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"I can't be myself in this relationship"

If you have heard yourself say, "I can't be myself in this relationship,"  the first thing to know is that you are in good company.  Intimate relationships are complex and you have likely experienced poor modeling and little to no training about how to navigate them.  When you hear yourself saying, "I can't be myself in this relationship," the first impulse may be to blame your partner.  While your partner may be contributing to an unsupportive dynamic, trying to get your partner to change so that you can stay true to yourself is a disempowering option.  Focusing compassionately on what's happening for you empowers you to create healthy change.  

Compassionate focus on yourself might start with asking what exactly is keeping you from being yourself. It's a tricky question because to answer it, you first have to know what "being yourself" really is.  Knowing what it is to express the authentic and unique you is a life's work.  As you practice a life of mindfulness and self-reflection, you peel away layers of ideas about how you should be and how relationships work. Often this can be a painful process, sometimes like having your skin peeled off (yikes!).  But not always; sometimes you just see through a habit and it drops away easily.  Being more connected to your authenticity is like coming home in a deep way.

So what gets in the way of you being the authentic you in your relationship? Well, lots of things could get in the way, but let's start with your unconscious. Unconscious limiting beliefs often influence your perceptions and choices and prevent you from asking for what you need.

Here is a list of common limiting beliefs that keep you from being yourself in relationship:

  • Being myself hurts you so I have to do what you want to stay in relationship.  This is the way it is and I just have to endure it and give up my autonomy.
  • I'm not good enough as I am.  I have to continuously secure your love by being super productive, dramatic, or sexy.
  • It's not safe to be me.  You will tell me I'm doing it wrong and that's dangerous.
  • I can only rely on myself.  If I share my needs, you won't meet them, so why bother.
  • If I share who I am, I will be used.
  • If I am helpless and endearing, you will be motivated to meet my needs.  If I stand in my power and competence, you'll abandon me.

As you read each of the limiting beliefs above notice if there is any sense of familiarity or resonance with particular ones.  The fact that you intellectually don't agree with any these doesn't affect their unconscious operation.  Habit takes care of that.

The next part is catching these beliefs in action.  Where are they showing up?  What are the clues that they are operating? Here are some tell tale signs that these beliefs are in operation:

  • Feelings of resentment
  • Wishing your partner would stay at work later.
  • A feeling of deflation or numbness after making a decision or agreement
  • Keeping a scorecard, e.g., "I did this with you so you should do this with me."
  • A sudden feeling of dislike or hate for your partner
  • Anger bursts that seem to come from nowhere
  • Asking for alone time more than you ask for connection time
  • Making decisions that aren't right for you

Once you start noticing these beliefs in action, the next step is to bring them out into the open.  For example, you notice you don't really want to go with your partner for dinner with her parents on Friday.  You feel tension rise and hear yourself say yes anyway.  Now is the time for transparency with your partner.  You might say something like,

"I hear myself saying yes to your request and I notice all this tension.  A reactive voice is telling me that I have to say yes even though I need rest.  I don't want to make decisions from that place.  I'm wondering if you could help me brainstorm ways I could meet my need for rest and still meet the need for family?"

Immediately taking responsibility for your inner struggle by making a concrete do-able request opens the door for collaboration.  Just sharing the limiting belief doesn't provide a new way forward and may lead to a conflict in which your partner hears criticism or imagines s/he has to be your therapist or somehow fix the situation.  Also, true collaboration means you care for your partner's needs, but you are not ultimately responsible for meeting them.

We are only scratching the surface here regarding what can help you to stay true to yourself in relationship.  Other aspects of this practice include self-empathy, self-forgiveness, boundary setting, and how to create true collaboration.

Practice

Take a moment now to reflect on the last week with your partner.  Follow the three steps above:
1. Notice clues that a limiting belief may be operating.  

2.  Identify the belief by reading through the ones listed above or writing out all your thoughts related to a particular situation and then looking for the belief driving those thoughts.  

3. Find one simple situation in which you can take action based on what you want and need even though it differs from your partner's choice.

Next Gem
The Attraction of Blame
Previous Gem
Equanimity with Painful Feelings


46 Responses

  1. Feb 08, 2011
    evelynn

    i've been in a relationship for almost 2 years now with the same person. we have great communication, we do fight, but always work it out instead of just leaving and giving up. we have lots of great times together, lots of fun. but there are things that hurt my boyfriend that i can't do when im around him. as for me, i'm a very outgoing individual, and i'm very outgoing around him because so is he. but he realizes that when i'm with my friends i'm crazy, always dancing funny, dancing period. and when i'm with him i'm having fun but i can't dance or be crazy around him. we have fun together in other ways but when it comes to that he says it hurts him because i can't be entire self and fully comfortable around him. i love him and i know he loves me is there anything i can do or attempt to do to fix this?

  2. Feb 08, 2011

    Well, I would encourage you to start by reflecting on what keeps you from expressing in certain ways with him. Once you can name that for yourself, you can bring that to him for dialogue. For example, maybe you have seen him turn away from you in the past and so imagine that he judges you in some way. Finding the specific observations and the interpretations you made of them can help unravel the mystery around this. Once these are in the open you can both identify needs and requests.

  3. Dec 22, 2011
    Faith

    I have a weird problem. I'm in a relationship with a guy who's been my best friend for a long time. When the relationship started out, it was perfect. I felt completely at ease, and was totally myself. But it feels like the longer we're together, the less myself I am. He's just like me, and we're a great pair, so I don't understand why I feel like I can't be me..? We get along great when I AM me. It's just harder to be me all the sudden. Could it be because we don't get alot of hang out time? Is it HIM changing, and I'm just misreading? Help? D:>

  4. Dec 23, 2011

    Dear Faith,

    Intimate relationships trigger in us any limiting experiences and conditioning we experienced in our very first intimate relationship - the one with our parents. After the honeymoon phase of a relationship, these initial experiences get projected onto the current relationship. This is meant to provide an opportunity to re-create limiting experiences so that this time they can be handled in a different way so healing and wholeness is established.

