When I Lost My SELF in Marriage

Man standing on rural road holding road map, head obscured by map

I cringe every time I hear it.

A man or a woman states: “I don’t know who I am anymore. I’ve lost myself.” It is the reason they give for why they left their marriage and family. They have left to find themselves once again.

It’s not that I don’t understand what they are talking about. There are times over the course of 35 years of marriage that I too have wondered “who am I?” What I have a problem with is how they respond to the question and seek to “find themselves” again. To leave a spouse and family is a betrayal of trust to the highest degree. Whereas it may seem to be the only answer, and even feel good at first, the decision leaves devastation in it’s wake as the spouse and children are left behind to drown in a sea of pain, confusion, and loss. In an attempt to fix one problem, the person leaving creates an untold number of other problems.

If you have ever had similar feelings of having lost yourself in your marriage, I urge you to continue reading. There is more to consider and another way…

First, you must remember that loving each other well in marriage requires that you “lose” your self. Countless times you must give up your own desires to fulfill the desire or need of a spouse or child. Each occasion could be described or thought of as a negative experience where you “lose” your self. It could also be described as love. What it is depends on the why. It is love when you voluntarily give up your self for the benefit of another, knowing full well that love costs. It comes with the territory.

Second, the question of how to find oneself again is really the wrong question. Far better to focus on questions such as: who have you become in your marriage–both good and bad? Who are you becoming? And for those who follow Christ, how is He shaping you to become more like Him?

Getting married is like voluntarily placing yourself in a mold alongside your spouse knowing full well, that when the mold is heated up you will both be shaped into something very different! It is impossible for the mold to not change you. It is two becoming one. Each person is shaped into someone they were not before entering the mold. When done right, both become better versions of themselves.

When considering who you have become in your marriage, you must ask how have you handled the molding experience in good ways? Continue in those ways, always seeking how to love well.

Where have you handled the molding experience poorly? In cases where you believe you have given up a part of who you are that you believe to be good, how are you handling that? Have you lost your ability to speak openly and honestly about important matters in the relationship? Has this resulted in you becoming distant, angry, or even bitter? No doubt it is here when you might be most apt to think, “I have lost my self.” And it is here where you might face the temptation to leave.

For the person choosing to leave, there will not only be a path of destruction left in your wake, but another problem looming ahead. The cycle will inevitably start over. After some time of “finding yourself” and enjoying who you are once again, you will likely find another life partner. Life will once again be grand until…the day you experience frustration and disappointment in that relationship. Finding resolve will again elude you, leading to repeat feelings of having lost yourself, and furthering your anger, bitterness and distance. Why? Because you did not learn in the first place how to deal with your frustration and dissatisfaction! You did not face your fear of conflict. You did not discover along with your spouse how to voice your concerns and work through your differences. And you abandoned your life long commitment–that invaluable component of marriage that is meant to hold you together through the difficult times. Commitment is designed to force us to look long and hard to discover what all is needed to thrive for a lifetime.

The greatest question we must each ask ourselves is not how do I regain that which I have lost about me, but how do I become all I am meant to be before God, my spouse, my children, and those around me?

My challenge to you is stand firm on your commitment until you answer that second question. Vow to do whatever it takes. Determine to do the hard work: to gain whatever you need to learn; to think, read, attend conferences, have mentors; to ask those who have proven records in their marriage and family; to pray and keep on praying.

Do whatever it takes.

Questions? Comments? I would love to hear from you in the space below!

6 replies
  1. Ben Langhofer
    Ben Langhofer says:

    Very well written my friend!!! i love it!!! I would love to see you debate this topic with a well known humanist psychologist who advocates for “what feels right”!!! I love you brother!!! If I were married or in a relationship this would have been hugely inspiring. It still is…it’s merely going in my marriage plan. Thank you thank you thank you for all you do!!!

    Reply
  2. Marcia Downing
    Marcia Downing says:

    It is incredibly hard work to change one’s patterns of relating. As a woman, I value my adaptability and desire to be liked and to be pleasing. Add teaching about male headship, and the scenario of loss of self becomes predictable. Graceful change is miraculously possible because “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. When I told a counselor how hard this is, she said, “Would you tell your child it was OK not to do something because it was hard?” Thank you for your wise encouragement to all of us.

    Reply
    • Mark
      Mark says:

      Thank you Marcia. I will be the first to agree that change is hard – at least most of the time it seems. When we look at our other options and see they are no better or even worse, it often provides the encouragement we need to work at changing. And for those who follow Christ and really believe – yes all things are possible!

      Reply
  3. Evan
    Evan says:

    Thanks Mark. In being a caregiver, I have frequently found myself saying “I’ve lost sight of who I wanted to be.” I think your offered perspective is valid not only for marriages but also in other arenas where God would have us be His Tangible Presence.

    Reply
    • Mark
      Mark says:

      Thanks Evan – a very good word. I totally agree – my thoughts easily apply on some level to ALL our relationships, especially where we are caring for others at any level.

      Reply

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