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Marriage: "Help! I feel like I've lost myself in my
By Susie and Otto Collins
Nate looks back on the person he used to be and he
doesn't recognize himself anymore. From his
perspective, he used to live life to the fullest.
He took risks, played hard and had a great time.
He's been married to Kate for 8 years now and that
robust and vibrant man he used to be appears lost.
Yes, he loves his wife and their children.
At the same time, he feels intense regret that he
longer has the same level of satisfaction and
excitement about his life.
His activities are either centered on work or the
family. He has also grown accustomed to going along
with whatever Kate wants in order to keep their
But all of this is starting to take its toll. Nate
is beginning to resent Kate, and even their kids,
for what he feels that he's lost.
Do you ever feel like you've lost yourself in your
This might come in the form of regret about the
changes that have happened since you got married.
Like Nate, you may look back to who you think you
were in the past and experience a sense of loss
because you are no longer like that.
Instead, you might be drawn to make big changes in
your life that could mean a vastly different future
than you'd anticipated.
Perhaps you feel blocked or trapped in your
marriage-- it could appear that there is no room for
both your dreams and your current relationship.
Many people come to points like these in life.
It may directly relate to the dynamics in your
marriage and the relationship roles that you and
your partner have each created for yourselves.
Does it seem that your partner makes most of
"important" decisions in your relationship?
Have the two of you fallen into habits that seem
dis-empowering to you?
It might also relate to disappointments that you may
have about where you are right now.
Do you wish that you'd made different choices in the
Are there paths you regret that you didn't explore
or choices you'd like to have made differently?
Many of us fall into relationship habits that can
cause individual pain and marital disconnection.
Many of us have regrets about the past and
disappointment about our present lives.
Marriage troubles arise, however, when the
dissatisfaction takes center stage and creates a
wedge between you and your spouse.
It can become even worse-- for all involved-- when
one person blames the other for that sense of lost
There are certainly situations in which ending the
marriage seems like the only way a person can
re-discover and re-affirm him or herself.
This is not necessarily the only way.
Take responsibility for your life.
If you feel like you've lost yourself to your
marriage, the first thing we advise you to do is to
take responsibility for your own life.
We don't deny that it's quite possible that your
spouse is playing a role in the way that you feel.
It's probable that the two of you have developed
relationship habits that are contributing to this.
If you feel as if you've lost yourself, it only
makes sense to start with yourself in order to begin
to turn this painful and unwanted situation around.
Give yourself permission to be authentic and honest
about what you want and what you are willing (and
unwilling) to do in each and every moment.
This might take some practice if you are used to
automatically going along with what your mate wants.
Take the time to tap into and get to know your inner
desires and preferences.
You can start out small. For instance, you could
express to your partner that you would like to
choose the restaurant this time.
There's no need to be nasty or argumentative as you
make this change. Simply get into the habit of
tuning in to you first, before responding to a
suggestion or a request.
Nate, for example, perceives that Kate takes the
lead in their family in just about every way. He
realizes that this is partly because he tends to
stand at the "sideline" and let her.
The next time that their children have an argument,
Nate steps up and tells Kate that he'd like to help
them sort it out this time. Kate seems surprised and
pleased about this.
Maintain your own passions, hobbies and interests
Now that Nate has begun to make small changes in the
way that he interacts with both Kate and his family,
he is feeling slightly more empowered.
There are occasions in which Kate seems a bit put
off that Nate wants to take the lead. Most of the
time, however, she mainly seems appreciative that he
is engaging more than before.
But Nate continues to feel regret because his
current life is just not as invigorating as he
remembers it used to be.
To tell the truth, he doesn't want to turn back the
clock and be the sometimes reckless guy he was a
decade or more ago.
At the same time, he'd like to re-introduce more
zest into his life.
You may crave that sense of fulfillment and renewed
vibrance for life, but not know exactly what would
bring that to you again (or for the first time).
We suggest that you create some time to explore your
passions and interests. You may not want to do the
same activities that you did before you were
This is okay.
Try new things and when you find something that
helps you feel more alive, keep on doing it.
Nate decides to join a men's soccer league in his
city. He misses the natural high of playing soccer
and the camaraderie of being part of a team like
Sometimes the answer to your feeling lost is
relatively simple and fits easily into your
lifestyle. Other times, it does not.
Be patient, open and flexible. Share with your
spouse about what's going on within you.
He or she might be more
supportive of your intentions than you expect.
Believe it or not, as you give yourself the time and
space to re-discover your more authentic self and
you act in accordance with what's true for you, your
marriage can improve as well.