    Feeling like it's all of the sudden harder to be you, is likely this process starting itself up. Of course, your partner's own unconscious stuff from the past is also likely starting up. Often we get together with folks who have habits that trigger our own habits and unless there is conscious work this creates a negative cycle.

    The best thing you can do is bring mindfulness to your interactions with him and pause as often as possible to intervene with your own habit energy. Stay tuned for more on this in a future connection gem.

    Let me know if this helps.

  5. Jan 10, 2012
    Lou

    Hi, I have been in a relationship for 18 months now. It came only 4 months after a pretty horrific break-up with the guy I was with before who I was engaged to. I knew it was too soon as I was with this other guy for over 4 years but my current partner was understanding of the effects it had on me and he was an amazing man so I gave it a go. I moved in with him within 6 months and was engaged within a year. In my heart I knew at the time that I wasn't 100% sure but went a long with it. I've moved away from family and just slotted in to his life. I began to have anxiety attacks a few months ago, blamed myself and started to argue with him all of the time. He has a very important job that is unchangable where I work in media so never know from one month to the next what I'm doing. But I love my job. I have, today moved out, we agreed that space would be good so we can stop going over the same thing. I love him and there is something very special there but as soon as we started to plan a wedding I just knew I couldn't go through with it. I don't think I have ever truly been myself around him and I feel like I've lost my way. He has a very high flying middle class group of friends whereas I'm a hard working working-class girl who's dome well for herself but seems to have lost all confidence. I'm hoping that this 'break' will help me find myself but I also feel very lost and not quite sure what I'm doing. Any though /help or advice would be very soothing to me right now.

  6. Jan 11, 2012

    I guess the first thing that occurs to me is a sense of celebration and relief that you had the courage and awareness to take some space before launching into marriage. Sounds like you are doing your best to be true to yourself. Taking space is only helpful if one or both parties are able to do self-reflection and transformation. It sounds like you are ready to do this.

    I would encourage you to find yourself by starting very simply. Maybe just taking a whole day with no plans and mindfully noticing moment by moment what would be most wholesome for you. Slowing down and getting mindful about little decisions as you go through the day allows your authentic self to come forward and choose rather than choosing out of habit or reactivity.

  7. Aug 21, 2012
    Angel

    Somone please help..I am having severe problems with communication with my daughters father. He just came back into our lives this last week. I contacted him at the same job I last knew of and found him right there all along. The last time I tried to contact him they told me he quit. And when I tried to reach him at his home I was told he didnt live there anymore??? Now that I know this I am left to believe he was trying to escape child support. Now he has been back he appiligized generally but I feel I need more specifics to make a wiser decision in welcoming him back. He hurt me and the both of us really bad by abandoning us on more than one iccassion. in which both times were dramatic and extremely unexpected...still to this day no justifiable explanation...just says he was immature at the time. Make note I have had problems with absndonment and rejection or unacceptance as a child ahd by almost every man I opened chance for long term relationship to. On the contrary, I am yearning for him in such a way I cant understand myself. And I am trying to communicate with him qll these issuea and concerns without chasing him away (which could ruin my daughters chances of having her dad). We also shqre two different beliefs. They were same qt first but now he has changed his. I would rather not deal with it at all because it is a minor distraction that can turn for the worse if im not carefull in what I choose.

  8. Sep 15, 2012
    katie

    Your article was really helpful. I'm in my 3rd year of marriage. I'm starting to feel unhappy since I can't show my true self to my husband. The first two bullet points in limiting belief are the exact thoughts I have. At first I tried to be patient at things he does that I dislike such as his love for drinking. I even change my thoughts at some aspects of our life and try to cater to his way of thinking things just to settle our differences. I did that all because I love him and I want to avoid arguments whenever possible. But sometimes my patience snaps and everytime I try to show my true self and tell him my true feelings such as voicing out my disagreement in some things, he becomes unhappy with me. He's telling me that I've changed and that I'm a hypocrite, that my patience and kindness was all just an act. His words would really hurt me. It also hurts me that he can't figure out for himself who I really am and he could not appreciate the fact that I am trying my best to please him. He only sees in me the qualities he likes and does not embrace the qualities he don't like. I don't know what to do. Sometimes I feel like I want to live away from him because I feel so tired already but I love him too much that I can't bear to be apart. Do you have any suggestions for me? He's the type of person who always want to get what he wants, wants to hear what he only wants to hear, if me or his mom disagrees with him he wouldn't listen and would feel bad (very much like a spoiled kid although he's not like that with regards to work or responsibilities) so please tell me what's the best approach if we are going to talk about this. Thank you.

  9. Sep 16, 2012

    Dear Katie,

    I don't have a simple answer hear. The dynamic you are describing sounds like co-dependence. I wonder if you have read the book "Co-dependent no more"?

  10. Sep 17, 2012
    Katie

    I don't have a full understanding of the word codependent so I searched it up. It turns out to be that you were spot on. I was not aware that I was a codependent person at all. I thought I just had some anxiety and depression problems but this seems to be the root of it. To be honest, ever since I was a kid I always have this strong need for love and approval although I couldn't remember why is it so. My thoughts is that even if just one person loves me truly and wouldn't leave me, I wouldn't mind if others would turn their backs on me. So I guess I was desperately hanging on to my husband and I have been forcing myself hard to please him so that I can make him stay in love with me. Maybe I am uncertain about his feelings for me, or maybe I have been thinking all along that I am an unlovable person. But really, thank you for replying and giving me your thoughts. You have been such a great help. At least now I have a clue how to get through this and change myself.

