What Does It Mean When Your Lover Says, "I Need to Find Myself."

Updated on June 17, 2019
RedElf profile image

RedElf (Elle Fredine) photographer and published author, educator. Life-long learning is key to adding value to life.


Is Your Relationship in Trouble?

It's scary when someone in a relationship says, "I need to find myself." It makes you wonder what they really mean. Here are some possibilities, and some tips to help you handle it all.

Does the phrase, "I want to find myself" really mean, "I want out?"

Most experts agree that two-way communication is the key to a solid, long-lasting relationship. Certainly, love, mutual respect, honesty, trust, forgiveness, and passion can play a large role in any relationship, but without some way to communicate our thoughts, desires, and feelings to our partners, we won't last long.

If we can't actually tell our partner what's going on inside, we probably won't last long as a couple. It can be scary to confide in another person. Sometimes, we think our feelings are foolish, or unworthy. We don't want to be the one that's always seen as picking away at the relationship. Nobody wants to be seen as the 'whiny partner', the one who's always questioning, or seeking reassurance that everything's okay. But we need to be able to express those little niggling doubts.

We Need Clear Communication to Clear the Air

We don't need anyone else to validate our feelings - they are what they are, and we're entitled to feel them. But we do need to feel safe enough in the relationship, and confident enough in ourselves to be able to express them.

Non-verbal signals play a huge part in a couple's communications. Though sometimes those non-verbal signals aren't completely clear, verbal communications aren't always clear, either. Usually, if we're on the same page with our partner, we can figure out the real meaning pretty quickly. Some days, though, we feel like we've unwittingly strolled into a verbal mine-field, and we'd better decode the signals before something blows up in our faces.

He Loves Me? She Loves Me Not?


What Are the First Signs of Trouble? Red Flags?

It would be great if, in a kind, compassionate manner, we could all just say what we mean, and mean what we say. Most of us fall short of that. Some phrases though, should set off loud warning signals in your head when you hear them. For example, the phrases used in the following conversation:

A: "What's wrong, hon?"

B: "Nothing..." (Red flag #1) (Something IS bothering them - why not admit it?)

A: "No, really. I can tell something's wrong."

B: "It's nothing really... I'm just a bit ... I don't know..." (What don't they want to deal with?)

A: "Is there anything I can -"

B: "No, no, it's nothing to do with you - it's not about you! It's me!" (Red flag #2) (By insisting you are not any part of the problem, they are cutting you out of being any part of the solution.)

A: "What do you mean?"

B: "I really love/respect/like you, but I have to leave - I need to 'find' myself." (Kaboom!)

Is your relationship ready to blow up?
Is your relationship ready to blow up? | Source

What Does "I Need to Find Myself" Mean?

OK, this conversation rarely happens as neatly or as quickly as the example above. Sometimes your partner/special someone can take hours, days, weeks, or even months to finally spit out the phrase, "I need to find myself."

...and then what? Whet the heck does that even mean? They're not lost - they're sitting right in front of you! "Go look in the mirror," you tell them. However, looking in the mirror might have caused the whole problem.

Your special someone either doesn't like the person they see looking back at them and they are questioning their values, their potential, their beliefs, and their place in life, or they do like the person they see looking back at them, but they are still questioning their values, their potential, their beliefs, and their place in life, and feeling, somehow, stuck.

It can also mean they have already moved on to greener pastures - a new relationship - if not physically, at least emotionally. That is, they may be already thinking about moving on, and they may indeed have found someone to move on with, but they're not quite ready to let go of the current relationship.

Perhaps they don't want to hurt you, or they don't want to "be the bad guy" - the one who causes the breakup, but whatever the reason, you owe it to both of you to break down the communications barrier and figure out what's really going on.


A Brief History of "Finding Yourself"

The concept of finding oneself originated somewhere back in the mists of time, and refers to a rite of passage - a young man's quest to make his way in the world, to make his mark; to strike out on his own and go adventuring - to find out what kind of a man he can become.

