Thursday, May 11, 2006

Losing Identity

A while ago one of my brothers said "You know Api you haven't changed at all" I looked at him puzzled as he said "yeah, you're still you." I didn't get it. Ofcourse I'm different. Got a house with my very own monthly payments. I cook. a feat only those closest to me can full appreciate. I think about taxes. Grocery shop. Freeze leftovers.

But yesterday on Oprah. Lance Armstrong's ex-wife was discussing her failed marriage and about losing her identity in her marriage. Focusing on the needs of the other, compromising to the point that you forget yourself. Oprah responded, "this is why I never got married, I did not want to lose my identity." (Although she's lived with Stedman since forever.. so is it just the act of marriage stripping one of identity?) It reminded me of a conversation with a friend hours before my wedding "It'll be nice at first but things will change. Expect it and you will be less hurt" I protested but she smiled, a smile which in retrospect breaks my heart, "No matter how nice a husband all women give up a part of themselves when they marry" That was what my brother meant. Sure I compromise, sure in some ways I've changed. But I'm still me.

I knew some of my friends suffered abuse and painful divorces but I never fully considered that even in successful marriages women often lose their identity. I know girls completely different after marriage.. fusing into a couple so completly I can't identify where they went. These are not necessarily bad marriages, but are marriages where the preoccupation of the needs of others lent to their forgetting who they themselves were. I see it a lot in the joint family system where inlaws live together under one roof...the son's wife in charge of everything. Who was she? Who is she now? One person shouldn't be doing all the changing. Do you fear morphing? Have you seen people morph... or did you morph?

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction”-Antoine de Saint-Exupery


rehtwo said...

Haha. I think that this is one of the reasons that I am absolutely, utterly terrified of marriage. But I've a long way to go before I ever get to that point.

Anonymous said...

I am posting anonymously but I know I am not the same person I was before I got married but I blame children and the worries that come with that over the marriage itself.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure some people change after marriage, but wouldn't they have changed anyways? Perhaps it's growing up and taking on different responsbilities that really changes you. As the anonymous commenter said - she thinks it's due to children. And is change even a bad thing? I think it's human nature to fear (or be apprehensive) of change. For me, whenever I have feared/dreaded/thought bad of a change, later on, when I think back, I believe it has always worked out for the best.
I think this "you'll loose yourself" thing is over-played.And like you point out Aisha, Oprah has been living with her "partner" for years - so what's the difference?
I'm not saying that some women don't "loose" themselves - especially when they go through bad experiences (as you point out, abusive marriages for instance). And I also think that it is important to make an effort to stay who you are and accomplish your dreams. I find that if you give up too much for your family (for instance, giving up an advanced education for your kids), you may regret it later even if it was your choice in the first place. I also agree with you that living with in-laws may require a lot more sacrifices. Personally I don't think I could do that. To me, marriage is you and him - and I can't even imagine how it would be living with in-laws.

Aisha said...

Rehtwo thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Anon, I'm sure children change things, that's very true.

Rasha, you're right changing is not bad. Certainly I've changed and I would have changed to some degree even if I was single, we change over time. I dont see it personally in most people who live apart inlaws but those that do, their is a weariness as they rush to take care of everyone. Its different ofcourse if the parents are ill or in need, but just to live together for the sake of living together I've just seen the person just a shell of who they once were. But you're right you have to be proactive and do what you need to do in order to not lose yourself. Its not necessarily that the husband is to blame for the loss, sometimes women all too eaerly give up all their goals for the sake of their marriage.... btw It's wednesday I take it exams are over? Hope they went well :)

mezba said...

Define identity. Is it you, your 'selfness', your priorities or your beliefs?

I think everyone changes the last two as they grwo through life. It would be false to say marriage does not change guys. Disregarding the reasons the husband gave in my baby monitor incident, guys take on extra responsibilities, rethink their career based on family needs, and generally give up a lot of their freedom (not that girls don't, but it's not one way).

