the Meyers-Briggs personality test, you need to. Right now. Actually, finish reading this post first, and then take it. I have learned so much about myself and others and it helps so much when you’re trying to figure out why other people do the things they do. Anyway, I have always tested INFP, aka: the introvert to rule all introverts. But since I have been forcing myself to be more of a people person, I actually now fall between INFP and ENFP (the extroverted cousin of the INFP personality).
My challenge to you is, challenge yourself. If you’re a person who always likes to do their own thing, do more with your husband. Try things their way for a change. My husband is a freak when it comes to mixing foods, sauces, drinks, anything. But sometimes… once in awhile… he’s actually onto something. Dare yourself to let your husband take the lead and see how things would go if you did things his way. Sometimes this can obviously be a bit more serious than mixing dipping sauces, and it can be really hard to let go of the reigns in some areas, but I believe that most men have the ability to make wise choices if their options are laid about before them and they have someone cheering them on.
If you are a person who tries to do most things with your spouse, challenge yourself to try new things alone. By this, I don’t mean go and make a bunch of life-changing decisions without checking-in, first. But, if you want to take a class on your own to develop a skill, do it! If you’d like to improve your health, don’t wait for your husband to initiate, talk with him about getting a gym membership, making diet changes, and do it! Whether he decides to go to the gym with you or not. The key to doing this well is open communication. Tell your spouse about the new things you’re wanting to try and how you’re trying to branch out and develop yourself. But don’t wait for him to be your escort. Trust me, I know it can be scary to walk into a new place without someone you know by your side, but developing the confidence to do so is life changing! No one expects you to be an expert on your first day, but the desire to learn in an attractive quality in anyone!
3 Keep yourself up- but do it YOUR way!
If you popped into my home on any given weekend, there’s a good chance you’ll find me wearing my trusty Star Wars: The Force Awakens t-shirt. Or maybe my Dirty Dancing shirt. Call me quirky, but I love nerdy graphic tees. My husband… not so much. Do I care? Not really. It’s usually just the weekend, anyway.
My point is… everyone has their own style, their own “look,” and their own level of comfort. I believe that every woman should keep herself up. Keeping yourself “up” demonstrates self-respect, professionalism, put-togetherness, and just a willingness to look nice- whether it’s for you or your spouse. Call me a 1950’s wife, but I like when my husband finds me attractive. Do I need to wear tons of makeup to make that happen? Nope. Actually, I think my husband finds me most attractive when I come home from a great workout, because fitness is something that he really values.
“Keeping yourself up” will look different for different people.
Your husband may have his preferences, but it’s important to stick to what you’re comfortable with while still making an effort. If your husband has an issue with asking for things you’re uncomfortable with, then this needs to be openly addressed with him. Let him know if you think his expectations need to be adjusted and certainly let him know if you feel uncomfortable. Some men do expect too much, but I think I’m safe in saying that most men are reasonable.
4 Create time to seek Christ: read, pray, meditate- alone and together.
Again, different women will come at this from very different angles. Some of us are so used to doing church, Christianity, and prayer so often together with our spouse that it would feel uncomfortable if we had to do it alone. If there’s ever a weekend when your spouse can’t come to church, would you still make an effort to go? Or if your spouse doesn’t initiate time in prayer, do you still spend time talking to God on your own?
Others of us are so caught up with the private, individualistic American culture that it would actually feel uncomfortable to pray out loud with our spouse. It would also feel a bit awkward to have a conversation about spiritual or Biblical things because that’s just not something you’ve spent much time doing. You assume that since you attend the same church that you believe the same things, but that may not be the case. I challenge you to, when the moment it right, bring up spiritual or deep topics to create conversations that reveal what both of you believe. This comes by asking specific questions. If you want to find a way to get deeper with your spouse, instead of asking “what” questions, ask “why” questions.
5 Know and understand your personality, and your husband’s!
Again- not kidding- go take that personality test I told you about a few paragraphs ago. By learning and understanding your own personality, your own strengths and weaknesses will be more clearly defined to you. I’m pretty sure everyone comes to like and be proud of their own personality type for different reasons. Once you learn yours, be proud of it! Use what you are naturally talented in to help others and relate to them.
That includes your husband. Have him take the test, too. Understand why he does certain things differently than you, why he communicates differently than you, and why he is better or worse at certain things than you. By understanding his personality, you’ll be able to better appreciate your differences and how you complement each other.
Josh and I are complete opposites. I am 100% driven by emotions, feelings, and impulses. He is driven by rational thought, practicality, and what is right and wrong. But after understanding each other, we’ve realized just how much we need each other to balance out. I soften him up and he makes me think before I make horrible choices. It works for us.
So for those of you who are scared to lose yourself in your marriage, or for those of you looking to find yourself again, I know these tips have helped me, and I think they’ll help you as well!
What are some things that you usually do separate from your husband? What are some things you always do together? Do you have any sneaky ways to start deep conversations? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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I love this so much. It kind of ties in to a lot of the things I said this week in a post about five things that surprised me about marriage. We don’t do everything together 100% of the time, and we still are ourselves, but we’re just linked to someone else in the most beautiful way. Great post1
Christy F says
These are great! I definitely agree with all of them. I’m not married yet but these definitely relate to my current relationship with my boyfriend. Thanks for sharing I always enjoy reading your posts!