In those days, only young men were expected to have quests. Women, as everyone knew back then (except maybe the women) were expected to find a good provider and joyfully raise a brood of happy, healthy children. And thankfully for us, a lot of them did - or we wouldn't be here.

But some young women did actually have quests and adventures, as we are beginning to see. *Hint: look up Artemisia Gentileschi, or Mary Cassat, both renown painters who did not lead lives typical of the women of their generation.

But I digress.

Finding Yourself Through a Hero Quest

In the best classical sense, the phrase "finding yourself" recalls romantic ballads, adventure sagas, such as "The Ballad of Child Roland" or the vision quests by King Arthur's knights of the round table. A man was somehow not a proper man until he had struck out on his own, far from family and friends, and followed his vision/quest/dream to its, or his, conclusion.

The idea of romantic questing still lingers. By the turn of the twentieth century, no young man or woman was considered finished until they had made at least one pilgrimage through Europe - a type of guided quest.

The Modern Way to Find Yourself

Finding yourself was popularized by the 'Beat Movement' in Twentieth-Century America. The poets, musicians, and artist of the 'Beat' generation advocated turning your back on comfortable society, and middle-class aspirations, and pushing your art and yourself to the limits to explore and know your world outside the confines and comforts of normal society - to get your hands dirty with living, and living rough if necessary. True art was made through trial and testing - only then did you have something worth saying.

The affluent middle-class youth in America of the 1960s and 70s took up the cry as they went off to college, and tuned in, turned, on and dropped out to 'find themselves' - well away from the pressures of convention, and parental authority.

Iconic 1960s TV Series

Finding Yourself on Route 66

The video above chronicled the adventures of two young men, traveling across America in their sports car.

The plot, according to the Google sidebar:

"After discovering that his late father has gone through most of the family fortune, Tod Stiles hits the title trans-America highway in his Corvette in search of adventure with friend Buz Murdock, a survivor of New York's mean streets. The two work odd jobs as they meet and interact with colorful characters and find themselves plunged into one situation after another, some of them romantic, some of them very dangerous. Later, Linc Case, a Vietnam war hero trying to find himself, takes over as Tod's travel companion."

Originally portrayed by George Maharis and Martin Milner, the Buz and Tod were the epitome of young men in search of themselves - heroes on a quest to save maidens, vanquish dragons, and make their mark on the world.

Popular shows of that era included "Peter Gin', "The Naked City" and "The Twilight Zone", "Run For Your Life", and "The Fugitive". You can feel the jazz/beatnik era flavor in theme music of all those series. The yearning cadences certainly capture the feeling of restless energy and searching.

What Does It Mean for Your Relationship?

In the long term - who knows what this will mean? In the short term, though, the outlook is not good. Usually this phrase heralds major changes - a breakup, a breakdown - definitely, someone is leaving.

If your partner has suddenly just blurted this out, or has come haltingly to this admission, you can be sure it has been on their mind for some time - perhaps before you even met.

You both have a choice to make now. You can either prop up the relationship, and try to limp along, bravely maintaining that this is a passing phase, or you can face up to it together, and help your partner articulate (if he/she can) what's going on inside.

There is always the chance that your special someone is dealing with demons from the past, or wrestling with deep insecurities. You may be able to help your partner work through the issues, and your relationship will be stronger for it.

Is This Really the End?

Often, though, the phrase "I need to find myself" is another way to say, "I want out"

If you have invested some time and effort in this relationship, and feel you can weather any storm, then fight on, hang on, and work through it. Be warned, it will take a strong effort on both parts to succeed. And one of the risks it that you are just putting a band-aid on what is really a serious wound.

You can paste on your happy face, give your partner space and time, resolve not to push or pry, but is that really helping the situation? Only you can truly judge. And only you can decide how much more effort your'e willing to put in.

