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 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, someone I didn’t even recognize, someone I didn’t really like. 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)?
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?
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?
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 with a counselor or coach 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.
If this post helped you, and you would like to go further in your marriage healing, I would love to work with you. Here are my best resources:
Free marriage assessment
Free Detaching with Love webcast
Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage e-book
STARTING IN FEBRUARY! Marriage Methods e-course
If you are in a difficult marriage and you’re planning to stay put (at least for now) but want to learn how to stay in better and more whole ways, you are invited to spend three months honestly assessing your reality, your emotions and your role in your marriage, and learning tangible tools to help you feel better and relate better and stay closer to God through your pain in my e-course, Marriage Methods https://elisabethklein.com/product/marriagemethods/
STARTING IN FEBRUARY! Decision Time e-course
If you are in a difficult marriage and you are trying to determine whether to stay married or leave, you are invited to spend five weeks learning to detach with love, steadying your ever-changing emotions, and learn to think more clearly and biblically about your current situation and decision in my e-course, Decision Time: https://elisabethklein.com/product/decisiontime/
“…to just getting through each day, to trying to figure out what’s really going on, to trying to stay safe and sane…” – I remember being in this place and it is soul-sucking and lacking in freedom. I’m so thankful there is life beyond that season.
Beth, an excellent article. It clarified to me a lot, not only in my marriage, but also in my birth family, e.g. why I didn’t have the energy to live my life (because I used my energy to survive and endure all the evil…) God bless