It’s perfectly okay to put yourself first in a relationship. And you can do so without walking away from your partner. “It seems like a binary idea: I’m going to choose myself, or I’m going to choose you,” says therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw, clarifying that there are relationships worth leaving. “In reality, though, we can choose ourselves and still be in many relationships.”
People most often desire to put themselves front and center after feeling like they’ve lost themselves.
“To be within their relationships, they feel that they’ve had to betray themselves in some way, or go outside of their values,” she explains. “What they’re saying is, ‘I want to be me again. I want my needs to matter. I want my opinions and influencers to matter. I want to be seen here.’”
Here are some signs that you might’ve lost touch with the person you once were.
- Feelings of resentment: “People feel resentful when they’re overextended, when their boundaries are violated, and when they don’t feel like they matter or aren’t considered.”
- Acting out of character: “If you notice you’ve been doing or saying things that are against your values, but you continue to do it so you don’t rock the boat, that’s a sign you’ve lost yourself.”
- Not feeling heard: “If there have been pivotal moments in your relationship where your influence matters, but for some reason you’re always on the losing end, it might mean that you haven’t been able to choose yourself.”
- Develop internal boundaries: “You have to start with being able to limit yourself in the way you engage with somebody,” Earnshaw says. That might mean not answering emails after a certain hour or going to bed at a certain time.Revive old hobbies: “Look back at what you used to love before your relationship began. Did you enjoy reading? Going out on the weekend? Pick an activity, and do it again regularly.”
- Assert yourself: “Learn how to express what you’re thinking and what you need. Be okay with holding on to that.”