Many people stay in unhealthy romantic situations due to some form of “love.” But more often than not, they’re captives of  other emotions (fear, comfort or complacency, for example), not the one they claim to be their reason for remaining committed to a less-than-deserving partner. This four-part series explores the many ways one can be “held hostage by love” and offers examples of  telltale signs that you may need to muster up courage and plan your exit before it is too late. Remember, committing to someone is and should always be a welcoming, willing and desired choice.

Here’s part four, the most important segment of this series:

“I’ve lost my identity. I literally don’t know who I am without him because we’ve been together for so long.”

I hate to hear this. It isn’t simply because people have lost who they are or were, but because their mate allowed them to become so wrapped up in them and their relationship to the point where it has become their sole identity. Granted, love takes sacrifice and adjustments, but you should never sacrifice who you are. There’s a big difference between growing and evolving together  and completely allowing yourself to be folded into your mate’s life.

See, I did that a few years ago. It started with my spending weekends at his house. No biggie. I mean, he traveled for work during the week and I figured he just wanted to sleep in his own bed. Next, we started going to his church ALL THE TIME–after all, it was right down the street from his house, so it was more convenient. Then the sacrifice became even more extreme.

During holidays–despite being with his family every weekend–we would stop by my family’s house for dinner, stay for a couple of hours, then spend the remaining five or six hours with his family. I didn’t realize that I was quickly becoming an accessory to his life while losing my identity. And I did so all in the name of “love.”

It was my choice to give up my identity, but a loving partner would never have allowed me to. I’m not saying my ex did not love me; he just loved his comfort more, and I didn’t challenge him to build a life with me because I so willingly gave up my own.

So I am telling you that staying because you don’t know yourself without them will only lead to resentment. If you cannot stand next to the one you’re with and confidently be more than a shadow, then, my dear, you’ve got some work to do. Do not become so enthralled in making them a better person or proving how well you fit into their routines that you forget to remember to vet them to see how well they mesh with your life plans.

I encourage you to have a career, friendships, “me time” and whatever life you desire to have that makes you YOU outside of your mate. Otherwise, you will continue to feel trapped and alone in a relationship that isn’t giving you what you deserve.

Shantell E. Jamison is EBONY’s senior editor of love and relationships. Her book, Drive Yourself in the Right Direction, is available on Amazon. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @Shantell_em and Instagram @Shantell_em.