Yesterday I was watching the Oprah show and I grew more and more frustrated as marriage was discussed. In a nutshell, the guests, and Oprah herself, believed that it is hard (almost impossible) to be true to yourself and be married. All mentioned the idea of "losing yourself" or your "identity" in order to become a better spouse or mother- that this is some sort of lie that women are told that should no longer exist in today's society. They actually called for a revolution- said that women need to hold on to who they are and not change for the sake of a spouse or children. I think they've been fed a lie.
If you've read my first post, you know that I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of authenticity in relationship. So let's be realistic... are any of us so perfect that everything about us, pre-relationship, needs to be guarded so completely that we neglect relationship? Is becoming someone other than who you once were so terrible? Can any of us look back and say unequivocally that we should never have changed anything about our past self? To believe that in single life and independence we somehow have a perfect understanding of ourselves is naive. To assume that being with someone else in a committed marital relationship would somehow "chip away at who we really are" is cowardly.
Dr. Robin (one of the guests) did say that the only way to have a successful marriage was to dwell in truth. To really be who you really are. To be fully present with each other, instead of being who you think your spouse wants you to be. I whole-heartedly agree. That said, what's wrong with letting parts of yourself go? If you are open to it, you may be surprised with the things that fill that space. There may be pieces of yourself, passions and interests that you never knew you had.
I'm not suggesting we compromise on the non-negotiables in life. If you have a strong faith, obviously that is not something worth losing for the sake of someone else. However, where you live may not be as important as who you're with. Maybe you decide to stay home with your children for a time, even though your job gives you a feeling of importance and success. Maybe you stay home more evenings than you go out because it makes your spouse happy- even though you'd rather be out there with other people most of the time. Maybe you start saying "no" when people call to ask you to head up one more committee or join one more community organization, even though you care very much about those particular things. If you do, you may find, over time, that your old job was the source of unnecessary stress in your life, that your home has more order, and that- unexpectedly- you take a great amount of pride in the fact that your family can depend on you to be cheerful in their presence, instead of rushed. That raising your children and being there for all of their minor and major successes is more fulfilling than that promotion you so desperately desired. That the time off has clarified what you really desire to do when you return to the work force and gives you time to pursue the necessary education to go after that new job. Maybe, after a few weeks of boredom, you start to enjoy the time at home. Maybe home starts to become a haven from the craziness of the week and time there begins to fill your emotional reservoir, so that soon you find yourself wanting to give more to others, you are so energized. Eventually, you may even begin inviting others over on a regular basis, fulfilling your need for interaction, and your spouses need to be at home... not to mention blessing those who enter your home and feel refreshed by your hospitality and care for them. Maybe when you say "no" for the first time you will feel liberated from the constant need to please those around you. Maybe you will embrace the fact that their opinion of you doesn't matter, then your concern can rest in how God views you, and you can find peace in His grace. At some point you may become more wise in your decision making and may choose more worthy investments of your time, giving 110% in each activity, knowing you have not spread yourself too thin. How many of us miss unexpected aspects of ourselves because we are sure we know who we "really are", and what we "really" want? How many allow the fear of "losing ourselves" hinder us from trying something out of character? What would happen if we embraced the idea of putting others before ourselves, all the while being authentic as we go through the process. Maybe you try something and it doesn't work out for the better. If we're being authentic with those around us, it will not be hard to back track and try something else. Is what we may lose better than what we might gain? Can we be certain without taking a step in faith?