Oprah's over-rated IMHO.

opinionatedinjerzee said...

hmmn, marriage is full of give and take.. yeah, at some point you change but then you would as you mature and were single... has my personality changed after marriage? no, i am still the same loud opinionated person i always was.. I still have the same feelings, thoughts and interests. I still care about others the way i used to when i was single and i still take care of myself the way i used to.. I think that is always important.

Tee said...

I think at heart I've always been a fighter and an individual. I can not completely lose myself. I couldn't live like that. And maybe some of the rough patches in my marriage have been those times when I have had to fight for myself.

I think it's important not to view marriage as "losing your identity", but rather adding another facet. I will always be Tracy. Just as a cake can have many layers, it will always be a cake.

(Mmmmm, Cake. <--Homer Simpson voice.) LOL.

You don't need another to "complete you". You are a complete person and they are a complete person. Together you have to work hard as a team.

We all "lose ourselves" once in awhile - married or not. That's part of life. Isn't that what half a person's life is about? Finding themselves? Finding out who they are? What they're meant to be? What they're meant to do? What they're purpose is?

I mean, you're talking to someone who until yesterday, her blog tagline was something like, "A stay-at-home-mom who has lost her ambition amongst dirty diapers and spilt milk." ... EVERY mother feels that way at one point or another.

You just have to make sure you devote time to being "you".

Women especially make so many sacrifices in marriage and for their children, but just as the mother must put the air mask on HERSELF in the crashing airplane before she can help her children, the same can be said about time spent on yourself.

To give the best effort towards your marriage, you must first give the best effort towards yourself.

Anonymous said...

Aisha!! its been ages :D papers went good i hope....

im scared, no... terrified of changing, cuz ive seen so much of it around me. women lose every little inkling of who they were in trying to please their husbands, their in-laws. relationships are meant to be a compromise, i know, but compromises are ment to be from both parties. unfortunately the screwed up version of give and take ive seen is enough to make me marriage-phobic.

(some problem with server, cudnt sign in)

Aisha said...

Mezba thanks for reminding me about the walkie talkie incident (lol- that was classic) you're right, I know guys also have to compromise. I guess I'm not talkin about the little changes. What I meant by losing identity is that nothing is done in the persons day (man or woman) that is for them, their every minute is spent worrying about others, pleasing others, cooking for otehrs, cleaning for others, shopping for others they forsake the lipstick for themselves and buy the shirt for the spouse, etc. They dont have favorite movies anymore, or "me" time. It does happen. Opinions, beliefs etc will change and if your spouse influenced it, well that's only natural, I know K and I have changed in our views opinions and beliefs becuase we live together but thats not a bad thing. What I meant by losing identity is losing the core of you. Becomming a mechancial shell.

Opin, and that's very very good :) But do you know people who did lose identity?

Tee, lol at the Homer Simpson reference! The airmask is the best example I can give to explain what I meant. Some women are at the point they'd forget to put it on themselves and put it on others. One can't live that way. I guess sometimes its a conscious effort. Let me ask you this, when your MIL comes and stays with you, at least at first when you were trying to please her etc did you ever feel like you didnt' exist? Like you were a non entity?

Aisha said...

Sohnii, I've missed you! your website isn't working either? Did you shut it down? About your fears, that's exactly what i'm talking about. You've seen it in Pakistan havent you? The husband out and about doing all he wants to the wife pleasing everyone. It's quite frightening. But fear not as people have commented one must also make a conscious effort to retain themselves, speak up for themselves and make themselves heard. That's part of our duty to ourselves!

Ah-muh-nuh said...

I've morphed and lost my identity before in a pretty bad relationship I was in years ago. I was heartbroken when it ended, but in retrospect, it was the best thing that happened to me. Now that I'm married, I do feel like I have changed a bit but I definitely haven't lost myself. But who doesn't change just a bit, marriage or no marriage. Even w/o getting married, changing is just a natural byproduct of growing up and reaching a different phase of your life. Its good Aisha that you haven't lost yourself. And that your brother noticed that :)

ASH said...