I think my husband and I have kept this balance pretty well… He’s great at encouraging me to do MY things while still wanting to do things together too!
Kristin Cook says
Great post, as always!
I love your point about revisiting the things we loved doing before we got married- and not being afraid to find new hobbies too! So true!
I have recently started reading your blog. I do like them a lot, but they seem so far reach to me. I too lived with the idea of happy MARRIGE , 10 yrs ago but now it seems i m stuck in almost a daily ritual of sorries tears agitation rejection… Its not like he hit me but he just goes quiet and when i persuade him to speak his anger boils out on me with the usual complains… Complains which even though are because of me … But m never sure how to stop them … Because he is So UNPREDICTABLE.. 1 thing which is fine 1 time … The same is not fine the other time… Hes okay with others doing it but not okay when i do…
Even though he persuades me for doing wat i want but at same time he is suspicious of the same … We do talk … But in total only 5 mins in a day… We do go out…on weekends .. Take pictures smile laugh with kid … But we keep quiet… We dont talk.. He says i talk senseless so i keep quiet and wait gor him to inititate becos he is a big talker when he is around other members of family and his frends but he doesnt do that with me.. He says he love me but i m confused where is d love??? We hardly talk .. If i talk dat becomes arguments for him … i m sorry i just couldnt stop myself becos its like every week i start afresh with a thought of bringing happines in my marriage life but in end i m stuck in a loop where he says i give him headache so i go quiet and he double sushes me out and i have to ask for his forgiveness and we cuddle and after two days again cones d same cycle…
The idea of happy marriage is LOST to ME
I am sorry you are going through this. Have you thought of councelling, couples if he will go or even just for you? It might help to talk about it and learn some new tools for communicating and even figuring out where the thoughts and actions/ reactions stem from. My husband and i have found it very helpful.
Bree Hogan says
My hubby and I have a good balance on this – we love to do things together but we also actively support and encourage each other’s individual interests/pursuits. It works well.
I think this is great advice for married and unmarried couples. Maintaining your identify during a relationship is vital because once your spouse is out with friends and the kids are away at college you need to like yourself and know who your are!
These are such great tips! I’ve been married a little over 2 years now and this is definitely a concern I was feeling. I love the idea of trying scary, new things and developing hobbies/finding new ones. All great ways 🙂
Also, if your husband doesn’t have a hobby and you feel guilty spending time on yours because of that, encourage him to develop one!
Lisa Sharp says
It is so important to keep your own identity. My husband and I make a point to do things on our own and have our own interests. We share so much but we all need to be our own selves.
This is so great! I love how you include God in the equation. That is so refreshing! My favorite part was where you talked about trying new things and learning from each other.
Love this! I especially loved what you said about maintaining hobbies to maintain who you are. One of those weird pieces of advice I’ve read in more than one marriage article was to sever ties with good friends because your husband can be your only best friend and I think that’s nonsense, part of who I am or why I am the way that I am has been shaped by the 4 amazing girlfriends I’ve had since I was a toddler or longer. I cherish our times together even though it isn’t as often as it used to be when we were little!
Sometimes it’s too late for that. You’re already gone. I have gone from living and serving in self-sacrifice since I was nine, when my dad left. Then just when I developed some individuality and went to a Christian college to learn more about self-sacrifice, afterwards I married an abusive Christian man, left him running for my life, and raised my son. Remarried a Christian man who has to be the biggest thing in the room all the time! He interrupts me. He doesn’t even let me finish a sentence. Others have brought it up. It’s not just how I feel. Well, he’s cheating on me. And now what do I have? No money. No assets. No resources. And the church wants me to forgive and reconcile. I don’t remember having a hobby! Ever! People ask me what I want, little things. I can’t tell them. I don’t know! I barely remember my self. Don’t you have to a self and a soul and to even need salvation? I feel invisible and insignificant. If I reconcile this marriage I will loose myself forever. I’ll cease to exist. I’m 52. I mean what is left? Waiting hand and foot on a man who is cheating on me and leaves his life insurance and all earthly possessions to his son from his first marriage? If he goes first. Jesus loves me? Really? Are you sure about that? Some are in this world to fulfill God’s plan but otherwise are nameless. Faceless. The Bible is full of people that are not even named. But were part of God’s plan. But in the great scheme of things were completely insignificant. Maybe that’s me. Like an extra in a movie. Part of “the show,” but it can completely be pulled off to the desired end without me. They don’t need an identity. Because they’re no one. That’s what I am having a hard time with.
Please know you are very important, and no, it is never too late!
Break free from the bondage you are in, know they you matter and come first.
It’s never too late to discover who you are abs be and live your authentic self.
Take baby steps, be patient with yourself, and extend grace and self compassion. Time to start serving and taking care of you! Be your own best friend. Stop believing any lies, start journaling, create a vision board.
Watch and listen to Joel Osteen, download positive affirmations, do for 30 days, put positive quotes around your home of who you want to be, join a fun meetup group, and find a good older woman as a mentor, or a good psychologist!
Never too late to love and find yourself!
A little book I found helpful was: your pocket life coach by Carole Gaskell.
You are loved, and we are all connected!! You can do this, one step , one day at a time… like how you eat an elephant.