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Your Special Someone says, "I need to find myself." What does this really mean?

Updated on December 21, 2017
RedElf profile image

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

Is your relationship in trouble?

Does the phrase, "I want to find myself" really just 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.

Non-verbal signals play a huge part in couples communications, though sometimes those non-verbal signals aren't completely clear, but 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..

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

Certain phrases raise red flags

It would be great if, in a kind, unhurtful 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.

Let's have some clarity...


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 the best classical sense, the phrase 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.

Finding oneself 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.

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 really just 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. But 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 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!

© 2012 RedElf


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    • FullOfLoveSites profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 4 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 image

      RedElf 5 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

      TycoonSam 5 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 image

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

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

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 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 image

      RedElf 5 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 image

      RedElf 5 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 image

      RedElf 5 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 image

      RedElf 5 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 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      '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 image

      RedElf 5 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 image

      RedElf 5 years ago from Canada

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

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 5 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

      greeneryday 5 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 5 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

      NikiDiva 5 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 5 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 image

      RedElf 5 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 5 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 was funny and serious.

    • Attikos profile image

      Attikos 5 years ago from East Cackalacky

      "I need to find myself."

      translation: "I need to lose you."