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

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

Your partner saying "I need to find myself" can mean a lot of things and this article will help you figure out what it might all mean.

Your partner saying "I need to find myself" can mean a lot of things and this article will help you figure out what it might all mean.

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.

Red Flags: What Are the First Signs of Trouble?

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!)

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.

The concept of finding oneself originated somewhere back in the mists of time, and refers to a rite of passage to find out what kind of a person someone can become.

The concept of finding oneself originated somewhere back in the mists of time, and refers to a rite of passage to find out what kind of a person someone can become.

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 20th-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.

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.

"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."

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 you're 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.

Some Serious Help for Your Relationship

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

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

Answer: 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