The Importance Of Keeping Your Identity In Your Marriage

The Importance of Keeping Your Identity In Your Marriage | Why Hello Lovely

Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope your week is amazing so far. If you’re a consistent reader around here, then you’ve probably noticed that I have been MIA around here yet again this past week. I was on a roll with posting Monday-Friday for 2-3 weeks in a row and then last week was a complete failure which continued into the this week. In all honesty, I’ve been struggling a lot since we moved to San Diego which is why I’ve been a little in and out of social media lately. I was so excited for Zack to come home so that we could start our life over and move back in together and this move has been so much more challenging than I ever could have imagined.

Moving to Maine last summer was hard. We left a really good life in North Carolina and both went our separate ways to locations where we had nothing and knew no one (aside from the family I had in Maine). Although it was super challenging at first and far from what I wanted for our life, the year apart did wonders for my personal development. I had never had time to myself before. I know that sounds strange, but it’s true. I started dating my first boyfriend at the age of 14 and that relationship lasted almost 5 years. From there, I went straight into a relationship with a friend of mine for 6 months. Then went into a relationship with my college boyfriend for almost 2 years. And then Zack came into the picture and has been around for the last 3. I’ve literally never been single before.

I’m a long-term relationship kind of person and never really felt the need to live the single life or have that time to myself. Throughout the last decade, it never felt like an issue to me to constantly be in a relationship. I liked relationships. I was happy having someone else to do life with. But because I never had that time to myself, it prevented me from growing. It prevented me from truly discovering myself; who I am and what I want in life. And living with depression and anxiety makes it even more challenging to grow and develop like a normal human being. Making a basic decision was a complete nightmare. I changed my major and my life plan a dozen times each year. I know that’s “normal” for young adults, but I always felt like my case was a bit more extreme. For the longest time, I felt like I completely lacked an identity and that made my teen and young adult years so much more challenging than they had to be.

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Having this past year to myself turned out to be much more beneficial than I ever could have imagined. Of course I missed my husband and the instability of the situation was a huge challenge. But I had more growth in that year than I have in all 24 years of my life combined. In that year, I completed my bachelor’s degree and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. Something I’ve been working on for way too many years. I focused on my mental and physical health so that I could be stronger and better than ever by the time Zack came home. I spent a lot of time getting my blog to where it is today and was finally making a full-time income from it. And lastly, I found a job that I absolutely loved and made some amazing career connections for my future. I finally felt like a human being. I had figured out what I wanted to do with my life and what I wanted for my future. Choices that I had never been able to make before. I even had my own friends and routines. I was the healthiest and most mentally stable I’ve ever been in my entire life. Aaaaand then it all came crashing down.

While I obviously missed my husband and was more than ready to have him home again, it was a bit upsetting to have my entire life turned upside down again the moment he arrived home. His homecoming led to a cross-country move to San Diego which turned out to be much harder on me than I thought it would be. When we got the orders back in April, I was beyond excited to be traveling to the other side of the country and explore a bit. I had always wanted to see the west coast and was thrilled for this opportunity. But by the end of the summer, I was on the verge of really starting my career. And having to create a new plan for my goals crushed me.

When a couple chooses to get married, they’re choosing to combine their lives. Decisions become more challenging to make because they’re based on two individuals rather than one. And due to Zack’s current job, our choices aren’t really ours. While he fully believes that my dreams and life goals are just as important as his, we don’t currently have a say in any of it. And that makes it really hard to keep my own identity and make sure that my own needs are met. Sometimes your life goals don’t always align with your spouse’s or the timeline is off or it’s hard to focus on both individual’s needs at one time. And that’s where our current issue lies.

