When you have been with someone for so long, your identity can slowly become melded with theirs. You may take on their habits, you may find yourself liking the things they like. You might have done the things they wanted to do to make them happy. You can become like one person and your identity becomes ‘us’ rather than just ‘you.’
Equally, although relationships involve compromise, sometimes, over time, their voice can become a little louder in your head, a little more controlling. Maybe their voice begins drowning out your own. This can further obscure your identity as an individual.
So what happens when that person leaves you? It may lead you to confront one very honest question. Who am I?
I had been with my husband for 15 years, since I was a kid. We had grown up together. His humour became my humour, our outlooks became the same. I got him and he got me. Our lives had become interwoven, his memories were my memories. After he left so suddenly, it felt impossible to imagine a world where I was apart from him and even more impossible to imagine an identity for myself as just myself. So, who am I now?
Meeting my husband so young, I now found myself in my early thirties and not really knowing the things I truly liked. I didn’t really understand who I was now that the identity of ‘us’ had been yanked away. Before I met him, I was vivacious, an individual, with a strong sense of self. This seemed to have been lost along the way. Where had that girl gone?
I had put so much on the back burner during my relationship, in terms of the things I enjoyed doing before I met him. I seemed to evolve to make my husband my sole focus, I built my whole world around him, I gave him all of me and all of the things I once loved didn’t seem as important any more. When he left, he took everything with him because he was my everything.
My identity was as the wife. I was the homemaker, the joker, the conversation starter, the caregiver, the heart of the home. I was us. So who am I now?
In a separation or divorce there is also another level to deal with in terms of identity. Not only are we adjusting to the things that have been stripped away from our identity but we can also end up fighting to protect what little remnants of it we have left. Our sense of identity can take a real bashing when your ex-partner is working so hard to come out on top during the divorce; morally, personally, socially and financially. It may result in them tearing you down, in a desperate bid to build themselves up.
We may have new labels added to our identity during the divorce, by them and by others; liar, selfish, demanding, gold digger, desperate, spoilt, sly, manipulating, untrustworthy. With one word, another coat of filth and muck can be layered upon us, further disguising our true selves. So who am I now?
Then on top of everything, we may start to add labels to ourselves! The knocks to our self esteem can lead to us telling ourselves lies. I’m not enough, I’m weak, I’m ugly, I’m lacking, I’m not worthy, I’m not special.
Bit by bit our identity becomes unrecognisable and unfathomable.
It is so daunting, looking out to the big wide unknown and feeling so unsure about who we actually are. It can diminish the confidence we hold in ourselves as this confidence comes from our sense of self. It can make us question, am I able to get through this? Am I strong enough? Do I have what it takes?
One day, I spoke to a member of my family about this, I told them that I was frightened that I didn’t actually know who I was anymore, how I didn’t know who I was without my husband. They said something that will forever stay with me. They said, ‘Well, your identity is in Jesus. You are a child of God. That’s who you are.’
I can’t tell you the comfort I felt in hearing those words.
It gave me a sense of being rooted in something far greater, far more powerful and far more important than the earthly situation I was in.
My roots are in God. No one on this earth has the ability to strip that away from me. My husband may have tried to take my confidence, my security, my home but there is something far more important than all of that, which cannot be changed or pulled away from me, that is my identity in Jesus. I am loved by Him and I am His. The love of man might be fickle but His love is unwavering and never-ending.
This became the foundation on which I would rebuild. Rock solid, unshakable, unmovable, constant and unchanging. It was where I would start from. He would be my beginning, when everything felt like the end.
I am a child of God.
That is who I am. I know the rest will follow…