You can't do the work alone though, and if you are really honest with yourself, then you will know, deep down, if this is a passing thing or if your special someone is finally ready to admit they don't want to be your special someone any longer.

In that case, this may be merely the tip of the relationship-iceberg, and you have a choice to make - maybe a hard one. You can go down like the Titanic, or pack yourself into a lifeboat. Breaking up is always hard to do, and especially when you still have feelings for each other, but it is better to part friends (if possible) and look forward to better days.

Of course, you can always just kick the bum to the curb, buy a new dress, get your hair done, and start over! I'm sticking with cats for now - they always tell me exactly what they want, they don't fuss if I go out with my friends, and they never hog the TV remote.

You Go, Mitzi!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

  • When your partner tells you they need to self evaluate. What does that mean?

    It could mean your partner is going to take a hard look at whatever has been troubling you or them - if there are issues in your relationship. It sounds like they are not open to outside input just now. Your partner might feel the need to do some soul-searching, or asses the situation on their own, without outside help.

    It might also be an indication they feel a bit overwhelmed by your or someone else's suggestions.

    Whatever the case, you need to honor their request. Hopefully, once they have had a chance to examine things on their own, your partner will be willing to engage and share once again.

© 2012 RedElf


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    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      12 months ago from Canada

      @Brad - I'd go to the source and ask her. It's an unusual response, but it sounds to me as if she's unhappy about something you're doing or not doing.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      What does it mean if your girlfriend says she needs you to find yourself

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      21 months ago from Canada

      That's so sad. Hope things turn around for you with time.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      21 months ago from Canada

      That's how you feel. Sorry to hear your love life's not going well right now. Hopefully, as you heal, your life will get better.

    • profile image

      Paschal Davids 

      21 months ago

      Story of my life at the moment

    • profile image


      21 months ago

      100% story of my life at this moment and it makes me feel like no one has the right to ever tell someone they love them and in future decide to leave their relationship. My opinion, they literally do not know the meaning of the word "LOVE". Respectfully saying, they are no different from murderers and I apologise if I sounded too blunt.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      22 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Relationships are tricky. I say that as someone married almost 46 years to same guy. Interesing read thanks RedElf

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      23 months ago from Canada

      I hear your pain, Abraham. Maybe your special person wasn't as deeply invested in the relationship. Who knows? But you need to deal with yourself, not your ex-partner. You need to feel your pain before you can move through it. I don't mean wallow, but acknowledge it hurts. And be kind to yourself.

      Try getting out with other friends, get involved in something outside of yourself.

      And give yourself some time. It gets a bit better everyday. If we let it. And if nothing's working for you, talk to your friends, get help from a counsellor.

    • profile image

      Abraham Clinton 

      23 months ago

      I feel like am living the hardest days of my life. I am seriously not able to sleep, eat and concentrate in my work. Each time i try to forget the relationship, I fail. But he forgot everything easily and he moved on. i dont even have guess, how could a person possibly be like this!!? How can they play with feelings... I wish I could know how to forget him and move forward in my life.

      someone please advise me!!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Canada

      And in answer to you David - this is a great example of lack of trust - and that can lead to relationship breakdown as fast as anything. your partner may or may not be doing. The idea of knowing what your partner is saying in his or her private conversations may be appealing... but this kind of snooping and clear lack of trust will only set you up for a fall - a hard one.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Canada

      This comment was posted by newcomer, david sherpard

      100 minutes ago. I have copied it without the web address:

      i am so suprised right now it is almost lie a miracle what this hacker (Address deleted) can do he can spy your spouse phone like what he helped me do he helped me hack my wife phone and i just started seeing all her messages on my phone i am so suprised

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Canada

      Happy Easter, Bill. That's so sad, but I couldn't agree more. Easy to see sometimes, but hard to do.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I actually had a friend who got a divorce for exactly this reason. She was devastated that her husband had not been open and honesty with her, and assumed that it was his problem and she had nothing to do with it....sad, really....communication, even if it hurts one or both, is the key I think.

