Who am I outside of a relationship? Do I have an identity outside of being a partner, girlfriend, soulmate? Ever since high school, I had avoided being single at all cost. I’d stay in unhealthy, unhappy, and toxic relationships just for the sake of not being alone. I had always been so terrified to be alone. To me, being alone meant “unhappiness.” Being alone meant “unworthy.” “Unloveable.” “Lonely.” But if I had ever given myself the chance to truly be alone, rather than jump into my next long-term relationship, I would’ve allowed myself the opportunity to get to know… me.
When we let ourselves become so entangled with another, our self-worth tends to be intertwined as well. I found myself throwing every ounce of my identity into a relationship because in my mind, that’s what you did for love. That meant that your heart was truly in it.
Looking back nearly 10 years later, all I see is a young girl who did not know how to be her own person without being owned by another. A young girl who felt that if she gave this person every part of herself, she’d be worthy of love and acceptance. But what this young girl couldn’t see was she sought love and acceptance from others because she couldn’t give it to herself. That’s the most difficult thing, isn’t it? Wholeheartedly accepting and loving yourself, despite every flaw, inconsistency, or imperfection. So we run to another to give us the love we deny ourselves.
I had a pattern. I’d stay in a relationship, regardless of unhappiness or toxicity, until my partner eventually left me. I never had the courage to be the one to leave, because I knew I’d immediately be unhappy from being alone. Out of this fear, I stayed. Somehow, I had convinced myself that being unhappy while in a toxic relationship was better than being unhappy while being alone. Anything was better than being alone, right?
I followed this pattern for years. After one long-term relationship would come to a rocky end, I’d jump into another one within a month and stay for a year or so until the pattern restarted itself. In my mid-20s, while starting my counseling graduate program, I had finally started to realize how unhealthy this mindset was and the effect it was having on me. I honestly had no idea who I even was. I didn’t feel that I had a real identity outside of being a partner because that was all I had allowed myself to be. After seeking help and going to therapy, I was able to finally answer my question.
Who am I, outside of a relationship?
I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a helper. I am a lover. I am a therapist. I am a writer. I am a daydreamer. I am passionate. I am driven. I am dedicated. I am accepting. I am growing. I am kind. I am someone who probably cries too often (but that’s ok). I am someone who adores cats and believes “fur baby” is a totally legitimate term. I am someone who gets overly attached to fictional characters in books, TV shows, and movies. But above all else, I am someone outside of a relationship.