You can only lose your identity in a marriage if you allow someone (whether husband, wife, or inlaws, etc.) to take it from you.

It is true that people change after getting marriage, but if it is a "good" marriage the changes are caused by maturity and each individual adopts habits of their wife/husband. But one spouse should not be dominant or force their brand/identity on the marriage....that is where the trouble you describe happens.

I have seen folks who have been married for decades who love each other but one of the two in the relationship is almost invisible...or worse still a carbon copy of their spouse. My parents are like this, my mother is wonderful.....but she gave up a potentially useful and life-building career when she got married. And despite the fact that she raised two kids successfully I can tell she sometimes feels incomplete. I fault her for giving it up.......she didn't have to. She compromised something that she should never have had to. I don't know whether my father pressured her...but in the end it shouldn't matter.

I have seen even more extreme examples of this as well. But I guess the end will change in maturity and outlook. You will change as you agree with certain aspects of your husband's or wife's thinking or habits. But if you change to allow yourself to be dominated, if you change to be the junior partner.....then you have a good life ahead of you....but it will not be fulfilling.

Bongi-Amma said...

mmm i don't know too many married people but i have to say i see people change alot in relationships, forget who they are, forget everyone else around them, and i know this is a blanket statement, but i do not necessarily think those are the best of relationships.

Tee said...

Aisha, though I know in cultures where the MIL is often living with the family it would be expected that I tried to make nicey-nice or "please" her, but this never happened. LOL.

Remember, this is not traditional in my culture and I made her aware of it as well!

I think there is a balance between being kind, being rude, and being yourself - ESPECIALLY when it comes to dealing with a difficult MIL!

Many of the times I was going through a lot of pain and anger was when I was trying to assert myself to my MIL and hang on to who I am and what I believe is right.

It would have made less waves - made my life easier, to kowtow to her and "lose" myself - to not be real, to pretend it was OK. But it wasn't, and I let her know.

Did it hurt her at times? Yes. Did she react negatively? Of course - but I am still myself, so the battle has been worth it. She lives here on my terms, and she knows that - and I think deep down now she can even appreciate that I ALLOW her to live with us.

An example of "not losing myself" through this situation would be not allowing her to decorate outside of her bedroom. She tested me on and off for over a year - hanging things on the wall without permission, moving my plants, etc. I told her that it was my house and I had things the way I wanted them. I told her every woman looks forward to having their own home to decorate and this is mine.

Of course, her pride was hurt, she was probably thinking I was unappreciative, disrespectful, and all of that... And while this was petty on the surface, it was about asserting myself, about being who I am, my right to express myself, my right to be comfortable in my own home.

I look back and say this but I wasn't thinking in my head at the time, "I'll lose my identity if I allow her to decorate!"... LOL. I was only thinking that it wasn't what I wanted and I had to stand up for myself.

I'm glad I did.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for remembering that Wednesday was my last day, Aishah! Exams are over and I almost can't believe that I'm a 2L now. My judicial internship and summer class start next week, so I won't have a very long break, but I doubt they will be as stressful as the last two semesters have been.

Jane said...

I lost myself several times when I was single. I don't think your partner or children have anything to do with it really. I think it is more an issue of if you make yourself a priority in life and listen to your gut. The times when I've lost myself are the times when I let the outside world tell me who I am.

momyblogR said...

That is quite a question you have posed there.

I believe when people look at me, they see the same exact person they saw 15 years earlier. More importantly "I" see the the same person. I have changed some but the things that have changed about me are for the better and ones that I have worked on to do so. To be a great wife and mother but still maintaining who I was before I became either of those things. I do compromise, bend and stretch all in the name of marriage and family. However, always mindful of not only what is good for my husband but what is good for me too.

