Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

"You can't have a relationship with someone until you know who you are".

(26 Posts)
akaWisey Fri 26-Apr-13 16:07:03

A male colleague whom I respect and trust very much said this to me yesterday during a discussion.

I'm thinking about that and what it means to me.

What do other people think about that idea? And - how do you know who YOU are?

Thank you.

akaWisey Fri 26-Apr-13 16:08:14

Actually he said "you can't have the relationship YOU WANT until you know who you are".
Sorry - Friday afternoon and all that!

AnyFucker Fri 26-Apr-13 16:10:32

I think it's a bit of psychobabble codswallop

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 26-Apr-13 16:11:57

Sounds like reasonable advice. I was only thinking today how being single is too often seen as something scary or even a sign of failure when it can be a chance to really get to know yourself. How many people go rushing into the whole boyfriend/girlfriend, fiance, marriage sausage machine, putting themselves under pressure to be 'with someone', only to wake up a few years down the track knowing it was a big mistake?

Having said that, I think one of the nice things about being in a relationship is that you find out a bit more about yourself. So perhaps the advice could be refined to 'don't get into a relationship with someone unless they respect you for who you are and help you be the best you can be?'

Dahlen Fri 26-Apr-13 16:17:59

I think most people know who they are, it's the value they place on that which causes problems.

Someone with low self-esteem won't fight hard enough to keep their identity, whereas someone with an overblown sense of entitlement will dominate a relationship unhealthily. Someone who accepts their faults and is willing to work on them but otherwise demands respect is probably going to have a much healthier relationship.

DolomitesDonkey Fri 26-Apr-13 17:31:44

Very sage.

When I was messed up it seemed the world was full of abusive losers. Following 5 years of excellent therapy I found myself literally falling over very, very dateable men - to the point that it "surprises" me when I hear it said "there are no men" - or variations thereof.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 26-Apr-13 17:38:35

@Dolomites.... I'm sure you didn't mean to imply that you have to be a messed up woman to attract an abusive loser of a man. Plenty of strong, independent, 'together' women have been taken in by abusive types.

Reminds me of the bit in the Bible wheren it says love thy neighbour AS THYSELF. People forget about the second bit, but actually, it's since I've started loving myself that I've been able to have far healthier relationships with others and, I have found, as Dolomites has, men find it a very desirable quality in a woman

Offred Fri 26-Apr-13 18:49:05

I don't think you can reasonably expect to create a legal commitment (marriage/civil partnership) that is going to work in the long term to a partner unless you know who you are. But this expectation of the longevity of exclusive commitment i.e. life time would override this entirely as who you are changes a fair bit over time.

ecclesvet Fri 26-Apr-13 19:17:31

I've never really understood what 'being yourself', 'finding yourself', 'knowing who you are', etc means, in practical terms, but I eventually boiled it down to meaning that you know your likes, dislikes, good points, bad points, etc. I suppose it would be better to go into a relationship already having these points down, rather than feeling them out as you go along.

DolomitesDonkey Fri 26-Apr-13 19:18:12

Cogito I think many, many strong, independent women appear to be so - but on some level don't quite believe it themselves. Abusive men hone in on these insecurities. Of course nobody, but nobody asks for nor deserves abuse. But abusive men are, imo, rarely attracted to women so secure in themselves that they walk rather than engage in the game.

DolomitesDonkey Fri 26-Apr-13 19:20:16

PS Cogito - I admire your work greatly, and I'm "sure you didn't mean to" use mumsnet's #2 most popular passive-aggressive phrase! wink

Otoh, it's a fine example of low-level abuse which can make the other personal feel manipulated - so perhaps you were using it as a case-study? grin

SundaysGirl Fri 26-Apr-13 20:27:38

I am not sure about that phrase in particular because 'who you are' changes and evolves so much over time.

But I think having a good sense of what is healthy for yourself, what will work for you and what your needs are in a relationship is useful.

That was pretty woolly..but it is kind of hard to boil these complexities down to one phrase I think!

Dahlen Fri 26-Apr-13 21:53:36

Dolomites, I wish it were that simple. I am a very secure, independent person with no self-esteem issues. I still ended up with an abuser. The fact that I was so independent and wouldn't put up with any bad behaviour had an effect on him. His grooming period took years rather than weeks or months, and the level of abuse was significantly reduced (I found out after leaving him that he had been shockingly physically violent to previous partners, whereas with me he waited 6 years until I was pregnant before becoming abusive and then only psychologically). However, I still ended up with him. So I don't think it's fair to say abusive men aren't attracted to strong women. I think quite a few relish the challenge of a 'strong' woman TBH.