  11. Sep 18, 2012

    Dear Katie,

    I appreciate your courage in facing this difficult situation and being willing to seek help.

    I am glad I can be a contribution.

  12. Oct 08, 2012
    Bea

    I love this article. Thanks for sharing it...I identify with some of the points you pointed out.

    However, what I did wrong was I lied to my boyfriend. We started out with a very sexual relationship online, in which I lied about who I was, and I was overly silly and having fun. There was no pretenses, I said what I thought and I was spontaneous, fun, and held nothing back (except my identity I guess).

    He became angry at me that I would not meet me or do what I promised. I was just being silly online and never meant to hurt him. I finally confessed, we met, and he still thought I was the girl online. I was, but I was also dishonest.

    Flash forward to now...in order to make him trust me again, I completely cut off my fun-ness, my spontaneity, my sense of humor to please him. Because I was dishonest, I started being more genuine, more cooperative, more submissive....and now he is my boyfriend but I think hes confused, he hated how I treated him and hasnt quite forgiven me but I am trying to change. But I could tell he liked that I was funny and sexy online, but I am not that no more.

    But the thing is, as am I killing my sense of humor, my intensity, 'myself' I am becoming boring, tired, etc....and he is losing interest. There is more complicated things as well, but the thing is...in order to gain back his trust, I have lost myself.

    I resent that I cant be 'fun' anymore. I resent that I cant say bold, funny remarks, or be sarcastic, or be whatever, because I fear it will hurt him or whatnot. Nevertheless he never shies away from whatever he has to say. he would cuss and say his opinion, however negative it is. I feel like it is unfair and I am a prisoner. I take responsibility for what I did....but I am slowly trying not to see him anymore.

    I havent seen him in weeks because I want to forgive him for hurting me (other issues) and also because Im sick of pretending around him. I am not happy.

  13. Jan 19, 2013
    sarah

    I have recently lost a relationship through this problem. I got together with a man who thought I was wonderful and had high hopes for spending a life with me. His father had passed away not long before, so he was in quite a sad place. But his hopes for us were deeply moving, and I thought he was an incredible person.

    Unfortunately I quickly fell into the second point in this article, a feeling that I couldn't possibly be good enough for this person's love. He was very careful with his feelings, and despite committing to me, spent over a year before declaring his love. I often found him not as warm and affectionate as I would have liked- part of this I'm sure was simply grief. however, I put this person on a pedestal, and blamed myself when he didn't love me in the way I wanted. We broke up six months ago, after many fights where he accused me of not being myself, not saying what I wanted. He told me that he had trouble 'seeing' me for who I was.

    I'm now in a situation of self blame. I often think that if I had been stronger, more secure, that I would still be in this relationship with this person, a relationship I wanted more than any other. I think wanting it to work so much made me anxious and made it difficult to relax. Sometimes I think my partner could have done more to make me feel accepted and at ease, but I feel that most of the problem lies with me. He is now seeing other people, which he says feels more relxed, as there was always a tension between us. He says he hopes I am doing the same, so I realize this. But I'm terrified of getting in another relationship and making the same mistake. I also still love him terribly, and am filled with regret.

  14. Jan 22, 2013

    Dear Sarah,

    I am not so keen on your ex's recommendation that you should be dating too.

    It sounds like you need time to heal and come back fully into your authenticity, self-compassion, and celebration of you.

    A good place to start is allowing yourself to feel the hurt that is there without any story around it, just sitting still feeling the heartache and nothing else.

    Another step could include identifying some decisions you made in the relationship and naming the the feelings and needs that were alive for you at the time. Then identifying what you would do differently to meet your needs in a future relationship.

    I hope this is helpful. I am hearing this is a very painful time.

  15. Mar 23, 2013
    Stephanie

    Thank you for the article. I identified with "I can only rely on myself.  If I share my needs, you won't meet them, so why bother." I don't feel as if my boyfriend of 2 years is capable of having deep, philosophical conversations. I am a relatively intelligent, opinionated, non-religious person, and he is a stubborn, catholic raised man that refuses to think about religion in any way that differs from his moms teachings. That's one thing-- but this stubborn refusal to "think" about any of life's mysteries or human eccentricities persists in his personality. This leads us to have almost nothing to talk about except our daily lives... Boring! So I feel I have to satisfy my need for witty, fun, intriguing conversations with other people. This then leads to me resenting him for his inability to conversate, and the feeling of "I can't be myself with you!" comes raging about in my head. We also have other problems such as him not satisfying my sensual needs that are actually quite related. I fear we are just too different to be together as I seem to always be unhappy with him, but he is the most wonderful man I've ever been with. Leaving him would almost be stupid. I know my family agrees. Please, any input would be helpful with my distress.

  16. Mar 25, 2013

    Dear Stephanie,

    Lasting relationships don't depend on how much two people have in common as much as HOW those two people come together around similarities and differences. Healthy coming together means being able to open heartedly accept a difference, to truly let go of thinking how he should be different (of course I am talking about personality preferences not issues of abuse or neglect or addictive behavior) and accept who he is. And then highlighting, celebrating, and gettting clear about the ways you bond, enjoy each other, and come together and making those things a priority. In this container of acceptance and celebration, both people can find the courage to stretch past their habits, way of thinking and experiencing life and transform - not because there is criticism from outside, but rather because there is support from outside.

    Of course for any relationship to be sustainable there has to be some core ways you come together and create a bond.

