When I heard the phrase ‘don’t abandon yourself’ recently, it resonated deeply. It struck me as I pondered that it’s easy sometimes to give up aspects of yourself without really realising that is what you have done.
I enjoy working with couples in therapy, it’s work that moves quickly and deeply, in part I sense because there are two people who know each other in the room. So much more gets revealed and called out when our truth is there in contrast as well as similarity to that of another person.
In couples work a theme that comes up a lot is the way that one, or both, of the couple have abandoned aspects of who they are, apparently in favour of the other. Perhaps they stopped doing activities they liked but their partner did not to spend more time together. Or perhaps they found it easier not to express their views on contentious topics and to just go along with what the other wanted. Maybe the other had more decision making power in the relationship and their wants and needs were suppressed to make the relationship work.
Trouble is, when you abandon any aspect of yourself that is authentic, you store up trouble for the future. We simply can not abandon parts of who we truly are without consequences. Sometimes the cost is turned outwards to the other in blame and bitterness, and conflict results. Sometimes the cost is paid first inside and you lose a sense of who you are, along with it losing vibrance and spontaneity, over time feeling less and less alive and more and more detached from yourself and life. Sometimes it’s both, or a different presentation.
Couples counselling, similarly to individual counselling, helps participants find their way back to themselves. You can’t relate meaningfully with anyone else unless you are first in an authentic, real relationship with yourself internally. you need to know what you like and don’t like, what you think, what you want, what you care about and want to give time and energy to, what your values and boundaries are.
When you abandon aspects of our own being, life is a shadow of what it might be. Coming into relationship with what matters is deep, and sometimes uncomfortable work, but it is deeply rewarding, and where they have a genuine desire to connect, it brings you closer to those who love you.
If you feel abandoned inside or out, psychotherapy individually or as a couple may be for you.