I think so many women forfeit themselves instead of compromising when they become a wife. The totally lose themselves in that role forgetting they were an individual, a woman of her own before they said "I do."

After many years of being someone they don't even know, they divorce to find themselves again.

Why is that women do that? After all, didn't these men fall in love with the women the way they were in the beginning, when they were just "them?" Not who they were going to become after they became a wife.

I don't have the answer, I just know it's a very sad and painful thing.

Great post!

Aisha said...

Ah-muh-nuh: I'm glad that you were able to overcome what was a bad situation anyways. It's great that now in marriage you are still your own person despite changing as we all do as we grow in life.

Ash- yeah its sad when ppl give it up, and often like you said w/ your mom, its not by force.. its a choice you make.. but little by little these choices strip you of who you were, but no one took it from you, you took it from yourself.

Bongi- oh YES I remember college and the relationships that were 100% obsessed with one another. Longtime friends don't matter one bit in the face of the new flame. Not always, but usually such relationships end up toxic.

Tee- yep no one can step on our back unless its bent. You have to assert boundaries though it is hard to do b/c it requires conflict sometimes but its still better than to look back later when everyone is used to your compliance with everything and then they're shocked when you want yourself back.

Rasha, wow working and internship. congrats on the judicial clerkship that is AWESOME. I would ideally love to do that when I graduate but it seems you have to know someone to get those kinds of jobs :0( Hope it goes well for you!!

Jane- i think you're right... most of the issue lies within yourself rather than external forces.

Mommyblogr yes its not an easy answer and wow what a good point, why do they want to change the person they're with when they're the reasons they married them in the first place? That doesn't make any sense... go figure. Maybe expectations differ when you finally tie the knot. Dunno..

Aisha said...

Errr... sorry, Rasha, "classes" and internship :)

mystic-soul said...

Remember few months back you posted Khalil Jibran on same theme !!

Mia said...

None of my friends have married yet but they are living with their boyfriends or practically living with them and I have watched them morph into these women I no longer know or have anything in common with any longer. I’ve seen a change in myself this past year I’ve become more outspoken and seem to be over coming my shyness.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Aisha. I'm thinking judicial clerkships (the real deal - the ones after graduation) may be harder to get than a post-1L summer internship. I didn't know anyone to get this position, so Inshallah you will be able to get the judicial clerkship you want. But I totally hear you on the importance of knowing someone (ie. having "connections")-less than two months ago, I thought I wouldn't be able to get ANY kind of position for the summer. I was getting few interviews, and for the positions I did interview with, no offers. I started to worry that my hijab was playing a role, especially since all the while, classmates who had not done nearly as well as I did the first semeter were getting (paid) jobs. But Alhamdulilah it worked out at the end. And I came to grips with the fact that I would just get credits (and pay for them) rather than get paid for my work!

Muslim Mama said...

Salams! Oh yes! I can't recognise myself from my old self...true to the tee for me!! Sigh! Btw really like ur blog...came across it from koonj....

roora said...

very nice post Aisha

requires thinking as well. So what kind of change happens to these girls? They dont have an further links to any thing in life other than their patners? .. I guess this makes hem bored after a while

ASH said...

I think roora hits the issue on the head. Some people when they get married only have as a friend....their spouse. And at the end of the day I know that my wife and I are best of friends...but it would serve no purpose for her to not have other friends. I think this is a form of control that some husbands (I think we are more guilty of this) impose on their wives. Making their wives off-load old friends and such. Or dissuading them from making new friends.

In the end married or not, we need to allow each other to have independent lives...within the bounds of decency of course.

Baji said...

I think the circumstances of marriage have changed me. Like having to move to follow my husband has deinitely changed me. Losing friends who were ignorant and racist changed me. Giving up my old lifestyle changed me.

Chic Mommy said...

I don't think my personality or my identity as changed as much as my freedom has changed. There's always someone else to think about, someone else's needs you need to think of before your own.

Enyur said...