    Does this help?

  17. Mar 31, 2013
    Teresa

    Hi I've been dating my boyfriend for about a year and a half. We broke up after 1 year and we got back together about 5 months ago. The first time we broke up was due to me dealin with constant anxiety and depression because of how his big loud personality was a loud to handle. He was very chill ad real around me but around my friends an family he continues to be loud and obnoxious and take complete control of the conversations. It so annoying because the topics he chooses I usually have no interest in and are full of sarcasm. I am usually the person to make my family laugh and it sucks to feel like my boyfriend is taking my role. We have been doing long distance for a few months now but he recently came to visit. I forgot how yucky I feel with him around people a I have to consciously tell myself not to get angry. It's so annoying cuz I love him so much and I feel the most at peace knowing he's the man for me. We have such a good relationship besides this. Am I just being over dramatic and overanalyzing it? It's really bothering me and I'm super depressed not knowing why I feel the way I do. Help please

  18. Apr 03, 2013

    Dear Teresa,

    It's okay to ask for mutuality and consideration in situations with your friends and family. Maybe it would sounds something like this:

    "As I think about visiting our friends tonight and I imagine not having equal participation, I feel a sense of dread because I want to have equal time to talk. Would you be willing to pause and shift to listening if you notice you have been talking for 5 minutes or more?"

    You might get this jackal response: "Oh my god, so I can't just be myself and have fun. You have to orchestrate everything!"

    You: "What I am wanting you to hear is that I am asking you to consider my enjoyment along with your own and part of that enjoyment being thoughtful about equal participation. Is that something you are willing to be conscious of tonight?"

    Let me know if this helps.

  19. Aug 19, 2013
    Karen

    Hi there,
    I identified with If I am helpless and endearing, you will be motivated to meet my needs. If I stand in my power and competence, you'll abandon me.

    I feel my current beloved (at least part of it really feels he is, the reationship feels ordained, almost) cares for me and it's one big fantasy. Bc I can't be myself around him. One part of me think that's a Good thing my "self" (funny, brassy, chill, sometimes swear, etc.) may be actually overcompensating for feeling deeply lonely and my needs not being meet. Bt i Have a deeper feeling that I am afraid to relax around him bc I think he prefers demure and docile- which is really not me. But how do I now what is "Me" in a marriage since i've never had it? I watched the AShton / Zoe Saldano movie last night- they were so playful with one another. I want that in my marriage. Maybe I could tell him my fears that he will abandoned me if I am funny. I notice he doesn't laugh at my jokes that much. Not great. I think about this other guy who is too young for me but with whom I am 100% myself- he has seen the WORST of me and still adored. I sometimes wish it was him who I felt was ordained. Thanks for reading.

  20. Aug 20, 2013

    Dear Karen,

    It sounds like you are pretty clear about this dynamic. Turning towards it in the way you are is the most important first step in transformation.

  21. Mar 03, 2014
    Rachel

    I am in a year and a half long relationship, and everything is as close as it can get to perfect... when I have my mask on. I basically have to act the way I do around my parents when I'm with him. However, put me in front of friends and the real me comes out. I fear that I will not be able to forever hold this mask, but I love him and don't want to lose him. What should I do? He gets disappointed when I show this side (my more comfortable side) so I keep it in. I am thankful that he is there to reel me back and keep me in line, but at the same time, being young, I fear that he is holding me back. Would it be unwise to release my good man for a time to let go? Should I really be searching for the one who will love me the way I am? Or should I hold on to the one who ultimately makes me a better person, even if I do resent it a little?

  22. Mar 04, 2014

    Wow Rachel, that sounds like a tricky situation. I guess if I were you, I would want to discern how to be authentic while still considering those around you.

    It's tricky because what is authentic and what is just habitual behavior often get confused.

    I worry about your perception that he "makes you a better person" on three counts: one, where does the definition of a better person come from and what is it, two you are the only one responsible for your growth, three you both will resent it if you give him this responsibility and your relationship will die a long and painful death.

    Lastly, yes, I think any relationship in which you wear a mask to make it work is not a sustainable relationship and of course, not honest or fair to your partner.

    Let me know how all this lands for you.

  23. Apr 28, 2014
    Karina

    I realise this is an old post now, but I wondered if you could help me at all.

    I'm with someone - it's difficult to ascertain for how long really since he broke up with me initially after 5 months. The breakup happened when I showed him my true self and had a big go at him as he was limiting contact and only arranging to see me about once a week for a couple of hours. It hurt me because that was honestly the only time I revealed myself in the relationship, and that was met with rejection.

    We had 2 months of a break and during that time he was also chatting up my best mate and present on various dating sites. Not nice. After 2 months of complete no contact he got back in touch, started to make consistent effort to win me back and talk about the future straight away. He said he wanted to marry me, have kids. I was a bit shocked as during the 5 months we were together he's not even said he loved me.

    I allowed him back into my life after further 3 months of his efforts, meetups and chats on the phone for hours. It used to be all so exciting to me, I felt hurt by what he did but I've always had feelings for him so really as much as it was in contrary to common sense, I knew I had to give him a chance.

    Now we are in a relationship and he is very sweet, and has really proven himself to me so far but... I am not sure if this is sustainable. I don't feel I can be myself around him. I feel I have to be a delicate, softly spoken and generally quite a meek person to keep him interested - which is not in my nature. I dread having any fiery outbursts at all and learnt to vent this via mildly passive aggressive behaviour.

    It was hard to maintain at first, but I know feel like this is my second nature and to some extend I feel maybe this is an improvement as my attitude wasn't helping and most of my previous relationship not lasted too long.

