At the beginning of a relationship, it is not uncommon for people to change certain aspects of themselves in order to adapt to the other. This process is completely natural, healthy and understandable – unless we face a loss of identity. In fact, a study carried out by a group of psychologists from the University of Amsterdam has established that behaving like our partners not only makes us happier, but also increases our chances of having children. From similar political positions to aspects like both being day or night people, sharing certain traits, attitudes and inclinations favors the strength of a couple; the construction of a shared identity will make love more or less lasting. Apparently, you do become the company you keep.
The problem is that women tend to do it more than men, as Coral Herrera, author of 100 preguntas sobre el amor (100 questions about love), explains. “They have led us to believe that they will love us more if we lose our identity and adapt to the personality and the tastes of a man, and that the priority is finding love; everything else is secondary. That is why it is so important that we women understand that we can only form a relationship with people who respect our own spaces and time, people who won’t try to isolate us from our love networks and people who have their own networks, their own passions and hobbies, just like us,” she says.
The worrying thing is when our partner makes an inappropriate comment or a mistake and society tries to make us responsible for their actions, words or thoughts. As if that were not enough, if it is us who make the mistake and our partner is a man, the opposite will happen, because, as Lili Loofbourow says in her article “The myth of the male bumbler,” published in The Week, when facing a scandal, men, who until that moment knew everything and bragged about being well-informed, suddenly become clueless. Conversely, when Ye made several anti-Semitic comments, the world demanded a public apology from Kim Kardashian, something that also happened to Taylor Swift after the singer’s fans dug into Matty Healy’s past and found more than one inappropriate comment. She had to explain what happened because, apparently, if our partner is sexist, that means we are, too.
“What has always happened is that women were not considered autonomous. Our condition as individuals was not recognized. Now we have established ourselves as individuals, we are independent, we have our own opinion and we no longer remain silent: each must answer for themselves,” says Coral Herrera. “Another thing that happens in couples’ gatherings is that it seems that we have to defend our partners when they screw up, or – something very common, too – when they make sexist comments or jokes. It would seem like we have to laugh with them and pretend that we know that they are not sexist, that they are only kidding.”
This is why we wonder if it is fair to have to answer in any way for our partner’s behavior or opinion. Alba Ferreté, creator of the podcast Cómo vivir con calma mental (How to live with peace of mind) and author of El naufragio sereno (The serene shipwreck) explains that, at this point, there are two fundamental questions. “First, there is the tendency to protect those we love from their mistakes by defending or justifying them, so they don’t feel so bad. When this happens, it’s important to realize that we are probably the ones conflicted by their mistake, feeling that we may be judged or rejected because of it. Again, what the other provokes in us speaks more about us than about him. And, secondly, there is the learned idea that being wrong is wrong. Human beings learn from experience and mistakes, so instead of protecting and blocking the blows caused by our partner’s mistakes, we can be a safe space that allows the other to feel vulnerable and learn from their mistake,” she explains.
As countless studies point out, sharing political views and personality traits is positive for the couple, but we must not let our relationship lead to the loss of our identity or make us responsible for other people’s opinions. “Human beings need to feel accepted, loved and cared for by others. What’s important is that we remain loyal to ourselves, that we don’t lose our values and principles and that we don’t betray ourselves out of a need to fit in or out of fear of loneliness. The most important thing is that in all your relationships you can always be yourself, without fear of what the other person will think. That we can feel free to leave and to stay, to express our ideas, needs, desires and opinions. If you can’t be yourself, the best thing you can always do is get away from someone who doesn’t love you just the way you are,” warns Coral Herrera.
Author Joyce Carol Oates, who has written about mourning in various books, has stated more than once that when we break up with someone, or when we lose our partner, we become ourselves again, thus making clear the belief that love relationships entail an inevitable loss of identity. Alba Ferreté, certified coach, transpersonal therapist and expert in mindfulness and emotional intelligence, states that “the way in which we relate to our partners, who in theory represent a safe emotional space, has to do with the way in which we learned to relate to our caregivers during our first years of life, from the attachment bond. We are talking about an essential bond for our physical and emotional survival, in which three needs prevail: to be seen, to be recognized and to be loved.”
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