7 Signs You’re Deselfing in Your Relationship

Deselfing

Imagine this. You’re a bright woman with a strong social circle, a meaningful career that’s on the rise, and a passion for swimming. You meet a new man and hit it off. As you get to know each other, you find yourself spending more time with his friends than your own. You skip out on work-related networking events to attend his business dinners. And your Saturday mornings in the pool morph into taking lessons in his favorite hobby—golf. Over time, you’re gradually giving up who you are to fit into his world. This is known as deselfing.

What is Deselfing?

Deselfing is a detrimental process that occurs when a person relinquishes important aspects of their “self” in order to please someone else or to develop or maintain a relationship. Deselfing is not a new phenomenon, and it can occur in women or men, although it is more common in women. It isn’t the same as compromise, which is something that is required for a healthy relationship. When two people in a relationship compromise, they each give a little for the betterment of the couple. With deselfing, it’s primarily one person relinquishing too much of themselves for the other person’s benefit. It’s giving up your sense of identity, values, and interests in an effort to maintain the relationship.

Deselfing is a detrimental process that occurs when a person relinquishes important aspects of their self in order to please someone else or to develop or maintain a relationship. Click To Tweet

How Deselfing Harms Your Mental Well-Being

This subtle erosion of identity may not be noticeable to you at first, but over time, it can lead to trouble. You may feel disconnected from friends and family. You may experience a sense of grief and loss for the activities you once loved. You may feel like you can’t be your authentic self in your partner’s presence. And constantly catering to your significant other’s needs rather than your own can be exhausting. It all adds up to feelings of resentment, repressed anger, depression, and burnout.

People who deself are also likely to start blaming the other person for the way they feel. This sets the stage for marital conflict, negativity, and unhappiness. The first step to turning things around is to take a hard look at your life and admit that you’re deselfing.

7 Signs You’re a Deselfer

Answering yes to more than a few of these questions indicates a strong chance that you are deselfing in your relationship.

  1. Are you hiding parts of yourself from your significant other?
  2. Do you feel like you aren’t living your life fully because of your partner?
  3. Do your friends say they miss you?
  4. Do you skip family events?
  5. Do you say no to work-related invitations?
  6. Are you spending less time doing things you used to love?
  7. Do you alter your daily routine significantly to fit into your significant other’s routine?

4 Ways to Re-Self and Regain Balance in Your Relationship

1. Learn to assert yourself.

This is a key component of re-selfing. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts and feelings in a firm yet reasonable way; not allowing others to emotionally run over you; and, not saying “yes” when you mean “no.” Note that being assertive doesn’t entail being angry, mean, or aggressive. It’s best to be calm, firm, and kind. And don’t think you need to practice assertiveness 24 hours a day. If you assert yourself all the time for unimportant issues, it invites oppositional behavior. Choose to assert yourself on important issues, such as when you feel like you’re being railroaded into doing something you don’t want to do.

2. Remember who you were pre-relationship.

Take some time and really think about all the things you have given up for the sake of your partner. You may not even be aware of some aspects of your personality or everyday life that you have relinquished until you start writing down a list. Be prepared for this to be an emotional experience for you that may dredge up feelings of anger or sadness.

3. Gradually re-engage with friends, family, and activities.

Begin reacquainting yourself with people you may have grown apart from and consider re-introducing yourself to hobbies you once enjoyed. However, don’t expect to pick up where you left off. For example, if you used to do a weekly dinner with a friend, start with a simple text to say hi and slowly rebuild the connection. If daily swims were the norm for you, start setting aside pool time once a week and increase from there.

4. Consider marital counseling or psychotherapy.

In some cases, navigating the re-selfing process may require professional help. You may benefit from seeing a mental health provider to rediscover your true self and to learn strategies to help you reconnect with your partner in a healthier way.

Relationship problems and other mental health issues can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

22 Comments

  1. I live in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio can I ge a brain scan in this area You use?
    I am also interested in counseling with! Your therapist.