    Yet I actually begin to feel bored by all of this. Yes it's all nice, we love each other, we say that 100 times a day and he is sweet. It is not the greener-grass syndrome as I appreciate him and see him as a really good partner... But then I think I can't even vent out to him or have a go about anything, as he gets all freaked out. I don't know if I'm being immature here, but I always like that aspect of my relationships - I mean I have to be all polite and professional with people at work, and even with some friends but with people closest to me I'd like to be able to express myself in a way that, YES, is sometimes maybe a bit rude, or loud, or emotional. I need this fix of adrenaline to make me feel excited about a relationship and really connect with someone.

    I think if it carries on that way I will completely lose any passion for him. I already lost the feeling of jealousy I had of his female friends, and I am no longer that excited to receive his texts.

    Am I being unreasonable?

  24. May 03, 2014
    Sakramanda

    Hey, I would like to comment on this article. I've completely convinced myself I don't love my boyfriend. I am having a really hard time adjusting to the 'infatuation is gone' - phase. Now I can barely feel anything anymore for him and I definitely can't be myself around him anymore because I completely lost myself and broke my own heart thinking I didn't love him anymore. How do I get back on track. How do I find the courage. He IS amazing and trying so so so hard and does absolutely everything for me. I know that he is what I need and want because my normal self would love and appreciate him. Now I'm just sitting in a huge whole waiting for the end because I convinced myself it is the end. How do I shift my perspective? How do I hope again? How do I keep myself from being sucked away into unhappiness. He's a wonderful man and I definitely don't deserve me being like this. He should be adored and I can't bring myself to it anymore, I've completely closed myself off. The distance I feel seems so impossible to overcome... Could you give me any advice?

  25. May 06, 2014

    Hi Sakramanda,

    Hmm, well not knowing the details of your situation, I can offer what most commonly helps.

    Often, enmeshment leads to the kind of disinterest you are talking about. Asking and answering the list of questions in the Connection is a good place to start. Otherwise creating opportunities for differentiation may also help. These opportunities might be hanging out more with friends and allowing some distance during those hangouts so you both have space to express and behave more independently. Pursuing separate discoveries/interests and then coming back together for sharing about that...anything that gives you space to fully be you and then share in a differentiated way.

    I hope this helps.

  26. Jul 05, 2014
    Nicole B

    I really can relate to this post. For such a long time, I felt as if my feelings weren't valid in regards to this issue, but after reading your article, along with the comments from other women, I feel now that I have a platform to share my experience.

    I love my fiancé dearly. We've been together for 3 years and we have a 13 month old daughter. He is a great man and father to his daughter. I am currently a SAHM mom and he works long hours. Before we had our daughter, we were in a long distance relationship. So we'd only get to see one another once or twice a month. During those times when I'd visit him, I noticed that he was very particular about how things were in the house. For instance, he didn't like it too much if I closed the door too hard, or if there were dishes left in the sink. I also noticed that he liked his space, and didn't like it too much if I cuddled with him on the couch or did something silly like sit on his lap and hug him. I was used to this type of openness from my previous relationships so I found this disappointing. I'm a person who likes to enjoy life, and with my friends, I am silly, goofy, and I love to laugh. With him, though, I felt as if I was holding those things in for fear that he'd judge me. So I did notice these things at the beginning of our relationship. I just brushed it off as him being more reserved, and that he would open up.

    Fast forward to the present. After having our beautiful daughter, I made the decision to leave my city and move in with him. At this time, we had been engaged for two years. Now that I'm in a new state with no friends or family nearby, it feels as if those things about him are magnified. When he comes from work, instead of being happy that he's home, I feel inadequate if I wasn't able to cook dinner or do laundry because I had a long day with the baby. I'm also in graduate school and that takes up a lot of my day, along with my daughter.

    For some reason, I feel myself jumping when he walks into a room. I'll put my phone away, or if I was laughing or dancing to music, I'll stop laughing/dancing when he comes in the room. When we are on the couch together, he hardly touches me. Maybe a brush of my leg, or he would massage my neck. But mostly, he likes his space and would even rather be on the other side of the couch. This makes me feel unwanted and rejected. He can be upbeat sometimes, but only when he's in the mood to be. From day to day, I feel myself suppressing a lot of who I am, and I don't like that I'm losing myself. I'd like us to be that couple that laughs, tickles one another sometimes, talk about anything, and not take life so seriously. Life is too short to not enjoy those daily moments.

    I also don't find myself sharing much of my life with him because he's not approachable in terms of conversation. He usually remarks that "We'll talk later" but we'll never return to the conversation. So I turn to my friends to share my accomplishments and personal life with, not my spouse.

    I know that he truly loves me in other ways. He's gentle, loyal, and very hard-working. He has many great qualities. I just wish the day-to-day were a bit less stressful and more free-spirited. Thanks for listening.

  27. Jul 05, 2014

    Thanks for sharing this Nicole. I am touched that you received support from other women who responded to this article in addition to the gem.

    Yours words sound grounded and clear. I am guessing you have done some clear reflection and it sounds like you know what you need and how you feel most alive.

    I wish you well on your path.

  28. Jul 17, 2014
    Maryam

    Thanks for the article. this is the exact situation I am in. and unfortunately, it ended up with a break up yesterday, leaving me alone and in tears..

    You see, my answer to the question is number one, I felt like me being me would risk the relationship.
    He said it's not true, but I have enough clues that it is. We had a great fight just because I wanted to have some "alone time" to do whatever I want. He felt insulted!
    I had to study really hard for some months long before this, and that was exactly when our problems began.
    I just feel my need to have that "alone time" is much more than he found reasonable. I know there was a time when things were easier.