      Happy Easter to you!

    • FullOfLoveSites profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      "I need to find myself" - one of the most annoying break up lines. It should be better if they say it straight off even if it really damn hurts.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Canada

      Too true, Tycoon Sam! I couldn't have said it any better. I have always wondered how that expression came about, because it seems those folk who need to "find themselves" are really are leaving in search of adventure, or a new experience - which would actually help them "create" themselves.

    • TycoonSam profile image


      7 years ago from Washington, MI

      People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates.

      Thomas Szasz

      Great Hub!

      Voting up

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Canada

      I wholeheartedly concur, kashmir! Thanks for the vote up!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      This is a very interesting hub,I think instead of saying i need to find myself they should just come right out and say this relationship is just not working, instead of beating around the bush.

      Vote up ans more !!!

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Rfordin, I have learned a lot of things on my own as well - things that have served me well in the next relationship. I think the day we stop learning is the day we start to die, but I also believe there is room in a good relationship for that kind of self-discovery. Glad you enjoyed the fun.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      ROFL - that was my sister's response, too! ...and mine, I'm afraid. There are some things sadder than an unexamined life, and that is a life of avoidance.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      That's the whole point, greeneryday. I absolutely agree - the phrase can mean almost anything we want it to. A good place to start is with honesty, and with saying what you mean.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Me too, drbj! Neil makes breaking up sound almost like fun - certainly not the heart-wrenching, hormonal battlefield it can often be.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      'Find himself?' I prefer a straighter comment such as, "I don't want this relationship anymore." Otherwise, I might be tempted to help him contract amnesia so he'd have to remember himself before he found himself.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      NikiDiva, we hope that is done or is being worked on before we get into a relationship - at that point, I think "I need to find myself" is often just a cop-out.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      I love that - "no airport carousel" - I have little patience with such things these days, too, Arlene.

    • Rfordin profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      I'm not sure what to make of this as I'm always the one "looking to find myself" (a way out). I tend to deal with things on my own and shun my poor partner in the process. It often leads to a break-up but usually in between the time we "break-up" I am able to figure out some nifty things about myself (even if it is that I'm better off w/o so and so). Interesting in a comical, infromative type way. Thanks for sharing.


    • greeneryday profile image


      8 years ago from Some tropical country

      "I need to find myself" could mean anything, "I need to be alone for a while" could the one, whatever that means, I think we need to clarify what our partner have in mind, I could not afford playing guessing game what it is in someone else mind.

      Sometimes I could not even understand myself, so I would ask my partner better to speak up as clear as possible so I know what is really going on and try to figure how to fix things up... it is a matter of making a clear communication...telling truth... maybe bitter...but straight to the point...

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      If I heard that refrain, Elle, I think I would be quick to say, 'Here's your hat, what's your hurry?" Enjoyed your dissection of the 'finding oneself' phrase and 'Breakin' Up is Hard to Do' has always been one of my favorite tunes.

    • NikiDiva profile image


      8 years ago from Atlanta, Ga

      I need to figure me out and become my own identity and not just compromise myself and what I like for the person I'm with.

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 

      8 years ago

      I turned 54 this year, and I have enough wisdom to know when a relationship isn't working. If a man can't keep up with me, I don't want him. Excess baggage comes in all forms, and I'm no airport carousel at this late date.

    • RedElf profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Canada

      Very clever, Attikos - I think you got that in one.

      All the time in the world, billybuc! - though you have certainly dodged the bullet so far... Thanks for your discerning and decisive analysis! As always, clear communications :D:D:D

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well my friend, I'm happy to say I have never heard that line in any relationship. Of course, I'm only sixty-three, so I still have time! :)

      Entertaining hub that could be funny, could be serious, but certainly was interesting. No, no could be about it...it was funny and serious.

    • Attikos profile image


      8 years ago from East Cackalacky

      "I need to find myself."

      translation: "I need to lose you."


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