Identity vs. Identity Confusion and Their Role in a Relationship.


Why some people form strong, long lasting relationship with their partners, and others look their entire life, and even when they seem to find someone they have strong feelings for, it doesn’t last? I discovered an interesting perspective on this subject. The purpose of this particular article is to give an idea of a potential reason, but not necessarily a solution. Inability to form a stable relationship might have to do with an Identity Confusion.

I borrowed the concept of an Identity and Identity Confusion from Erik Erikson’s theory of a personality development. Erikson was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst. He believed that true love for another person ( men to women and vice versa), is based on the mutual trust and intimacy. “Intimacy-is an ability to fuse one’s identity with that of another person WITHOUT fear of losing it.” Intimacy can be achieved only after people have formed a stable self-identity. Self-identity- is a clear understanding of who we are and what role in life we have. A lot of times, people confuse infatuation, which is not a true intimacy, but rather a very intense sexual desire, with love. It happens because people fail to form a stable strong self-identity and either isolate themselves emotionally, or seek intimacy through meaningless sexual connections. Mature love,on the other hand, according to Erikson, means commitment, sexual passion, cooperation and friendship. However, love also must contain some isolation to save a separate identity of one partner from that of another.

According to Erikson, self-identity forms during adolescence (period between puberty and young adulthood). We learn who we are through trying different roles on, and choosing what is important to us. This is a period of a great potential, but it involves an identity crisis:we get confused of who we are, where we belong, or what are our beliefs. Things we believed in during our childhood are challenged by beliefs of a new social group. When a conflict between values happens, we have an identity confusion. Identity confusion is a divided self-image, inability to form intimacy, and a rejection of family or community standards. Too much of an identity confusion may lead to a pathology of the Adolescence Stage of development, such as postpone of responsibilities of adulthood, constant change of jobs, change of sex partners, and lack of consistency in ideological beliefs.

If the balance between identity and identity-confusion exists, than we learn to trust people (Fidelity) with their advises to us, we form understanding of where and what we are, and we know what we want. We must learn to trust others before we can trust ourselves. At the same time, having some of the identity confusion encourages us to evolve as a person, and even challenge social norms that need to be revised and changed. Trust to others is vital as a component of a healthy stable relationship between men and women, and is a prerequisite for a true intimacy and love.

When the balance between an identity and identity-confusion is thrown off, the Role Repudiation takes place. People become unable to understand who they are and what role they have in life, and either they lose confidence in themselves, and become shy and hesitant, or they rebel against social norms for the sake of rebellion. People with too much identity confusion lack an ability to form stable relationship based on intimacy with a single partner. They choose to go from partner to partner in search of intimacy, when they need to form self-identity first. With that said, identity and fidelity are vital necessary for the formation of a healthy relationship between men and women.

How is Identity formed and what if we failed to form it? Erikson believed that Fidelity and strong sense of Identity is shaped by those who surround us, such as parents. Parents teach us to trust or not to trust other people through their behavior since our birth. So if we didn’t learn to trust our mother and father because of the lack of their attention, support and love for us, we formed a mistrust, and later, it played a role in the formation of an Identity Confusion. Is there nothing we can really do about it? I’d like to say that regardless the way we were shaped by people and situations around us, we should take a responsibility for who we become, and shape our own self: develop a strong identity and fidelity. It doesn’t matter how old we are or what we were until the present point. It only matters what we WANT to become, and how we work on that.

P.S. Identity or an Identity confusion, of course, are not responsible exclusively for how we relate to our partner. It affects all aspects of our lives. I chose to stay loyal to the theme of my website:the Relationship.


*(photo credit to

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