    Comment by Patricia Cervenak — June 18, 2021 @ 9:34 AM

  2. Hello Patricia, thank you for reaching out. We have two clinics close to Cleveland, one in Chicago, IL and one in Reston, VA (https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/). We’d be more than happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment at one of our 9 clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 18, 2021 @ 2:16 PM

  3. Can’t a form of de-selfing occur in caregivers? For years, I was the sole caregiver to an elderly parent with dementia. As her world got smaller, so did mine. There was less “conversation”. We could go fewer and fewer places as she degenerated. If you’d asked me at the time, what I liked, (other than dark chocolate) I couldn’t have answered as it had been so long since I was Nancy, not Nancy-the-caregiver.

    Comment by Nancy Ortt — June 21, 2021 @ 7:56 AM

  4. If you know someone who is deselfing, is there anything you can do? A lot of us have watched a close friend totally lose herself–who she used to be–because of/for the sake of her relationship. We’re worried and don’t know what, if anything, to do. Thanks for your help!

    Comment by Ann — June 21, 2021 @ 8:05 AM

  5. I discovered in Nov. 2019 after 22 years of marriage that my husband most likely was born with Aspergers. I have found help groups for neurotypical spouses in Australia (we’re US). We both want to have SPECT scans but put it off last year for obvious reasons. The info I found on-line did not use the term de-selfing but it fits how I have felt for a very long time. Would a scan show possibility of Aspergers? I started fighting to get “the real me” back last fall. my husband is a kind person but to a neurotypical he is very needy, clingy. I feel like his emotional support animal. I also believe he also has childhood trauma and probably several TBIs. The last TBI in 2009. He is very different from when we married. My relationships with Jesus is my life-line. Would any of your services help me?

    Comment by Linda Heath — June 21, 2021 @ 8:14 AM

  6. Hello Linda, thank you for reaching out and sharing. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information on SPECT scans, our services, and how we can assist with Aspergers. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 21, 2021 @ 8:17 AM

  7. I live in Yanchep Western Australia and have a long history, of chronic depression, anxiety and trauma. At 60 my mental faculties don’t seem to be allowing me to work. Is there anywhere close to me where I could have a spect scan and a diagnosis please?

    Comment by Helen — June 21, 2021 @ 8:28 AM

  8. I have been deselfing since I met my husband but also it included his family my family my friends . I’m now divorced and crumbling. I think I was more stronger in high school. Don’t know how to get back to that strength again.

    Comment by Crystal — June 21, 2021 @ 8:50 AM

  9. Similar to Linda, I met and married a man who (I realized later) has Asperger’s. Immediately after the wedding, he dropped out of life. Stopped seeing his friends, quit his full time job and went part time (MD), quit going to church, sat inside the hotel room while on vacations leaving me alone (we met up for meals), refused to go to my family functions and most of his, no dialogue (only monologue). A few therapists we went to said some version of “there’s nobody home” or “no emotion to even work with”.

    I learned through Wives of Aspies and Cassandra Syndrome groups that it’s very common for them to “mask” while dating and drop the mask shortly after marriage.

    I am very independent and had a great career in pharmaceuticals (met with Dr. Amen at a function years ago) and just carried on with my “single” life (though not every aspect).

    At one point, a doc friend gave me a sample of Zoloft and it turned my life upside down: movement disorders, lupus, rhabdomyolysis, and now have ischemic brain disease and frontotemporal degeneration /”dementing process”(50s).

    First, do you feel that SSRIs can cause Asperger’s? He had started taking Zoloft shortly before I met him and all of his friends and family noticed this change in him, a withdrawal from life.

    Secondly, do you have any solid help for people who have been severely harmed by SSRIs (and discontinuation of)? I know Dr. Healy, Dr. Giovanni Fava, Dr. Breggin, Grace Jackson, MD, Ann Blake Tracy, Dr. Gotzsche, and most of the main researchers in SSRI damage. Nobody has any concrete answers, though they agree that the damage is very real.

    Sorry for the long, circuitous comment.