    I can't understand - he told me to be "me" for a month, and then we'll decide if we didn't like it. I couldn't do it! it still scared me...and now we've broken up. I don't know why I couldn't stop being so scared!
    I know this was a long story, I'm really sad and lonely right now, and I'm really sorry I chose you to blabber to! I just want your insight on it,...if possible. Thanks...

  29. Jul 18, 2014
    Jim

    Very interesting post!

    I could really use some advice...

    I've been with my current partner for 7 years and in the last year we mutually decided to get married. It is only 2 months till the wedding and I am freaking out, BIG TIME! My fiancé and I have had a very happy time together, despite our ups and downs we have given each other great companionship. However I feel that our relationship is very reclusive. When we do hang out with others I feel very self conscious, I hesitate to speak my mind and become altogether quite uptight. I am starting to feel that I have unconsciously been keeping friends and my relationship separate because I don't like how I feel when both are together. I am 30 years old and over the last year I have became very confident into own skin and very self assured but for some reason this feeling dissipates when she is around. I now feel it more and more as time goes by. I have recently over the last month seen a lot of my friends without my fiancé and out cones the confident self assured man again. I know the wedding is close so it could just be cold feet but I feel there is more to it than that.

    When I brought up my slight concerns she didn't take it too well, it suddenly became all about her and my feeling were disregarded. She also stated that, I was easy replaced and that I have chronic dissatisfaction and can never truly appreciate what I have. Sometimes I feel that my relationship is based on an early dynamic which no longer fits. I used to be very insecure and the thought of my girlfriend leaving was too much to bare. I sometimes feel this validated her own self worth. But now that I am no longer that person deep down I feel the relationship no longer suits either of our needs. I do still feel a little insecure in her presence but never anywhere else which makes me feel that marriage is maybe not a good idea.

    On a side note, our sex life used to be incredibly passionate, but now since my confidence had risen her sexual appetite has dropped.

    I appreciate any feedback you can give me!

    Cheers,
    Jim

  30. Jul 21, 2014

    Dear Jim,

    That sounds like a confusing situation. The first thing that comes up for me is to do some experiments. Set up as many get togethers with your fiancee and your friends with who you feel confident as you can. At each gathering push yourself to come forward and share as you normally would with her not there. You might feel awkward or inauthentic, but go ahead anyway, even if you have to do it by remembering how you act when she is not there and then acting that out until you can land in it in a grounded way.

    Given the time limit, you need information sooner than later. The information I am hoping you will gather is her response to the confident you around your friends and your own observation in that situation. As you push yourself to come forward in that situation, it will be easier to see your own inner obstacles to being your confident self around her with your friends present.

    It is true that when a relationship is founded on a particular dynamic, and one person changes, the relationship doesn't always survive the change. It sounds like you have made significant changes in yourself, but those changes are not yet integrated into your relationship.

    I hope this helps.

  31. Aug 19, 2014

    I have been married to my husband for 25 years but have lived with him for thirty. We have 4 kids. we are very different people but for 15 years "opposites attract" rang true. He comes from a large family who admirably see the positivity in everything. I see everything negative and positive and relay how things are at the time. Pretty much since we had kids life did not change for my husband apart from his need to provide he pretty much conducted his life as a single man. In my eyes anyway. for many years I have been left holding the baby so to speak. It is not fair and I know it but unfortunately I am the type of person who puts he kids and other first and encourage them not to miss out on opportunities. However in doing so I have lost myself as I have no back up system like my husband has therefore no spontaneity. It is not possible to convey adequately how I feel to my husband he would just think I am whingeing and nothing changes anyway. so sarcasm has been my way of getting through things. however the amount of times of I have been shut down and told that I am things that I am not or that I am doing things that I am not or at least had not intention of doing has finally after 30 years left me feeling that is to best to just present a revised expected version of myself to my husband. I can be myself to everyone else but a part of me has finally shut down and from now on an edited version will be presented.

  32. Nov 22, 2014
    Emily

    Thank you for the post...I have a few questions that I need help with.
    I'm in a 6 month relationship with a guy whom I met a year ago at school. He's a psychologist (nearly graduated; I mention this because he tends to analyse everything I do, or so I feel). Unlike other relationships ours went fast and now within only six months we're having arguments so often it's driving me crazy. We started amazingly well and the chemistry is amazing, we understand each other so good its like we can read our minds, we even do spontaneous things at the same time...we really love each other and care for the other. But its been about two months that He tells me I'm not who he thought I was; and our biggest problem is he tells me I dont give enough, I dont pay him enough attention and that I ignore him. I give him all the free time I have and text, call him several times a day, listen to him and ask him about his day, his thoughts and share back mine, we go out and spend time together as much as we can; and yet he feels the same: empy and sad. He also tells me I act like a child for being so emotional when he tells me his feelings. He tends to get angry and a bit aggresive in his way to talk when hurt and sad, so how can I not get emotional? I've tried to be more of what he wants but the more I do of what he asks the less I feel like giving it, I feel compromised and observed at how I am. I'm getting resentful and not sure how much to give without being untrue to myself. Its come to a point in wich I'm scared of doing or saying things in fear he'll get upset or "read them" the wrong way. How do I know what I'm doing wrong for thi to be like this?? Wheres the line between giving what he asks and being untrue to myself? Is it wrong to be thinking of how much I give him and not just give it without minding? Am I victimising myself? How can I know the diference?
    Sorry and a big big thank you in advance, for my grammar and spelling (my english is not yet perfect) and for answering my question. Thank you again

  33. Nov 29, 2014

    Dear Emily,

    Thank you for taking the time to write. As you can see from the posts before yours, you are not alone in this particular kind of challenge. I will more thoroughly offer an answer to your post in an upcoming Connection Gem. For now, what jumps out at me in your description is the level of finding fault with you that sounds like is happening. When requests and criticisms come without equal or more appreciation, and without self-reflection and responsibility taking, I get curious about something going on under the surface that cannot be addressed in the way he is suggesting. If I were noticing these things, I would establish firm boundaries, and be unwilling to entertain requests and criticisms until the 3 things named above were in place. This takes us in a complex direction.

