Posted by: silverliningsblog | April 29, 2019

Loving without losing yourself

Have you ever gone through a break-up or divorce and felt completely crushed, devastated, shattered?

It feels like your whole world has been turned upside down. Like nothing will ever be the same again. Like there’s nothing stable to lean on. Like you don’t even know who you are any more.

Break-ups are no fun, that’s for sure. And losing someone you love (or once loved) and shared a life with is a big change…it changes where you live, how much money you have to spend, who you have to rely on, who you spend time with.

So it’s normal to feel uncertain and confused about which way is forward when a relationship ends.

How, then, can we open our hearts to love again, without fearing the same kind of emotional devastation if the relationship doesn’t end up lasting a lifetime?

Over-investing in romantic love

In my line of work, I see so many truly amazing women crushed by relationships that end. (And I have felt that way myself…like after my husband died when I was only 22.) Of course, grief and fear are to be expected in the wake of so much change. But does complete devastation have to be?

Much of the reason why many women completely fall apart after a relationship ends is because they’ve over-invested in that relationship. In other words, they’ve placed all their “eggs” (energy, attention, time) in one basket, and not placed enough in other equally important baskets.

After all, there are many sources of love – kids, friends, family, community, self. Romantic love is just one form. But in North American culture especially, we tend to focus almost exclusively on the idea of finding “one person” to love and live our lives with.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to want a romantic partner. I want one too. I’m just suggesting that perhaps we’re focusing so much on that one source of love that we’re neglecting other, equally important sources.

I don’t know how many times I see women ditch their girlfriends the second they begin a new relationship. (I admit I’ve done this myself.) Imagine how those friends feel…the message we are giving them is that they’re only important until someone better comes along.

I also see countless women ditching their own goals, dreams and passions the second a man comes along. Suddenly, they’re no longer interested in doing things that used to bring them joy. Everything becomes about doing things as a couple, and about what he wants to do. No wonder women have the sense of losing themselves – they literally are!

Of course there needs to be some give and take in a relationship, and to compromise occasionally. But if you are sacrificing your goals, dreams and identity in order to be with someone, I’d suggest that’s too high a price to pay.

After all, in the end, the only person we can be sure will be with us until death is ourself. So we’d better make sure that all-important relationship is solid!

From dependence to interdependence

In our parents’ and grand-parents’ generations, relationships weren’t really about happiness…they were about survival. A man needed a woman to create a happy home and look after the children. A woman needed a man to provide for and protect her and the kids. Each had a role to play, and each was dependent on the other.

The problem with this model is that if you base your happiness on another person, when they inevitably change or do something you don’t like, you suddenly become unhappy (and there is little you can do about your unhappiness without trying to control the other person). Since happiness is sourced externally, it is outside of your control.

Today, a lot has changed. Most women are perfectly capable of providing for themselves. And most men know how to care for children and run a household. No longer are we dependent on each other for survival. We have moved into a state of independence.

Independence is a definite step forward, but it has also resulted in a lot of failed relationships, and in a skittishness around commitment. We have a lot of people wanting a romantic relationship, but fearful that having one means giving up freedom and independence.

Thankfully, there is a third level that I believe as a society we are moving towards.

Stephen Covey talks about three stages of maturity in relationships:

  1. Dependence – Each person is dependent on the other for happiness and survival (you meet my needs, or else I’ll blame you for my unhappiness). This is the level of the child.

  2. Independence – Each person is dependent on themselves for happiness / survival (I can do it myself / I am responsible and self-reliant). It is a stage of self-sufficiency, but also sometimes leads to loneliness. This is the level of the teenager.

  3. Interdependence – Each person makes themselves happy, but also chooses to come together to create something greater than what’s possible alone (we can cooperate, combine our talents and resources). This is the level of the mature adult.

It’s this desire for interdependence that has us wanting to continue to couple, despite having experienced and witnessed the challenges of being in the dependent and independent phases.

A new paradigm for relationships

What if we can create a new paradigm for our relationships? One that is based on interdependence? One where male and female energy is balanced within each person and between both people?

For this to happen, we first have to move from dependence to independence…from requiring the other to make us happy, to knowing how to do that for ourselves. This involves creating a stable base within our own lives and within ourselves, so that we can truly say we love who we are and we love the life we are living (independent of a romantic partner).

Then, we need to learn how to be in relationship with others without extracting energy from them or losing our own. To do this, we need to become adept at sourcing our energy from source energy (meditating, praying, journaling, communing with nature), and at coming into energetic alignment on own own. In other words, we need to be able to consciously change our emotional state and “make ourselves happy” without needing someone else to do that for us. We must take complete responsibility for our actions, thoughts, and reactions, and do the inner work required to be mature adults in our relationships with others.

In this new paradigm of relationship, each person has enough freedom to continue to be who they really are…to pursue their goals, dreams and passions. Gone is the need to contort oneself to please the other. And gone is the need to “make our partner happy,” because they already know how to do that for themselves. Instead, there is a coming together of two people whose cups are already overflowing with joy, creating a “happiness soup.”

Of course, challenges will arise in any relationship. Relationships are the perfect mirror to show us what still needs healing within ourselves. But in an evolved, interdependent relationship between two conscious people, those conflicts will be resolvable. Both individuals will know how to calm their emotional reactions, and come together to brainstorm a solution that is truly win-win.

Creating a stable base

If you want to create a truly interdependent relationship and love someone without losing yourself, it really begins with you. You must first transition (if you haven’t already) from stage 1 to 2…from blaming the other for your unhappiness to taking complete responsibility for how you feel and creating a life that you truly enjoy, one that’s based on your passions and values and desires.

With this stable base, you will be able to enter into a relationship with someone and maintain your center and independence, even when there are challenges.

The key to being in successful relationships with others (all others, not just romantic partners) is to know what you want and be confident in who you are so that you don’t collapse your identity and merge with the other. When you are centered in yourself, you can freely share who you are with others and co-create a new entity (the relationship) without losing your own individuality. It’s like building something using independent Lego pieces, instead of welding something together that can no longer be separated.

The world is changing, and relationships are evolving quickly. Interdependence will eventually become the new paradigm…and I believe our world will be a better place because of it. But it starts with leaving behind our overly dependent ways, and becoming truly responsible for our own life and happiness.

Wishing you lots of love, joy and harmony in all your relationships!

Share your thoughts!

Which stage of relationship have you experienced?

Resources for further learning

Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great and create a life they love so they attract (and keep) their dream partner. Learn more about Karen and check out her free empowering resources and dating workshops at www.karenstrangallen.com.


Responses

  1. Great post 😃

  2. Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂

  3. Karen,

    I love all of your blog posts. What an amazing writer you are!

    This particular one hit home pretty hard but also inspired me to keep moving forward on my journey. More than ever, I want to create a life I love and attract the right partner without ever losing myself again. Thank you.

    • Thanks Paula – I know you can find someone great AND maintain your center too. 🙂

  4. […] Loving without losing yourself […]


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