6 Reasons You Lose Yourself in Relationships

by Caroline van Kimmenade

Losing yourself in relationships is no fun. It can start out as a fantastic whirlwind of mutual connection, but over time it turns into sacrificing yourself for the “good” of the relationship.

In short, you can’t have a functional, healthy lasting relationship unless you are able to maintain a strong sense of inner independence.

If you merge into the other person, and their world completely becomes your world, then your partner has nobody to connect with. You “dissolved” into the relationship and hence you cease to exist.


Hand drawn illustration of two Highly Sensitive People holding each other and dissolving into the relationship



When you started dating (or befriending), you were an individual: not identical to anyone else, with your own interests and concerns. You didn’t yet know what was expected of you in the relationship, so you couldn’t perfectly conform to that ideal, even if you wanted to.

But once you get to know someone better, it becomes more and more clear: what they need and want from you, what they struggle with, what they expect, what makes them happy and what ticks them off.

In other words, the better you get to know someone, the bigger the temptation to become who they would want you to be.

When I say that, I don’t mean radical make-overs (like the terrible example of Grease. Sandy, what are you doing!).

What I do mean is that when you don’t know someone, and they ask your opinion, the only thing you can base that on is your own opinion. Yet, once you know what they think of something, it becomes much easier to “dilute” your own stance to make it more similar to theirs, all in order to maintain a sense of peace and connection in the relationship.

This is how you start to lose yourself.

In this article, I will outline 6 ways you can lose yourself more and more in a relationship. When you recognize these ways, you can start to do something about it.


1. You Question and Undermine Yourself


You tell yourself things like:

  • “What I need isn’t really important”
  • “I don’t know as much about this topic as they do, so I better keep my mouth shut”
  • “It’s not worth fighting about”
  • “My partner (or friend) won’t understand, so there’s no point bringing it up / complaining”
  • “I guess I’m just wrong”
  • “Why can’t I be normal?”
  • “I’m just weird”
  • I’m just too sensitive


2. You’re not connected to your feelings


When you’ve learned to treat feelings as annoying intrusions that derail the logical and right path, then it’s just a matter of time before you get really, really lost.

They tell you about what makes you happy and what makes you sad. They let you know when you’re stressed out and not feeling safe. They let you know about what truly nourishes and inspires you, versus what drains and depletes you.

Being able to feel and understand your own feelings, and what they are trying to tell you is crucial in order to not lose yourself in a relationship. They are your anchor and your bearings: letting you know how and where you need steer.


Really really getting what your feelings are trying to tell you requires having the right framework first! Chances are, people taught you your feelings are just burdensome gibberish, but they’re not! And they will keep hollering until you hear them in the right way. If you’d like to find out more, check out my many many “difficult feelings” resources in the Happy Sensitive Library.


3. You Avoid Conflict


This is the dance equivalent of having “spaghetti arms”. You can’t dance with someone if your arms are all floppy. There needs to be some tension in your arms. Your partner can only guide you on the dancefloor if they have something solid to work with. Relaxed yet strong arms means your partner knows where you are at, and can feel how to navigate you in the dance.

If you’ve never done couple dancing, think of it like the difference between trying to pick up a rock, versus trying to pick up a piece of jello.

The jello is soft and kind and easy going… and impossible to pick up unless you kind of scoop it into your hands (and then it will still ooze out). The rock might be less “nice” but it’s easy to work with: it’s solid, clear and easy to pick up and put down again, without smearing it all over the place.

When it comes to being kind and compassionate in a relationship, the model our mind jumps to is often “jello”. Surely that’s the nicest substance to be! The rock is less popular: “oh, too jarring, too edgy, too heavy…” but the rock “works” better.

In relationships, the tension is the spark. It’s when you butt heads and hearts in small ways that you are reminded that you are two individuals. When someone bumps up against your edges, they are reminded that you are your own person, with your own feelings and ideas. You are not relationship jello that will just ooze wherever there is a gap to fill.


When you feel tension, do you want to smoothe it over a.s.a.p. to keep the peace and make everything feel better? You’re not alone! This is a common tactic for HSPs, but as you can see above, it backfires! This tendency takes away the spark of attraction and can also get you walked upon! This is such a huge and pervasive struggle for us Highly Sensitive People that I taught a special class on it called Tension Tactics for HSPs. Find out more about it here, inside the Happy Sensitive Library.




4. You Don’t Set Boundaries


Many HSPs who lose themselves in relationships will tell me that they are constantly telling their partner what they need and how things make them feel. Yet, it’s all just talk.

Boundaries mean consequences. Sure, you can explain your stance, but if it’s not backed up by a consequence, it’s essentially meaningless. If you are waiting for your partner to agree with you before you will create a consequence, then that is not a boundary, it’s a lack of them. A boundary is not about permission from other people.

A boundary needs to be set from the inside out, based on what truly does and doesn’t work for you. It means if someone keeps calling you after 10 pm, and you don’t want them to call you that late, you stop telling them about it and simply stop picking up the phone. The real communication lies in what you do and not in what you say.