I know I’m not the only wife out there who struggles with this issue. I see it all the time in some of the Facebook groups I’m in (particularly the groups for military spouses and significant others). Many struggle with finding the right balance of their relationship and personal goals. Most times, I see women choosing their relationships. Which, don’t get me wrong here. I’d choose my husband over anything and anyone. I’ve done it countless times in our three years of marriage. But it becomes a problem when you’re putting your own goals and personal development on the back burner. While everyone else’s lives and marriages don’t affect mine, it still upsets me. Why? Because I believe so strongly that women need to be able to take care of themselves too. Keeping your identity in your relationship is so unbelievably important to your individual growth.

It’s so easy to enter into a relationship or a marriage and put all your time and energy into it. It’s easy to kind of lose yourself in it. You find yourself putting your spouse’s needs before your own. Your individual needs and wants become joint. becomes we or us. It’s not my favorite movie or restaurant, it’s our favorite. Keeping your identity becomes more challenging. I’m guilty of it. We all are at some point or another. But I do not believe that when a couple gets married, they “become one”. Do we work together as a team? Of course. He’s the best teammate I could ask for. But we are not a single person. We are two separate people with our own identities. We have our own individual goals and career aspirations while also having goals and dreams for our life together.

Being married doesn’t mean you must have the same exact goals, wants, and needs. Being married means finding a way to combine your lives in a way that allows each person to grow as individuals while also growing together as a couple. One person’s goals and aspirations shouldn’t be more important than the other’s. I never understood the importance in that until Zack left and I was given the opportunity to focus on myself. But now, I find myself constantly stressing the importance of it to younger, newer wives.

While my exact goals may not be as doable right now, I still fully believe that it’s crucial that I continue to focus on myself and my personal development. It’s important for me to have a life outside my marriage and do what I need to do to move myself forward. My dream job might be on the east coast, but that doesn’t mean I can’t continue to focus on my career and educational goals while I’m here in San Diego. I’m continuing my education by completing my master’s degree online. I’m searching for jobs with the sports teams here so that I’m consistently adding experience to my resume for when we move back home. I’m still at the gym five days a week and am doing whatever it is that I need to do to keep myself in a good place mentally.

My growth and development will never be placed on the back burner and yours shouldn’t be either. I cannot stress that enough. Take the time to really find and connect with yourself on a daily basis whether it’s through a coffee date with a friend, going to the gym, joining groups and clubs in your area, taking on a new hobby, focusing on school, or finding a job you really love. There are so many things you can be doing to build your own life and grow as an individual.

Throughout the process, be sure to be open and honest with your spouse about your own needs and wants. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns and to have goals that may not align with your spouse’s plans and goals. Your spouse really does want you to succeed. Allow them to be your biggest supporter and cheerleader. Allow them to help you when you need it and seek advice from them whenever you’re feeling stuck. Work together as a team so that both of you are able to achieve your goals and become the people you want to be. At the end of the day, find a way to put yourself first!

Do you struggle with keeping your identity in your own marriage? How do you reconnect with yourself?

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  • I have so many friends who are mil spouses and I give them all so much credit. One for being able to live that lifestyle (it’s not for me) and also for keeping their own jobs, interests, and more. So many people assume mil spouses just tag along with what their husbands do and have no say in it – so not true! I hope the transition being together again continues to improve and its smooth sailing!

    • Girl, this lifestyle isn’t for many people at all haha I can’t stand it most days. The first year was great and then it really lost it’s appeal. And honestly I sometimes do feel like I’m just tagging along and following my husband everywhere he goes and it’s a pretty crappy feeling. It’s very hard to feel like it’s OUR life when I have little to no control over any of the big life decisions. This makes it even more important for me to continue my own routines every time we move. It’s a challenging lifestyle, but thankfully we only have two more years left of it and then we move on and really settle down 🙂

  • Oh Keating, I so wish we lived close to each other because I can relate to how you are feeling in SO many ways. Dustin and I have moved and uprooted our lives 5 times in the last 1.5 years and it’s been so emotionally exhausting and taxing for me. Every time we got to our new state, I would go through the same emotions because it’s a lot to have to start all over again. And once I finally felt like I got my feet underneath me (making friends, getting into a new routine, finding out how to get to Walmart) we would be moving again.

