My friends say I gave up too much. They said it when I sacrificed my full-time job and crossed three state borders so he could start a new career. They said it when I designated every leftover dollar we had to pay off his debts. They said it when I signed our divorce papers and packed up only what would fit into my compact car, leaving him the furniture, the stainless steel pots and pans, the antique artwork we'd nabbed in a New Orleans store. I'd crossed the line, in my younger years, from being a giving partner to someone who completely lost herself in her relationship.
It's not just me. At one time or another, many of my friends lost themselves in a relationship too. Some strayed so far into sacrifice that they weren't even sure what a healthy partnership looked like anymore. Luckily, we helped one another find our way back, and most of those relationships are over now. For those of us on the other side looking back, it's easy to see that those weren't healthy partnerships. But while we were inside them, it was almost impossible. Love is supposed to be a selfless act—but what it cannot be is so selfless that it erodes our own identities in the process. That line is thin for some.
I asked a few women to share what they felt like in imbalanced relationships in the hopes that readers in the same boat might be able to relate:
"I told myself it was my job as his wife to move every time his career uprooted us from one city to another, even if it meant leaving a new job I loved," said a friend. "I still don't know if I did, quote, the 'right' thing. I want him to be successful. But I realize now his career success came at the cost of mine, and I often wonder if I gave up too much for love."
"Sometimes I sacrifice what I want for dinner so he can have what he craves, and I think to myself, What have I just done?."Yes, it's just one meal, but why can't I ever say, 'Actually, I want to pick up a roasted chicken and mashed potatoes tonight?' It's not about the meal—it's about constantly giving up something of mine for something of his. It can get to be too much."
"When my last relationship ended, I felt empty, and not in the way you're supposed to feel empty when you lose something you love. I felt empty in the way that I wasn't sure who I was left with—even though that person was myself. I won't give that much away again."
The best way to tell if you're giving too much in a relationship is to ask how many of your decisions, thoughts, and hobbies would change if it ended. If everything you do is more or less geared toward your man's wants and needs, it's likely you're sacrificing your own to some degree. Pay attention to your friends and family and how they react—if they feel they never get to see you, or say you've changed, or roll their eyes every time you say you can't make it to sushi night because you have to help him pick out new socks, it's a surefire sign that your nearest and dearest can sense something you have yet to face.
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Photos: Getty Images
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