In my mother's generation, when women married their identity often moved into the background, with them taking on the role of "Mrs. John Smith", not Mrs. Mary Smith, and certainly not Mary Smith. My mother signed everything as "Mrs. John Smith". First and foremost, that's who she was and how she saw herself.
This went one step further with the man of the house not only making most of the decisions regarding the family and home, but also being the one whom things were done to please. My mother cooked the foods my father liked. If he didn't like it, it wasn't served at our table, except at the rare times when he was away.
Both of my parents were depression-era farm kids. After being discharged from serving in the Navy during WWII my father worked for various businesses, eventually landing a job as a partsman in a farm implement dealership, and then in his thirties, reaching the point where he was able to buy his own dealership in a small town about 100 miles from where we had been living. Thus, he became a self-made businessman and did very well.
Dad's idea of what befit their upper-middle class status carried over into Mom's appearance. He preferred subdued colors for her clothing... beige, gray, brown, etc. She didn't own or wear pastels, bright colors or prints. Her hair was done in the "beauty shop" fashion of the day... curled and starched in a style that lasted all week long. I do not recall ever seeing my mother with her hair wet and down. Even if we were swimming at the lake, she stayed out of deep water so her hair wouldn't get wet! Dad liked her looking "sharp", maintaining that image was incredibly important to both of them. In fact, he felt that my choice to continue wearing my hair long and straight long after I was married was highly inappropriate. :-)
Whether it was food, furniture, cars, or clothing, what we did, or where we went on vacation, father chose. Mom's choices were limited to what flowers she planted, what was being baked on Saturday for Sunday's dinner, etc. She would not have thought of arguing about his preferences, and I now find myself wondering if she liked things that way too, or just went along with what he liked to please him.
I realized after I left my last ex that had fallen into her pattern... I cooked what he liked to eat. If I liked it, but he didn't, it wasn't served. He didn't like bright colors in house decor, and he hated light from windows. Everything had to be blocked off and dark. In fact he had our bedroom so well sealed off from light and air that mold began to take over from the dampness of the master bathroom. In fact at one point it was making me quite sick.
If he didn't like to eat at a certain restaurant or shop at a certain store, we didn't. If he wasn't interested in visiting someplace I wanted to go, we didn't go. Yes, I could have argued on any of it, all of it, and sometimes I did protest. But in the long run it wasn't worth it. If things didn't go his way he was miserable to be with and it was certain to be an unpleasant time. In later years, when his drug use increased, crossing him became fuel for violent outbursts that were scary and left our nice home battered and broken.
I remember one period of time where he was wanting to go to bed at 7 PM at night. I didn't get home from work until after 5, and wasn't tired. I wanted some evening relaxation/recreation time. He was furious and broke a door frame and a light switch making the point that it was lights out... NOW!! No negotiation or even rational discussion was possible in those days. I learned to keep my thoughts, feelings and preferences to myself.
By the time I escaped that marriage, I didn't even know who or what I was anymore. What did I like? What did I want? What did I enjoy? I had no idea, my identity was truly lost. It took a year of painful struggle to pick up the pieces of my life and reassemble them into something that began to reflect the re-emerging me. In fact that's what I called the blog I wrote back then... "Picking Up Pieces". How appropriate!
I consider myself to have a strong personality, but until the last few years, I was not nearly as bold in asserting what I wanted for my life. I married men who were masters of controlling behavior and verbal abuse, shredding my belief in myself, and warping what I saw as right and wrong. They told me I was worthless and unworthy and sadly, I grew to believe them.
I am so very blessed now, not only are John and I amazingly compatible in our likes and dislikes, so much so that we rarely disagree, but we also both realize the importance of each of us being able to express our own identities and enjoy some of the things we love individually. John chose beautiful pastel colors for the walls of our rooms... colors that I love too. His daughters were amazed he didn't chose something more subdued like mocha! All the windows flood the rooms with light, and are framed with only soft white sheers. I choose the things I like to wear, and he chooses his, and we appreciate each other's tastes. We enjoy most of the foods each other grew up with. He likes sauerkraut and I love grits! We are both homebodies and prefer to spend most our time with each other, but we allow each other the freedom of time off on our own too. Everyone needs to get away by themselves now and then!
When either of us wants to do something or purchase a larger item, we discuss it, talk about the pros and cons, but the bottom line is that we don't "parent" each other, we make our own decisions and also do things we enjoy independently... his is an active member of his Masonic Lodge, I am a devoted blogger. We don't share those activities, but we acknowledge the value they add to our partner's life. We each have our own bank accounts, and although we have both signatures on all accounts for emergency purposes, we don't monitor what or how the other spends, we pay the bills collectively. I think that everyone needs some spending money to call their own that they don't have to answer for! (Note: This does not mean hundreds of dollars disappearing for drugs or other addictions!)
If a person really loves you, they should love you AS YOU ARE, not as they wish you to be. We shouldn't marry with the goal of remaking our partner into our preconceived image, however "improved" we might perceive it to be. Relationships should be loving and accepting of who you are, after all, that's what attracted you to the person in the first place! If mutual love and respect are strong, the changing and growing that takes place through the years will strengthen the bond between you rather than weaken it. That's why it's important to choose someone with qualities and values that are important to you!
Take an inventory of your life and ask yourself how you express your individuality within your relationship, make sure that you get to be yourself, and do the things you enjoy... and try some of the things they like and do as well, you might develop some new favorites... like guns and grits! The important thing is to never allow anyone to completely extinguish the light of your own personality. Don't let them belittle or bully you into believing you are all "wrong" and need to change to suit them. Don't dwell in the shadow of another, come on out and let your own light shine!