    Thankfully, we just made our last move for quite some time and we moved back to a state where I not only had been before, but have family and friends, so it’s been a really exciting time. But, I still find myself struggling on some days with the emotional exhaustion of starting new. again.

    You are totally right, though. The more I strive to take care of myself and put energy into the things I like and enjoy doing, the better I feel over all. I’ve learned over the last few years that I’m still my own self, and even though I am married, it’s okay to be an individual.

    • It’s so exhausting to to uproot everything. I couldn’t imagine moving 5 times in a year and a half. I’ve lived in 4 states and 6 different homes in the 3 years we’ve been married and I thought THAT was a lot. It’s so tiring after a while. The moment I get comfortable, we’re packing up to move again. We just made the executive decision the other day to cut ties with the military once his contract ends in 2018 (thank God) so we’ll be making our final move back home to New England sometime late that year and then from there, we’ll be DONE. We’ll be buying a house and officially settling. I’m SO excited for it haha but for now, I’m doing my best to make San Diego work for me. I just recently found our closest Planet Fitness location which has been HUGE for me. I’m now back at the gym 5 days a week and that alone is making me feel a million times better. So my fingers are crossed that I can make it all work and get through our last two years.

  • Your second last paragraph is what really gets me and what not enough people understand.
    I can’t imagine having to move again to a new city. That sounds so stressful so I am so glad you are finding space for yourself

    • Moving is SO stressful. I love seeing new places and meeting new people, but now that I’m more in tune with myself and the things I want in my life, I’m not really wanting to keep moving anymore lol I’m more than ready to settle. Own a home, start a career, and really build a life in one place. That’s our plan for when he gets out in 2018 and I’m way too excited about it already lol

  • Michelle Bartlett

    Like so many changes that life will bring you, I feel like this is just another opportunity for growth. One where you find a way for the individual and couple to merge. No matter if one lives a military life, as a single parent, as a college student, is homeless, or has the white picket fence, there are rules, barriers, and challenges. I believe every choice and every enforcement is an opportunity for increased knowledge, positive change, and strength you can forever tap into. Love and connection do not count miles and do not take into consideration time zones. Do not forget to continue building on those relationships you have valued and reach out when you are struggling in addition to when you aren’t. You are not alone, even when you feel lonely. You and Zack are strong humans. Beyond that you are individuals, you are a couple, you are a part of a family unit, and you are a part of an even bigger community. I have no doubt that you will find your way and places in this world both together and as seperate beings. You both make me proud beyond words. My heart is always with you and I love you so big ❤️ Mom

  • I think it is easy, especially as newlyweds, to get absorbed in each other and your relationship and let some of the stuff that is important to you fall to the wayside. Yes, it’s great to do things together, but it’s important to have “me time” (and special hobbies and personal goals) as well. Otherwise you can start feeling a little lost and have your identity completely wrapped up in your role as a wife.

    • Yes!! I see a lot of couples get too absorbed with one another and I admit I did the same when Zack and I first got married. We literally went from two separate people to one where we never spent much time apart. It went from “I like ____” to “WE like ____”. Looking back, I see how horrible that is lol I was literally completely consumed with just being a wife. And as great as it is to have so much time and things in common with your spouse, it’s also so important to have hobbies and interests that maybe your spouse isn’t as into. It’s good to keep your own identity and continue your own habits and routines.

  • Desiree Grubbs

    I’m not a military wife, or even a wife. However, I think you gave me a new perspective on what the struggle is like for women who are married to a military man. It seems like it can be a hard but also rewarding lifestyle.

    • Thanks Desiree! I definitely have days where it’s more hard than rewarding, but it’s definitely a mix of both most days. It’s an adjustment, I guess is the best way to put it. Zack’s been in for 6 years and I’ve been around for 3 of those years and it’s still very hard on me sometimes. As a couple, it just hasn’t been the best for us or our marriage, but we make it work.