    What's more simple is asking yourself two basic questions:

    Do I have a sense of equal give and take in this relationship?

    Do I know that I am accepted and respected for who I am?

    If the answer to either of these questions is "no", then I would recommend getting some outside support.

  34. Jan 01, 2015
    Jenna

    I've been seeing this guy for about a year now but just as friends. We started dating 4 months now so far! He is amazing and everything I see in a guy...he says the same about me too. I feel like sometimes I text certain people better then in person. But I don't think tht's the case anymore. The first time we ever hung out together was me him and one a my friends and I was pretty much my loud crazy self. Then when we went on a date with just me and him I was super shy (and tht's normal.for me) he just thought it was cute. But now being tht we've been dating for as long as we have, I still can completely butbe my self like I am with friends! But I can only be my 100% self around 2 friends then my parents. I can with my other friends too but idk I just can't always us they make it hard for some reason. And when ever I'm in a group of my friends and my bf I can be myself....I'm always myself around people but just in different ways, I can't bring myself to talk to him either bout things I can with my friends I feel like all we do is have small talk then we dot on silence holding hands and lots of kissing. He says I'm not boring him when I ask (I've asked 1 time btw) but my last. bf broke up with me cuz I wasn't being myself but he was a a** anyway I've just never met a guy who can have the same sense of humor as ne and can act crazy like me and not even realize how perfect we are together only cuz I don't know why I can't bring myself to be my whole self around him....I've read all the comments above and the main part of the website and I don't lie beneath any of them! Tht's why I need your help !!
    Jen

  35. Jan 16, 2015

    Hi Jen,

    This does sound like a bit of a different situation than the others above. It sounds more like it's a matter of learning to trust him to accept you. At this point there's no way to know other than to share more and more of who you are and watch how he responds.

    You can make this more do-able by creating little "share yourself" tasks. For example, before each time you see him set the intention to share something specific, like a an emotion, an observation of something in your environment, a dream or aspiration, etc. It can also be as simple as sharing "I notice that right now I am blank. I don't seem to have access to myself or be able to relax and just be myself."

    Having access to all of who you are, regardless of who you are with, is a process of valuing yourself and being around others who value you. It really requires courage to risk sharing who you are and standing in that with confidence.

    Since you have easy access to yourself in the company of a couple friends I also wonder about spending time with them and your boyfriend as a bridge to you coming out more with him present while having the support of your friends.

    I hope this is helpful, let me know :)

  36. Jun 05, 2015
    Aimee

    Last year I became engaged to my significant other of about 4 years. I don't think that there is any doubt that we love each other however, we've always struggled in our relationship because of our dramatic differences in personality. He is an introvert in every sense of the word. Actually, he may be something worse than an introvert. I say that because it seems like doing almost anything with other people (even me and our daughter), seems to be an incredible chore to him. This has recently been made worse since he started his own business and now works 7 days a week. What little time he has off, he says he wants to spend alone. I am a fun-loving outgoing person at heart. I like to be around other people. I like to go out and experience new things. I'm always looking for new and exciting things to do. I do not consider myself to be an especially callous person, but I can be very open with my thoughts. I like to talk a lot, my fiance doesn't speak that much at all.
    I try to be very, very patient with his differences. He is also a very sensitive person. I try not to get frustrated with him for never showing any excitement towards anything (I'm not being mean when I say that, that's a fact that he even recognizes). I try not to force him to want to do things.
    But lately, an old struggle for us has become much more significant. The problem is that virtually everything I say to my fiance is perceived by him to be judgment and criticism. This happens most often when we are talking about his business. He complains that something isn't going as planned and if I try to make helpful suggestions, or try to do anything encouraging, he perceives it to be negative. There is almost nothing that I can do or say lately that isn't taken as a direct insult by him. Because he thinks I am being nasty all of the time, he has decided to shut me out even more than he already has. Another disturbing occurrence is that now about every two weeks, he becomes angry with me and will not tell me why when I question him about it. An hour after me questioning him, he will text me (while in the same house), and start a fight which lately has been leading to him trying to throw me out of our house. I want to fix this. I do not know how I have caused him to be so defensive. Obviously his actions show that he believes he cannot be himself around me. Because of his jumping to conclusions all of the time, I myself have become afraid to be myself with him. I have just been working on disconnecting myself emotionally to survive in our relationship. It sounds horrible, but I feel horrible always insulting him unintentionally. I recently stopped trying to communicate openly with him after he flatly said to me, "I am never wrong about anything". What should I do? How can I help him realize that I don't sit around all day imagining ways to attack him. I'm convinced that's what he thinks that I do. :(

  37. Dec 14, 2015
    Ana

    Hello, we'll I've been with my boyfriend for 2 years now and it's been a roller coaster. I know I love him his truly my first love because we've been through so much from my parents not allowing us to be together and so on. The thing is now that I can finally see him and be with him why is it that when I am with him I feel so distant..like we could be in the same car together but I just feel like I'm not really there and I don't know if this is the cause of the mistakes his done that have hurt me and finally pushed me away or what is it? It's fustrating not being able to point what is causing me to feel that way and not like myself.. and how can I approach him? There's time when I only say I do want to hang out cause I feel like if I say no things will get ruined ..

