People often feel that in many relationships they can’t be their authentic selves. They are either completely consumed or changed by the relationship or are worried that they will be rejected, or the relationship will not last.
My name is Abeda Ahmad. I am a relationship therapist and have over the years worked with hundreds of individuals and couples. This has given me a very useful insight into how individuals can easily lose themselves in relationships.
The 5 Important Dimensions to Relationships
There are five key dimensions to relationships, relationship with our self, relationship with Allah, relationships with family & friends, relationship with the society, and then the environment.
It is imperative to focus on each one of these aspects and recognize that if we solely focus on one then we can’t thrive and be content.
Our Relationship with Ourselves
It is important to recognize that the relationship with ourselves has to be vigorous and well balanced. Our internal dialogue has to be positive, nurturing, and encouraging. The reality is that the inner relationship sets the tone for all other relationships.
Loving and knowing yourself isn’t a narcissistic trait nor is feeling good about yourself a negative attribute. Those who don’t have a healthy relationship with themselves’ are often seeking refuge and solace in others.
A lot of people get trapped in the cycle of fixing their exterior but never realize that the issue is their negative relationship with the self. Having a nose job, a tummy tuck, braces in the late 20s, Botox fillers might be seen as aesthetic options to enhance self-confidence, but the reality is that if we don’t accept ourselves then no one else will and these interventions will yield very short-lived outcomes.
How to Not Lose Yourself in a Relationship?
So, to make sure that you don’t lose yourself in a relationship means that you have to love yourself, be-friend, enjoy your own company, believe in yourself, and know your self-worth.
Knowledge of our inner values, passions, likes, and dislikes allows us to attract people who will accept us for who we are and compliment us and will be on the same path and page whether it’s our spiritual growth, personal beliefs, or social ideas. Relationships that stem from this position can help us grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Your Relationship with Allah
Your relationship with Allah is one of the most important dimensions to explore.
If your relationship with Allah is based on negativity, anxiety, and fear, rather than hope, love, and knowledge that you will constantly seek validation from others.
Your relationship with Allah has to be the center of all attachments. You can’t have a balanced relationship with your parents, siblings, spouses, friends, work, or environment if your relationship with Allah isn’t healthy.
When we put Allah in the center, we realize that relationships are meant to be interdependent and not co-dependent. What this means is that relationships should be mutually beneficial and not one-sided, in a healthy and inter-dependent relationship both people feel energized, validated, and nurtured and both people can be their authentic selves.
A co-dependent relationship is what a drug addict has with substance, failing to let go due to the fear of not coping without it.
Working on creating a healthy relationship with self and Allah we can build sustainable relationships with our loved ones. Often, we see a struggle with balancing amongst the wife and mother, the husband or children, job, or home.
‘I can’t balance my relationships’
The lack of balance stems from the absence of good boundaries. It is essential to understand our roles, responsibilities, and inner values. It is vital to clarify what is Islamic and what is cultural as often we are bogged down with toxic and negative cultural practices which can make our relationships very burdensome.
We have to constantly remind ourselves that all relationships are meant for pleasing Allah so we can’t ever feel that a specific person is the source of all our joy and happiness.
Is True Love Real?
The notion of being all consumed and completely and utterly immersed by another person is unfortunately not healthy, realistic, or even sustainable. True love is dynamic and is always growing in nature and manifestation.
No two people can ever be the same, if you like something that your spouse doesn’t for instance if you like swimming or cycling, then carry on doing it, don’t give up just because the other person doesn’t like it.
You two have to have your own individual choices and preferences and you should have things that you like as a couple. Giving up on your formal self completely is where the problem will surface sooner or later breeding resentment and bitterness.
Our Relationships with Family and Friends
Our relationship with our family, friends, and extended family are important socially and spiritually both. We aren’t allowed to sever ties as Muslims and we can’t give one person’s rights to another. For example, our relationship and devotion to our parents cannot be replaced by our spouses neither can we ditch our friends once we find a husband or wife.
Reciprocity in different things from different people is what gives our personality the balance that it requires to thrive. Just as we can’t live off one type of food forever no matter how much we love it, we need a balanced social spread for our mental and emotional wellbeing too.
Our Relationship with our Environment and Surroundings
We tend to lose ourselves also when our relationship with our environment and surroundings isn’t grounded.
Have you noticed that on days when you are anxious and preoccupied with someone or something, you become totally oblivious of your surroundings and often disassociate from and neglect things around you?
So, while driving back from work if you are worried about your wife, husband, son, mum, or boss, you will not gaze at the clouds, flowers on the pavements, the sun, or the nice and cool breeze or the chirpy birds.
Not connecting with nature means we are only living in our thoughts and are not present which can increase anxiety, depression, or cause mental health issues. Connecting with our environment allows us to break the vicious and negative cycle of stress.
It also allows us to restore the balance and permits us to put things in perspective and not get into cognitive distortions where shaitaan pollutes our mind and makes us feel rubbish, helpless, and hopeless.
If we want to thrive in any relationship than we have to constantly be mindful of these 5 areas of attachment and make an effort to create inter-dependent relationships, with healthy boundaries.