  • Cass

    Love love love this!! I can totally relate, my other half being in the Air Force with visits off and on throughout the year!

    • Thanks Cass! That time apart can be such a great way to focus on yourself (even when the distance completely sucks haha).

  • I think you bring up so many valid points in this post, I hardly know where to begin! When I gave up my career in sports after 5 years to be closer to my husband, it was heartbreaking. I mean, months and months and months of tears. It gradually got easier as I found a new career path to pursue (that I enjoy equally), but it is SO important to maintain your own sense of identity throughout the process. Sending you a hug!

    • Thanks so much Kait! Now I don’t feel as bad about all the tears I’ve shed these last two months lol I couldn’t even imagine having to give it all up when you’ve already been working in the industry for so many years. All I got was a summer and I was heartbroken. I’m still getting more settled and figuring out what my next career move will be while I’m here, but I’m hoping to have it figured out soon. We’ll see. I fully plan to move back to New England once he’s out in 2018 and pick up where I left off.

  • I LOVE this, Keating. I’m not a military spouse but I face a lot of alone time myself as a chef wife, and to me there’s nothing more important than having my own life and hobbies aside from my husband – because if I didn’t, I would never actually do anything at all. I understand where you’re coming from, too, with feeling like your life got a little derailed when Zack came home. I struggle a lot with wanting to spend more time with Colby and then feeling guilty when he’s home and I’m wishing I could just do my own thing. Here’s to hoping you can find that balance again and that things keep going up!

    • Thanks Shannon! There are a lot of professions out there that create a similar lifestyle as military life. Police officers, doctors, chefs; they all have weird, sometimes crazy hours. I have a friend whose husband is in med school and sometimes I feel like she and I talk more than her and her husband haha but in any relationship, it’s so important to have that outside life. Otherwise you’re left with nothing if they happen to go away for business or god forbid they have an extra long work day lol I know some people who literally fall apart in these instances and I just wont let that be me. Zack had a longer work day today so I’ve spent this entire afternoon sitting in Starbucks working before I hit the gym. It’s so good to have that
      “me time”.

  • Samantha

    This is so very true! It’s so important to maintain your freedom and still do things that you love!

  • Grace

    Just because we are united as one in marriage through the eyes of the Lord doesn’t mean we have to be the same person! We’d drive each other crazy! So great I love the insights, I will be sharing this with my readers soon!

    • Thanks so much Grace! I completely agree. My husband and I are very similar but he’s always the first to make sure I’m taking care of myself as well. As someone who struggles with her mental health, it’s even more important for me to keep myself moving forward in what I want to do.

  • Emily Bendler

    I’ve never really struggled with identity in our marriage. I have always maintained my outlet and my husband always supports my ambitions as I support his.

  • Yes to all of this! My hubby and I have only been married a month and a half but we’ve been together for 4 years and we’ve both had to make some sacrifices for each other. Starting in January I’m going to be fully location independent and will be able to work from wherever so I’m really excited about that. I loved your point of view in this post and definitely resonated with a lot of what you said.

    • Thanks so much Jenny! I’m so glad you could connect with this! Being fully location independent is so amazing haha that’s what i love about my blog. I can literally work from anywhere. Unfortunately, my “real” career doesn’t allow that, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.

  • TheOrdinaryGirl

    I understand where you are coming from. But in my culture, marriage is really important and a happy marriage is like a trophy. I have seen so many people struggling with marriages that when I got married, I knew that I have to find a way to strike a balance but we came to a point where one of us had to choose their dreams and I let my husband choose his… and his happiness in return made me really happy. Once settled, now we both do what we love to do. He does photography, I work and have this blog 🙂 Patience pays off..

  • Thanks Kathryn! I hate that concept so much haha I always find that “becoming one” really hurts one or both people in the relationship at some point or another. It’s so important to find that balance so that everyone’s needs are met.