‘My Other-Half’ Syndrome
One of the most common issues plaguing relationships is how many of us lose ourselves in them. We make compromises we aren’t really comfortable with, pay little attention to what we actually desire, we ignore our inner voice — and then we wake up one day, look in the mirror, and we don’t recognize ourselves and feel completely lost.
How did we get here? And how can we find our way back?
Obviously, if your partner has been intimidating or manipulating you into making choices you’re not okay with, then the problem and the culprit are clear. But what about when that’s not what’s happening? What if your relationship, like the majority of relationships, is one where the the two of you have struggles that are within reason, yet one or both of you feel like you are losing yourself in the relationship?
To address this issue, it is pivotal to recognize that we have two sides of ourselves:
- The Individual Self
- The Relationship Self
Allow me to elaborate…
It is healthy and normal to be looking for a relationship and to desire couplehood. However, if you, as an individual, feel a deep inner lack and a burning sense of incompletion, you are going to enter the relationship in search of someone to fill you up. You’ll enter what’s supposed to be companionship from a place of neediness, thirsting for the other person to supply you with your personal worth and salvation.
“You Complete Me”
Hollywood has done us a disservice by feeding into this validation-seeking side of ourselves. The side of us that longs for acceptance at all cost and leads us to look for our sense of purpose from external sources.
One example that comes to mind is that dramatic “You complete me” scene from ‘Jerry Maguire’. If you are always looking outside of yourself for a partner to “complete you” — to “fill you up”, “fix you”, “save you”, that person will never feel like enough to you because they’ll never get the job done. This is because there’s something missing in you that has nothing to do with them. Your frustration and disappointment will lead you to become passive-aggressive and introduce all sorts of drama into the relationship, resulting in turmoil and complete dissolution.
The cold hard truth is that if you have a negative self-image or if you are lacking in self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence, now is not the time for you to begin a relationship. (And if you’re already in a relationship,) now is the time to deal with whatever happened in your past that created the way you look at yourself in the present.
People like to refer to couplehood as finding your “other half”. But if you are actually feeling like a half, you must first become whole on your own. You need to become what I like to refer to as a “whole half” — a whole individual and half of a couple. Only when your Individual Self feels full, independent, and self-sufficient, can another person healthily join you on the journey of life and become your Relationship Self’s “other half”.
So what does this practically look like? How do you build and retain a healthy sense of individuality within couplehood?
The easiest and simplest way to build your sense of self as an individual is to honor your desires by building a life that you love. And, then, as you enter a relationship, make sure the relationship is an addition to your life as opposed to a replacement for your life. Make sure to retain your friends, hobbies, goals, and everything else that you are and that you’ve been. All of this serves the both of you, as you live mutually supportive and full lives as individuals, and merge together as a couple from there.
Your relationship needs to be an addition to your life, not a replacement for your life.
So how exactly does individuality jive with couplehood? What happens when there is a conflict of interest between my desire and my partner’s desire? Between my Individual Self and my Relationship Self?
The Line Between Healthy Giving & Losing Yourself
The truth is there is never any conflict between your Individual Self and your Relationship Self. They coexist in harmony when you learn to check in with yourself.
Knowing how to do this necessitates clarifying the difference between healthy giving and unhealthy giving; between extending yourself and losing yourself…
In a relationship, there ought to be times when you extend yourself to give to your partner. There will be times when you want something and they want something different, and you let go of your desire in place of their desire. You still have your desire, but you pass up on it because you want to give to your partner. This is healthy giving and it’s a part of any healthy relationship.
However, giving can get unhealthy when you’re not giving because you want to give, but out of fear or expectation.
When your giving is fear-based, it isn’t giving; it is you sacrificing yourself on the altar of the relationship
If you’re giving because you’re afraid there will be Hell to pay if you don’t, you are not giving from a place of good will. Your giving is fear-based. Truthfully, it’s not giving; it’s victimhood.
The same holds true when you have a picture in your mind of what the ideal husband/wife is “supposed” to be, and you “give” in order to meet that expectation. That is not giving; that is you acting as a victim of the picture. You’re superimposing a supposedly ideal image upon yourself, even as your inner voice screams out, “Noooo!”
Am I Victimizing Myself?
When your giving is fear-based or picture-based, it isn’t giving. It is you sacrificing yourself on the altar of the relationship.
So how do you get past the insecurities that are at the root of your fears? And, how do you throw off the superimposed expectations that lay beneath your self-imposed picture?
As we said earlier, you have to build a life you love. The more you keep in close contact with your needs, desires, and inner voice, as well as your hobbies, friends, and the like, the more self-fulfilled you will become. You will grow emotionally stronger and step through your debilitating insecurity-based fears. You will rise up and rip up that picture you have allowed others to draw for you. And, from this place of empowerment, you are ready to healthily merge with another person in couplehood because you know who you are and what you want, capable of extending yourself to give from a place of self-awareness, dignity, and good will.