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10 signs you are shrinking yourself in your relationship and the damage it can do



Couple hugging, male looking longingly while female looking down

Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect, support, and the freedom for both partners to be their authentic selves. However, sometimes individuals may start shrinking themselves—suppressing their own needs, desires, or personality traits—to accommodate their partner or the dynamics of the relationship. This can lead to significant long-term damage. The more you shrink yourself, the less connected you will feel to your partner and in the long term, this means that a lot of resentment is built.


Here are ten signs you might be shrinking yourself in a relationship and how each behaviour can harm your relationship over time:


1. Avoiding Conflict

Sign: You consistently avoid expressing your true feelings or opinions to keep the peace, fearing that disagreements might lead to conflict or upset your partner.


Long-Term Impact: Avoiding conflict can lead to a build-up of resentment and unaddressed issues. Over time, this can create a divide between you and your partner, resulting in emotional distance and a lack of true intimacy.


2. Suppressing Your Interests

Sign: You give up hobbies, interests, or activities you love because your partner doesn't share them or disapproves of them.


Long-Term Impact: Suppressing your interests can lead to feelings of unfulfillment and loss of identity. This can cause you to become unhappy and dissatisfied, potentially leading to resentment towards your partner.


3. Neglecting Your Needs

Sign: You regularly put your partner's needs and desires above your own, often at the expense of your well-being and happiness.


Long-Term Impact: Constantly neglecting your own needs can lead to burnout and emotional exhaustion. This imbalance can make you feel undervalued and can strain the relationship as your needs remain unmet.


4. Changing Your Appearance

Sign: You alter your appearance (clothing, hairstyle, weight) to fit your partner's preferences rather than your own.


Long-Term Impact: Changing your appearance for someone else can erode your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Over time, this can lead to feelings of insecurity and dissatisfaction with both yourself and the relationship.


5. Withdrawing from Others

Sign: You distance yourself from friends and family because your partner is uncomfortable with them or doesn't want you to spend time with them.


Long-Term Impact: Isolating yourself from your support network can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. This can create an unhealthy dependency on your partner and reduce the richness of your social life, making the relationship feel suffocating.


6. Constantly Seeking Approval

Sign: You find yourself frequently seeking validation or approval from your partner, doubting your self-worth without their affirmation.


Long-Term Impact: Relying on your partner for constant validation can undermine your self-confidence and lead to a lack of independence. This can create an unhealthy dynamic where your self-worth is contingent on your partner's approval.


7. Minimizing Your Achievements

Sign: You downplay or hide your successes and accomplishments to avoid making your partner feel inferior or to prevent them from feeling threatened.


Long-Term Impact: Minimizing your achievements can stifle your personal growth and ambition. Over time, this can lead to a sense of stagnation and dissatisfaction, and your partner may not fully appreciate your capabilities and contributions.


8. Compromising Values

Sign: You compromise your core values or beliefs to align with your partner's, even when it causes you internal conflict or discomfort.


Long-Term Impact: Compromising your values can lead to inner turmoil and a loss of self-respect. This can cause deep-seated unhappiness and conflict within the relationship as you struggle to reconcile your true self with the person you're trying to be.


9. Fear of Independence

Sign: You feel anxious or guilty about spending time alone or pursuing independent activities, fearing it might strain the relationship.


Long-Term Impact: A lack of independence can make the relationship feel suffocating and hinder personal growth. Both partners need space to pursue their own interests and maintain a sense of individuality for the relationship to thrive.


10. Suppressing your emotions

Sign: You regularly bottle up your emotions and refrain from expressing your true feelings because you worry about how your partner will react.


Long-Term Impact: Suppressing emotions can lead to emotional disconnection and a lack of genuine communication. Over time, this can erode trust and intimacy, making it difficult to build a deep and meaningful connection with your partner.


Conclusion

Recognizing these signs is the first step towards addressing the issue. It's essential to communicate openly with your partner and seek a balance that allows both of you to thrive individually and together. A healthy relationship should support your growth, happiness, and authenticity. Don't be afraid to assert your needs and maintain your individuality—doing so can strengthen your bond and enhance your overall relationship satisfaction.


Ioana Rotaru is a London-based CBT and EMDR Psychotherapist specialising in working with people with relational trauma who now want to improve their relationship with themselves and others. If you would like to explore addressing any of the issues in this article, please get in touch with Ioana at info@ioanarotaru.com for a free 15-minute consultation about how therapy might help.

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