    Barb

    Comment by Barbara B — June 21, 2021 @ 9:06 AM

  10. Wow!! That is me! That has been my core problem in all my relationships. I am single now and am resistant to getting very close to anyone because I am afraid I will lose myself. Eventually, I think my resistance will ebb as I become more solid with my self definition and learn how to set good boundaries. Thank you for your articles. I have learned so much from them!

    Comment by Lynda C Jones — June 21, 2021 @ 9:30 AM

  11. After all these years, I finally have a label for what I did at the age of 18 when I met my now former spouse. I went all to his side whether it be family or the college of my choice. Fifty years later, I am grieving my own family traditions and other choices that I missed out on. Once, 12 years ago, when going for an interview to possibly go overseas for missionary type work, I was denied with the reason that I had ” a poor sense of self”. Now, I am beginning to understand its source.

    Comment by Denise Caruselle — June 21, 2021 @ 9:32 AM

  12. I agree with Nancy on caregiver. I lost myself and am still trying to find me

    Comment by Gerianne Nehls — June 21, 2021 @ 12:19 PM

  13. Part of the problem is we consider it a compliment when someone calls us selfless. That always bothers me when I hear someone call someone that. It is usually a woman working hard raising kids. Being selfless is not something to aspire to. Sled care is key. Many who think it is good thry are so called selfless are obese and also don’t take care of themselves or develop themselves. Then when kids are grown they feel the pain of loss of purpose. We need to teach people to keep growing and learning and do the things in the 30 day happiness challenge of yours. That will help kids abs husbands too to have a happier abs healthier wife.

    Comment by Lisa brott — June 21, 2021 @ 1:14 PM

  14. I would like to see more blogs about adult characteristics that may actually be symptomatic of autistic or Narcistic Personality Disorder spectrum behaviors such as lack of empathy and emotional engagement and/or does not like close body contacts.

    Comment by Orla Nelson — June 21, 2021 @ 1:36 PM

  15. This is excellent.

    Comment by Ruth Charles — June 21, 2021 @ 3:22 PM

  16. Hello Crystal, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to reach out to you directly with more information to help get you into one of our 9 clinics. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — June 21, 2021 @ 3:43 PM

  17. I’m also a carer for my partner, have been for 25 years. Perhaps I HAVE reduced some activities I liked before, and I’m definitely often tired and have too many chores to do alone. But he has a handicap, its different. I do as well although not as difficult as his. Many carers suffer from burnout and that I understand fully. But when you love somebody who isn’t very well, then you can’t help but be there and help! I have friends and family who know what my experiences are, but when I’m at home with my partner and am going through a bad patch he’s incredibly empathetic. He’s also very funny indeed. We never stop talking as we have so much to say to each other. Sometimes I wish I could get him to help me more, but have more or less given up on that!

    Comment by Melinda ROSS — June 21, 2021 @ 5:11 PM

  18. I am grateful for this article. I did this for years plus giving of myself to others,that I I had nothing left. I remarried a and find myself repeating the error of my ways.But I now know how to get back on track!

    Comment by Patricia Reeves — June 21, 2021 @ 5:54 PM

  19. All the recommendations in the world of how not to “deself” are irrelevant when you’re in a relationship with a narcissist. You’re not allowed to be yourself because it’s always all about them. And if you can’t walk away from that relationship (and some people, usually women, can’t for very practical reasons) you have to learn to protect yourself. And refuse to allow others to judge you, because they don’t walk in your shoes. Not an easy life, but many don’t have easy lives.

    Comment by Anne — June 21, 2021 @ 5:56 PM

  20. This has many similarities to codependent relationships

    Comment by Rand Teed — June 22, 2021 @ 5:50 PM

  21. My comment is actually a question.
    Is this possible to happen as a child, before relationships happen? And what would they look like as an adult? Or even if it’s a relationship specific topic, is it possible to this do this before the current relationship? And then cause problems later on in other relationships?

    Comment by Emily Anne — June 23, 2021 @ 7:32 AM

  22. I believe this can happen in any relationship. I have seen it with parents and their children (think mommy’s boy). I don’t believe it is just in romantic relationships, that’s just the platform that was used in this article.

    Comment by Kelsey — June 27, 2021 @ 8:08 AM

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