I am a lot of things to different people. We all are. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my time studying communication, it’s that everyone follows different identity scripts through their various identities.
You interact differently as a student with your professor than you would versus talking to your mom, and you probably don’t exchange the same to your spouse. The list goes on and on throughout all your various roles, from intimate friends to stranger on the bus.
I’m painfully aware of the scripts that I follow, especially in areas where I restrict myself. One of my biggest examples is in the workplace; I’m quiet, almost wallflower-ish, especially when I start out. I listen more than I talk, and I feel uneasy or shy. It’s been that way for making adult friends, too. I’m reverting into the more extreme introverted side of myself, and it has been difficult to assess and address as it becomes more and more comfortable.
This is a major contrast with how I interact with people I know and love. I’m outspoken and opinionated, sometimes loud and always with a quick remark. I love to make people laugh and like to be the silly one in the group. A few weeks ago, my best friend didn’t believe me when I said I identify as an introvert; probably because she hasn’t seen me in a new public setting.
Identity Scripts in Marriage
I’m a firm believer that you should be able to be the truest version of yourself with your spouse. And if you’re not there yet, that needs to be a primary goal.
I’ve been with my husband since I was 16, and we know each other completely. We’ve seen and experienced each and every single one of our identities over the years and have been there first-hand as they’ve evolved. Some have stuck around, others have washed away. For example, being students were our main identities for several years, whereas now they’ve been replaced with things like “employees” or “spouse” as the primary.
Chad knows me as creative, silly, passionate, and stubborn. I know him to be caring, fun, and analytical. We know the most intimate parts of each other, that other realms of life don’t necessarily get to experience. It’s an honor and a privilege, but it’s not always easy.
I struggle most when my identity script must fit into certain parameters, and I don’t feel comfortable being my true self. This has happened a few times over the past few years when interacting with people outside our marriage.
Whether it’s been from a couple friends or even the odd family member, I’ve felt judged from time to time for various things; maybe for being silly, for my versions of self-care, for thinking differently, for caring about other things, for being liberal, or for having different passions. It’s never for big or jarring stand offs, just a few aesthetic differences here and there.
The judgment might come in small, subtle doses—like a deafening silence after I talk about my goals, not getting any follow up questions after I tell a story, or sometimes a question being asked about me rather than to me when I’m in the room; it’s never enough for me to be rationally upset, but it seems odd in the moment.
The problem, though, is that those interactions can add up, and in turn force me to slowly mute my personality, just so I don’t have to deal with those uncomfortable moments. I revert into the quiet and restricted side of myself, rather than the version that wants to shine and interact and take up the space I deserve. This isn’t the identity scrip I want for myself.
What’s the Solution?
This is one of those harder parts of marriage that doesn’t come with a handbook or “for dummies” headline. How do you approach this? More importantly, how does your partner help? Is there a fix?
For the time being, I’m not completely sure. However, after the last time I felt this way, I did end up sharing my feelings with Chad. It wasn’t an easy topic to approach, but immediately I felt better. He knows now that there are certain people that don’t always make me feel comfortable or invited. It’s not a them vs. me situation, but it is an environment that isn’t fair for me to take in huge doses.
And while there might not be a clear-cut answer for meshing my personality with others’ opinions of me, I have the support of my husband to do one thing: always be true to myself.
Even though there are some identity scripts that are out of my control, there are many that I get to write myself. As long as I am considerate, caring, compassionate, and kind, I’m on the right track. I refuse to dilute and add vanilla to my character, when I was made to shine.