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Many of us have watched as a friend has lost herself in a relationship, setting aside her own identity and sense of self to appease her partner and make her relationship work. We've watched, and vowed that would never be us. But the scary fact is it easily could be. It starts small, says Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? How to Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, with giving up the things that define you — going certain places, reading certain books, watching certain TV shows, seeing certain friends — and grows to a place where you feel resentful of your partner because you no longer recognize yourself.
"Eventually you'll start to feel resentful because the things you enjoy will be lost, and you'll feel deprived and unhappy because you're missing out on the things you love," Greer explains. But you can avoid losing yourself in your marriage, and the resentment that would follow, by abiding these expert tips.
Choose yourself first.
Motivational speaker and author Christine Arylo's book, Choosing Me Before We, is all about this concept. "It isn't selfish," she explains, "but smart. Choosing me means knowing and honoring what your heart and soul desire for your life first, before you say 'yes' to any partnership or marriage. You have to know what you want for your life before you can create a marriage that supports that vision." Whether you're engaged or married, Arylo argues, "you need to ... be clear on your dreams, your desires, the kind of lifestyle you want to create, and what really matters to you."
Carve out time for what you really enjoy.
You may want to soak up every second with your new spouse, and you may even share a hobby or two with your main man or woman. But Greer says a key to keeping yourself intact post-marital bliss is to "be mindful of the activities that are important to you and the pleasures you enjoy, and make sure you carve out time to pursue them." If you only do what your partner wants or what you can share together, you may eventually feel as if you've given away precious hours you can't get back. "And this," Greer warns, "can make you feel resentful."
Don't compromise yourself.
When it comes to compromise, you should feel as if your sacrifices are reciprocated, warns Greer, or you could quickly become convinced you're giving away too much, including yourself. Make sure the amount you give to your partner is given back in some way, Greer says, "in order to balance the times when you're giving in and giving to them." You shouldn't always submit to watching his TV shows, she gives as an example, when he's unwilling to watch yours. Beyond that, "when you say yes to things, make sure it's a compromise that you're willing to make," Greer says.