5. You Kind of Like it This Way


Sure, you hate turning into the sacrificial lamb, but you also kind of like being able to “hide” in the relationship. When it’s all about your partner, you don’t have to deal with you.

Here’s the thing: if you want real intimacy, real closeness, you need to be close to yourself first. This is what self love and self care are really about!

Just like you can’t love someone else when you keep them at arms’ length, someone else can’t love you when you keep yourself at arms’ length. You can’t have a healthy relationship when you’re trying to hide and erase yourself.

Have you ever tried to comfort-hug someone who then pushed you away? They were on the brink of tears and didn’t want to be touched. Not even a gentle hand on their shoulder. How strange! Except, it’s not. When someone has low self esteem, when they try to numb their pain and ignore
their own needs, they don’t want anyone else to come close either!

You see, we all have hidden, shadow parts. These are the parts of us that we are ashamed of. We don’t want anyone to see them. We don’t really understand those parts of ourselves and are uncomfortable with them. The moment someone else tries to “love” those shadow parts in us, all our shame surfaces full-force. It feels terrible. It doesn’t feel comfortable or loving at all.

So when you’re in a relationship with someone who is distant, who doesn’t see you, who doesn’t make it about “you” it could very well be that this part of you that craves to be loved, is a part of you that you’re not comfortable with at all.

You don’t notice your lack of self love, because you’re so busy worrying about why your partner doesn’t love you. But the truth is, if they did love and see you, you’d be very uncomfortable!

For that hurting part of you to actually be seen, respected and loved would be (initially) very uncomfortable. All kinds of old icky baggage would surface. So it’s actually easier to be with someone who doesn’t connect with you at all on those points. That way, those shadow parts stay hidden.

What can happen from there though is that you start blaming your partner for not loving / honouring / respecting you. If this is a pattern, you need to ask yourself: “How is this serving me? How am I also rejecting myself? How can I work on my self love and self care?”

Even if you have a terrible partner, focusing all your attention on how they should change, will do you no good if you – deep down – are more comfortable hiding your shadow parts.

You need to know and be connected to you, before someone else can get to know and connect to (the real) you. To have a healthy relationship with a truly loving partner, you need to be in healthy relationship with yourself first.


Are you open to being loved? Are you open to receiving love? I’ve developed a simple practice to help you feel more loved, and as a result, be more open to receiving love. It’s called the More Love Class and you can find it inside the Happy Sensitive Library here.



5. You Are Very Sensitive to Energy


… and you don’t have any tools for sorting out what is what. So when things get intimate, you get thoroughly confused (even if points 1-4 don’t apply to you).

Healthy boundaries for you are about more than what you say and do. They also require signicant energy know-how. If you and your partner try your utmost to be assertive and be separate individuals, but you are energetically blending together… then you still end up with a big dose of unhealthy people pleasing.

When you are very sensitive to energy, self care also involves taking care of your subtle energy boundaries.

I talk more about this in this article and there is help for that in this programme.


6. You are Terrified of Being Alone


I’m not saying you should feel amazing on your own. What is important to note though is that if you have a lot of experiences of being abandoned, chances are, all that feeling of abandonment is still inside of you. It’s building bigger and bigger over time, so much so that you become terrified of adding to it. It’s like you can’t handle one more drop of abandonment, because it just brings up that old huge pool of abandonment pain.

So then, you merge, you blend, you avoid anything that would mean separation, even for a moment. And as a result, you drive other people insane and claustrophobic… leading to, getting abandoned. Or you end up working way too hard at connecting and as you are making all this effort.. deep down you feel abandoned. You feel abandoned because the other person doesn’t give back.

If this is happening to you it’s time to hit pause on improving relationships and work through those old feelings instead. This means actually feeling them and letting them move through and out so that that whole huge pool of abandonment drains out.

You need space to handle the inevitable pain that comes with relationships. If you’re filled to the brim with old pain, you will end up becoming incredibly easy to hurt and you’ll lose your footing over the smallest thing. Yet, if you have enough space inside of you, inevitable pain can be like a small drop in an ocean: not pleasant, but relatively easy to deal with.


What now?


Set up a Clarity Call with me here if you notice you tend to lose yourself in relationships and you’re not sure why or what to do about it. Merging too much is very common for Highly Sensitive People and Empaths. It’s easy for us to do. It comes to us naturally. Staying more separate doesn’t.

Staying separate is not automatic. You need to know the exact nitty gritty steps to take: what to focus on, how this feels in your body, how to practice this. Because intuitively, it just feels like a mysterious elusive thing that other people somehow know how to do (for those other people, merging and blending is an elusive, odd thing!).

There is no one-size fits all. There are many different reasons why you might be blending and losing yourself. The strategies that work for you need to be tailored to who you are and what makes sense for you. In a Clarity Call, you can tell me about what you notice in your own relationships and we can devise strategies that suit you.




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