In those early, heady days of romantic relationships, you have little care for where you end and your partner begins. You want to share everything, do everything together, identify common interests and build on them to the point where you have no idea who’s initiating activities anymore. It is a wonderful, exciting time.
But as your relationship continues to grow and mature, you may begin to reassess where you stand. Women are naturally more gregarious than men. Women are much more likely to maintain their friendship groups after entering into a relationship. Men, on the other hand, may be gripped by a sudden, overwhelming identity crisis.
It isn’t uncommon for single men to see their loved-up male peers experiencing such a scenario and assume that relationships represent their end of their own identities. Is this one reason why men can develop into commitment-phobes?
Why do men in relationships lose their identities?
We spend our lives working out who we are and constructing a persona around that thought process. It makes sense, then, that research from the University of Liverpool found that many people, especially men, experience a crisis of identity when they share their every waking moment with their partners for an extended period.
According to evolutionary psychology, women are more naturally inclined to act as social mediators. With a long-term female partner, a man has a permanent sounding board to whom he can vent his emotions, thoughts, feelings. Many wives and girlfriends are privy to a vulnerable side of their partners seldom seen by the rest of the world. This can lead to men feeling less in need of a friendship group, but this can then create resentment amongst their male peers, who may begin to view relationships as nothing but a ‘ball-and-chain’ situation, a way of being ‘locked down’ for good.
“Male pride is a powerful thing,” says Prof. Damien Ridge, who specializes in masculinity and men’s wellbeing at the University of Westminster. “Loneliness in men is a real issue. Compared to women, men who see me for psychotherapy are much more emotionally isolated. Sometimes, the only male they feel they have left to open up to is me.”
As time goes by, male friendship groups will commonly consider their friend to have drifted. For him, reigniting the dialogue with his pals can become increasingly difficult. How can they find their identity again? And in doing so, how can they prove to their mates that being in love doesn’t mean being tied down?
3 ways of maintaining your identity in romantic relationships
1) Hang out with your friends
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way right at the start. If you feel you are losing your identity, forgetting who you are — spend time with those who know you the best and be reminded! Go for drinks, a coffee; go bowling, watch the game. It doesn’t have to anything remotely extravagant! In fact, it’s the sign of a truly solid friendship when you can just sit down, shoot the breeze and feel totally at one with your pal, with no need for a premise.
2) Pursue your passion
Do you have an interest that goes beyond your career (and your spouse)? Actively following what makes us tick not only keeps the grey matter going but makes you a more interesting, well-rounded and attractive individual. Whether it’s a charity, organization or hobby, engaging with a passion that is apart from anything else in your life is a way of indicating to yourself that you not only know who you are but that you are absolutely content with your identity.
3) Practice self-development
You know, that identity of yours isn’t set in stone. Developing your personality, mental fortitude and outlook on life is all part of maturing into your own person, regardless of your age. Take a seminar, read a self-help book, attend a lecture, get some coaching, go to therapy. Discover what truly makes you you. You’ll become a stronger man because of it.
You can be a spouse — and your own man
Your identity is what keeps your relationship happy, healthy and balanced. Even joking about ‘the trouble and strife’ is a little outdated; things just don’t need to be that way! Losing your identity can make you feel stuck in a rut at the time, but learning how to nurture your independence and discovering your own personal goals and values can help you become the best spouse you can be — and still be a reminder to your mates of the joys of being in a meaningful and loving long-term relationship.
If you’re a man, single or otherwise, and in need of a little guidance when it comes to love and friendship, The Vida Consultancy can help. Vida offers relationship and life coaching courtesy of our in-house relationship psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree. Madeleine has over fifteen years’ experience helping individuals overcome the barriers we so often put up that stop us achieving true happiness in our relationships. Our intensive coaching sessions will help you truly understand how you can be getting the most out of romance, and what changes to your communications would help you rediscover yourself and who you truly are.
If you’re single and looking for love or in a relationship and in need of a little expert advice, get in touch with Vida today and book in one of our renowned coaching sessions. Let us reinvigorate your relationship and equip you with communication skills you need to get the most out of love.