Is it lame to link to a poem? I used to teach this one every year and I think it says exactly what you're talking about. There were always a couple of kids who really related to it.

Love after Love

I think he has a good point. Women, especially young ones, are under quite a bit of pressure to engage in couple-relationships and prioritise Finding A Man and Keeping Him Happy, which often means that their lives become all about The Man rather than about themselves.

DolomitesDonkey Sat 27-Apr-13 05:49:07

Dahlen But he waited until you were pregnant and then he indulged in his behaviour when I'm guessing your defences are down. Personally I had all the fight of a sponge when I was pregnant. But you said you walked anyway. It took 6 years for his behaviour to manifest itself because you were in a vulnerable position and you left. He "lost".

The "self-help" classic Robin Norwood's "Women Who Love Too Much" has a lot of info about this - it is a bit woo being for the American market - but it's an interesting read.

NotConnie Sat 27-Apr-13 08:40:58

Well I'm now in my early 50's and I've changed a lot since I was younger, even 10 years ago I'm different to the person I was then.
And I discover new things about myself frequently, so no I don't agree with him and it sounds a bit like 1970's TA shite to my ears.

However, I would say that you can't have a great relationship until you've got most of the other areas of your life sorted out.
Good friends, a reasonable amount of self-confidence, and enough self esteem to know what your boundaries are and to stick with them. That's my recipe for being ready for a great relationship.

OddBoots Sat 27-Apr-13 08:45:30

I've been very happily married for 15 years and I'm still not certain exactly who I am.

In fact I know in a lot of ways who I am carries a reflection of what I am doing and who I am with, being part of a couple, being a parent, the job I am doing, illness and disability have and will continue to shape me.

Dahlen Sat 27-Apr-13 08:51:46

OddBoots - I think that's a very good point. Our lives and behaviour can change over time depending on what's going on in our lives. However, our basic personalities tend to stay the same. When we say "who I am" I think we often mean "my sense of direction in life - where I'm going, where I want to be, how I propose to get there". Thats a lot more difficult to define. Quite often when we feel a bit directionless we feel like we don't really know ourselves, but we haven't changed as much as we're suffering a crisis of self-worth because we feel lacking in goals and motivation.

HidingFromDD Sat 27-Apr-13 08:57:26

I think it's true actually. In my case I met my exh at 18, (after a difficult childhood with an NPD mother), and was so grateful for the love that I spent the next 25 years moulding myself into the person I thought he wanted, and ended up miserable and depressed because of it.

I left (long story), and entered into a three year on/off relationship where I spent the time trying to be the person I thought he wanted, in the process I lost the person he was attracted to in the first place!

It's taken me quite a while to figure out who 'I' am without someone else's expectations. eg, I like to write, that's my real hobby, it's not DIY, or house remodelling, or sport, or triathlons - although I can do all of those and enjoy them, I write.

I'm now at a stage where I think I'm ready to date again. I saw someone for three months recently. Whilst it was lovely and he was a really nice person, there were some fundamental things that I was compromising on that I knew meant it wouldn't work and so I ended it. I did start to go through the 'present myself as the person he wants' phase though - but recognised it early enough to stop it this time.

That was a bit long - sorry blush

Dahlen Sat 27-Apr-13 09:00:17

Hiding - don't apologise. That was a lovely, positive and insightful post. smile

ItsYoniYappy Sat 27-Apr-13 09:01:54

Ah this old question [scared]

Someone asked me last year:

Who are you? Take away the clothes, makeup, house, dc, pets, car and who are you really Yappy?

[freaked out emoticon]

I have no answer as yet!

MissAnnersley Sat 27-Apr-13 09:03:24

Sometimes, when you know who you are you realise the very last thing you want is a relationship.

OrWellyAnn Sat 27-Apr-13 09:13:12

knowing yourself is difficult, we are all the product of the relationships and interactions we have with others. I'm going through a lot of soul searching at the moment in relation to my childhood and only now in my 40's realising which bits of me are really me and which are the mouldings of my parents and their own hang ups. Interestingly for me it has been the security of my relationship with DH that has allowed this exploration, he has given me the space and love to know myself better in a gentle environment.
Prior to his coming into my life I had sworn off all men who I had to change myself for though, so I guess I'd say that 'you can't have a relationship with someone until you know what behaviour you will and won't accept from others' is more accurate for me! I decided I deserved respect and to be loved for me, who I was then and who I would become.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now