  38. Dec 16, 2015

    Hmm, sounds painful Ana. Sometimes spending time away with close friends can helps you see the parts of you that are getting repressed when you are with him.

    Also, doing something unusual together can interrupt old patterns and reveal where the stuckness is.

    Mindfulness therapy can also be helpful in uncovering unconscious layers.

  39. Dec 30, 2015
    Ericka lopez

    Hi, this is foxy6...can you tell me some find my understanding... This is hard of hearing impaired and my boyfriend deaf...I am trying understand why I'm not be myself anymore that I feel like I lost in my way and not excited anymore when I feel change the way he treat me all he want high hope sex fansty things I turn away I can't be good enough for him and why can't I be happy with cuddling and love? Its difficult in my mindness and sound like he want meet more people use common to communication. He live in Los Angeles and I live in San Bernardino. Every time he feel like comes to my home for the wkends spend time for sex things I feel like no fun outgoing...he thinks issue thing he want more fansty things I can't give him more by myself being blocked. I worried he might find out he would leave me without the truth himself...I have sense of my mind to know it what he's up to...I can't see his own life private person. So I can't ask questions from his life..I just back out be myself..can you help me to into the new way in me.

  40. Mar 22, 2016
    Sarah

    Hi,

    It was so nice to find this website and realise that what I'm going through is not unique to me.

    I'm married for the last 12 years (my husband is my best friend since the age of 10). Its been a long and for the most part a happy union but lately I feel like things are spiralling out of control. If I was to pinpoint where things started to go wrong it was when we moved from the City (we're both City people) to the countryside. My husband's parents had retired to the same area of the countryside (approx 2 miles away) we moved to some years previously so from the beginning I had some doubts as my husband is extremely close to his mother and even though he comes from a large family his mother seems to rely solely on him for everything. Like I said I had my doubts because I didn't want our lives to become an extension of his parents. We spoke in depth about that not happening and promises were made - but never kept!! I wont go into too much detail about it but it has caused problems in our marriage. I live in the countryside but I still work in the City which keeps me away from home for 3 out of 5 working days and it seemed to become the norm that when I got home I had to incorporate at least one of my days at home to spending time with his parents - each week. This issue came to a head when I got so frustrated and angry about the situation that I exploded, my husband agreed with me that he had got it wrong and that it was too much to expect me to do it every week so it calmed down but now I'm left with the feeling that if one week passes and we don't get to catch up with his parents, that the next week it MUST be factored in. My husband has backed off asking me to meet up with them, he'll still go, but its always still there. This is just one issue but I feel it was the starting point to the problems we are now experiencing. My biggest issue with my husband is that I don't feel like an equal partner in the marriage, I feel that he is the driving force on anything we do and I'm sitting in the passenger seat, this is something we are constantly arguing about these days and I hate it. I like to socialise at weekends and my husband could take it or leave it so I find myself "asking" if we can go out, its the one thing I like to do at the end of a working week away from home but it always feels like he's doing me a favour by doing so. My husband is a very lovely man and can talk through problems with great calm and thoughtfulness whereas the resentment I have inside fuels an anger in me that I don't like and want to stop. Only today I researched tips on how to curb being insecure (something which my husband has accused me of for the first time only two days ago). Having read some articles on the topic I have to say that I don't class myself in that group as I don't need to know his every move, I don't need to constantly know if he loves me, I don't get upset if he doesn't answer my call or reply to my texts straightaway etc, I'm a very independent person and always have been but I need to know is it me, am I doing this to myself, I love my husband very very much, I don't want to lose my best friend, I just want to iron out these bumps and get back to being the team we once were.

    Very many thanks

  41. Apr 18, 2016
    Henderson Elizabeth

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  42. May 20, 2016

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  43. Aug 15, 2016
    Rona

    I've been married for two years and from the first day i hated myself im not the same person around him i always ask him for attention, for emotions, for communication, and he do nothing even our sex life is really bad , he see me crying sometimes and not even bother to make it easier for me, i dont know what to do ...

  44. Nov 04, 2016
    p

    I have known my husband for 12 years(6 married). Currently we are separated and every attempt to reconcile has him telling me that he doesn't feel good about who he is in the relationship. He says he doesn't have it in him to feel the love? Somewhere I feel that when we still at the back of our mind believe that the spouse is responsible for not making us 'feel good'. Can that be possible? Can it also be possible that if you come from a troubled parental relationship, you are less equipped to see success in your own relationship and find your spouse not 'good enough'? Please share some insights.

    Thanks and best,
    P

  45. Sep 28, 2017
    Jeannie

    I identify with the "I can't be myself because being myself hurts you" belief. There is no doubt that my husband and I were initially infatuated with each other and that once that wore off I started questioning whether or not he was really good for me. In fact I have spent the last 5 years wondering this with the help of a counselor and numerous friends. I am 100% ambivalent about this relationship and it's exhausting. My husband has ADD, anxiety, passive aggressive and OCD. I feel emotionally unsafe around him even though he never acts out emotionally...I can just feel this aura of anger around him often. I constantly comments on EVERY. SINGLE. THING. About me...the way I look, what I'm wearing, how my strings on my sweatshirt are uneven etc....mostly good comments but still, I feel like I live on a stage and have developed anxiety and depression since being with him. What does all of this mean?

  46. Oct 03, 2017

    Hi Jeannie,

    I don't know what it all means. What I do know is that this is your life and it is not owed to a single person. You get to choose the challenges you want to learn from and set a boundary around challenges that leave you reactive and flooded.

    In the end, intimate relationships are ideally a refuge and resource that enable you to show up in the world to serve life from your biggest and healthiest self.

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