How to maintain a personal identity in your marriage
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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