This question does nothing less than break my heart and bring back horrible memories. You’re asking why, which I’ll try to touch on, but I think you’re also asking if you can do anything to change your situation as well.
First, why can’t you just be who you are in your marriage? I remember this so clearly. I remember feeling trapped in someone that I didn’t even recognize or like. I was trying to become someone that my partner wanted me to become, and yet, at the same time, I was completely railing against that and was turning into a really mean woman. And the fact that you’re asking this implies that there is something going on in your marriage that isn’t right.
Because in healthy marriages, you and your husband should both be able to be completely who you were created to be. I’m not saying healthy marriages are perfect and conflict-free, but I’m saying that they lack the components that abusive or addiction-fraught marriages do of control, manipulation, or deceit. And I’m also not saying that healthy marriages are when both parties are freely sinning up a storm, either. Healthy Christian marriages are made up of two sinners who are asking Jesus to help them become more like him every day.
In an abusive or addiction-riddled marriage, who you are takes a back seat to your emotional survival, to just getting through each day, to trying to figure out what’s really going on, to trying to stay safe and sane. That is why you can’t be yourself.
But, then, is there anything you can do about this, or are you destined to feel trapped, to feel like somebody else, to not like who you’ve become?
Yes, there is hope, sweet one. But this will take some courage and strength because it’s time to take a look in the mirror and it’s time to take a look at your marriage.
First, yourself. Here are some questions I want you to ask yourself:
When was the last time you read a good book that had to do with holiness or prayer or self-improvement?
Are you in counseling?
Are you attending a twelve-step group (like Celebrate Recovery or AlAnon)?
Are you attending church regularly?
Are you in a small group Bible study?
Do you have a mentor or coach?
Do you have what you would consider to be at least one or two close girlfriends?
Do you spend regular time alone with God, reading the Bible and praying?
Do you have a hobby?
Are you serving anyone outside of your immediate family?
Are you exercising, eating well, trying to get enough rest, up-to-date on your health appointments?
If you can answer yes to most of these, you’re on the right track and you are doing your part. If you answered no to even half of these, this is where you can start. No judgment…just grace and forward movement.
Secondly, your marriage. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your marriage:
When was the last time you read a good book on marriage?
Are you and your husband in counseling? Or if he refuses, are you in marriage counseling on your own?
Does your husband have an addiction? If so, does he admit it and is he in a recovery group?
Do you and your husband attend church together regularly?
Are you two in a couples’ small group?
Is your marriage an abusive one?
Depending on how you answered these, there might be rather large issues in your marriage that you cannot fix on your own. And you can expect a great deal of your energy going into emotional survival and image management. However, if you can answer yes to most of these, again, you’re on the right track. But that does raise a red flag: if you and your husband are doing all of these things and you still feel like you can’t be yourself, I would highly recommend bringing this very subject up to your counselor and beginning to work on that in depth.
God wants you to be who he created you to be, and he will give you the strength and resources to do that.
Take this marriage assessment to move forward in your healing.