Aisha, I think sometimes it's the circumstances surrounding us that force us to change. My cousin used to be very talkative, strong and outgoing. She had a love marriage that was arranged. After getting married, things changed. Her husband was an emotional abuser and we all saw her crumble. Her self-esteem completely shattered. She morphed into a weak woman. Other relatives got involved and suggested that she leave him, but she kept saying 'no.' Now she's expecting a child. So she's definitely not the same anymore.

Aisha said...

Mystic, yes, I posted on Khalil's post on marriage, on the importance of being together but not identical :) good memory!!! :)

Mia, so as you grow they seem to be shrinking? Only time will tell if they will "wake up and smell the coffee" on you think its just a phase maybe? Were they always like that though or did being with the guy change them.

Rasha- 1L paid internships are hard to get! Judicial clerkship will make it quite impressive for your job opportunities 2L summer insha'llah.

Muslim Mama, welcome :) and thanks for your kind words. I hope you slowly regain who you are since you are aware that you have lost it?

Roora yes! that is so true. they get isolated and that certainly lends to it. Good point.

Ash- yes having other friends helps you to retain a peice for yourself. Codpeendent relationships are not good.

Baji, yeah i can see how that would change you. But how do you feel its affected your identity? At the core are you still who you were?

Chic Mommy, in some ways that must hurt, to have a strong sense of self but to know that you can't fully actulize it b/c of the competing needs...

Enyur I know someone EXACTLY like that. I sort of thought of her when I wrote this except no one would tell her to leave him because its a "succuessful" marriage. He's nice and all but she's a shell of who she was. He's not the out and out controller. The silent controller who does it subtly so no one can really put their finger on it. you know, the raised eyebrow "you wearing THAT?" instead of forbidding it but pretty much shaming them into not... its sad.

Mia said...

I've noticed it's a thing that they go through whenever they are with a guy. They seem to become the person the guy wants. This is where our disagreements come I've seen girls that don't drink or smoke take the habit up because "their men" did it and they'd do it with him.

Baji said...

Yes, my biggest struggle right now is identifying with who I have become. So, yes, I morph and change and feel a loss of identity, but I also know that I will eventually emerge with a better me. But in the end of the day, I am still the same person in my core being. Make any sense??

Zak said...

it's called ego identification..happens all the time its how some really insufferable guys get away with loads ..despite how it goes against everything the Mrs believes in..

Living Away said...

that was the reason i started blogging...try to find myself again. i really got lost...when people asked me what i miss the most from brasil, i use to say "me". there i was myself 100% and i really enjoyed it. i became a completely unknowing person and now i'm introducing myself to me again!
have fun in my lovely brasil, dear aisha!

asim mandhai said...

I think people like the idea of being able to define others and change makes that difficult. I think identity is a constantly morphing idea. It is the definition of us through interaction with the outside world. Marriage often drasticallly changes that interaction therefore changing our identity. Marriage is not unique in that though, anything can cause that change. For example people change after college, or a certain job, or traveling, even something simple as reading a book...

Aisha said...

Mia- wow that's just sad..

Baji it does. moving can definetely affect that too furthering the feeling of isolation taking away the securities in plae that helped to define you. I went through that too to some degree but once it was over I found myself more sure of me. Also someone once said to me during this time when I was so down, they said i was growing up inside and that emotional/mental growth also is accompanied with growing pains. As you search for you it will feel bad but hopefully you'll ome out better for it :)

Zak- yes forsome reason its usually guys doing it.

Living- thanks for sharing. I think a culture shift no matter what will be a shock to one's identity. Btw- if you're reading this, I heard of a lot of violence in Sao Paolo.... making me nervous about Brazil!

Asim, your'e right many things can cause the change. Very true.

Anonymous said...

Greets to the webmaster of this wonderful site! Keep up the good work. Thanks.

Darryl said...

Why do people think that women are the only ones who lose themselves?? I've been lost in my marriage for years and I'm a MALE!! By the way, I am in therapy.

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