Loving Him without Losing You: How to Stop Disappearing and Start Being Yourself

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A powerful and inspiring guide to overcoming a syndrome that affects the lives of tens of millions of women

When it appeared more than a decade ago, the bestselling Women Who Love Too Much gave a voice to millions of women who sacrificed themselves to relationships with emotionally distant men. Now, in a groundbreaking book that will resonate with tens of millions of women of all ages, psychotherapist Beverly Engel exposes a much more pervasive and personally troublesome problem...

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New York, NY 2000 Hard cover Good. Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 304 p.

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A powerful and inspiring guide to overcoming a syndrome that affects the lives of tens of millions of women

When it appeared more than a decade ago, the bestselling Women Who Love Too Much gave a voice to millions of women who sacrificed themselves to relationships with emotionally distant men. Now, in a groundbreaking book that will resonate with tens of millions of women of all ages, psychotherapist Beverly Engel exposes a much more pervasive and personally troublesome problem affecting an estimated seventy-five percent of women to some degree—the Disappearing Woman Syndrome.

Loving Him Without Losing You explores the lives of women who sacrifice their own identities and self-esteem to their relationships with men, along with their chances for personal and professional growth. Drawing on her twenty-five years of experience counseling women and families, Engel discusses the psychological, sociological, and biological roots of the problem. She provides quizzes women can take to determine if and to what degree they suffer from Disappearing Woman Syndrome. And she outlines a complete program featuring dozens of empowering exercises and action steps women can use to free themselves from the grip of this all-too-common disorder and transform themselves into women of substance. This book has the power to change millions of women's lives for the better for years to come.

  • Features the dramatic and inspiring case stories of women of all ages and walks of life who have struggled with Disappearing Woman Syndrome and won

Beverly Engel (San Luis Obispo, CA) is an internationally respected therapist specializing in women's issues, relationships, and sexuality. She has been a featured guest on many national television shows, including Oprah, Ricki Lake, and Sally Jessy Raphael. She is also the author of several successful self-improvement books, including The Emotionally Abused Woman, The Right to Innocence, and Raising Your Sexual Self-Esteem.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
This book clearly explains why so many women find themselves in fantasy marriages and romances with real men. Beverly Engel urges women to think, evaluate, and risk rejection before they repeatedly jump into the same trap. In a gentle voice, she offers commonsense guidelines for telling the truth, learning to trust perceptions, and using solitude. --(Evelyn Streit Cohen, M.S., M.A., marriage and family therapist and coauthor of Couple Fits: How to Live with the Person You Love)

A terrific book, written with authority and sensitivity to men as well as women--(.full of useful, fresh information.--(Bradley Gerstman, Esq., Christopher Pizzo, CPA, and Rich Seldes, M.D., authors of What Men Want and Marry Me!)

"Groundbreaking, provocative, and substantial, this book will light the fire of every woman who seeks true intimacy and strength."--(Salli Rasberry, coauthor of Living Your Life Out Loud)

An abundant supply of useful strategies . Unique for its readers--(Sheila A. Rogovin, Ph.D., psychotherapist and coauthor of Couple Fits: How to Live with the Person You Love)

Again, Beverly Engel has identified a widespread problem and provided womenwith wise guidelines for bursting through it. She writes with compassion and insight. If you think you are a 'disappearing woman, you will drink in this book as if it were a health-giving elixir. It is!--(Susan Page, author of How One of You Can Bring the Two of You Together and If I'm So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?)

"Loving Him without Losing You is a powerful and practical guide to relationships that every woman should read!"--(Barbara De Angelis, Ph.D., New York Times bestselling author of Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know and Are You the One for Me?)

"This is a book of depth and power. I highly recommend it not only to women who lose themselves in their relationships with men but to the parents of adolescent girls who need to be taught how to view themselves as valuable beings separate from their relationships with men and boys."--(Michael Gurian, author of The Good Son and A Fine Young Man)

"When I was in college, we were all Disappearing Women. We didn't even think about it; that's just the way things were. Some of us grew out of it; some didn't. If we all had had this book, our lives might have turned out much differently. Buy this book so you can become your authentic self."--(Randi Kreger, coauthor of Stop Walking on Eggshells)

"In Loving Him Without Losing You Beverly Engel offers powerful wisdom and insight concerning the age-old problem of women losing themselves in their relationships with men. Unlike so many others, Beverly doesn't take the easy way out by blaming men but instead explores the phenomenon from a biological, cultural, and psychological perspective and offers women empowering suggestions about how to take responsibility for changing their situations."--(Patti McDermott, author of How to Talk to Your Husband; How to Talk to Your Wife)

"Loving Him Without Losing You is a wonderful resource and guide to finding oneself and tapping into creativity as a part of one's foundation for a life well lived. I recommend it highly."--(Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D.,author of Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams andThe Creative Journal)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471355588
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/14/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.45 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

BEVERLY ENGEL is an internationally renowned therapist specializing in women's issues, relationships, and sexuality. She is the author of several books including The Emotionally Abused Woman, The Right to Innocence, and Raising Your Sexual Self-Esteem. She has been a featured guest on many national television shows including Oprah, Leeza, Ricki Lake, and Sally Jessy Raphael.
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Table of Contents

Are You a Disappearing Woman?How Women Lose Themselves in Relationships: The Four Truths You Need to Know.
Why Women Tend to Lose Themselves in Relationships: The Cultural, Biological, and Psychological Influences.
The Disappearing Woman Continuum.
Commitment #1: Learn to Go Slow.
Commitment #2: Be Yourself and Tell the Truth About Yourself.
Commitment #3: Maintain a Separate Life.
Commitment #4: Stay in the Present and in Reality.
Commitment #5: Don't Go Changing to Try to Please Him.
Commitment #6: Cultivate Equal Relationships.
Commitment #7: Speak Your Mind.
Find Your Authentic Self.
Find Your Voice.
Find Your Shadow.
Find Your Substance.
Conclusion: Balancing and Blending.
Where Do You Go From Here?Appendices.
End of the Continuum.
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First Chapter

Chapter 1

No partner in a love relationship . . . should feel that [she] has to give up an essential part of [herself] to make it viable.


I'm an artist and my work is very important to me. But I'd like to have a relationship with a man, too. Unfortunately, I can't seem to do both. As soon as I fall in love all my passion and focus go into the relationship. I can't work. All I do is obsess about the man I'm in love with--wondering whether he loves me, whether he's with someone else when he's not with me.


I feel so ashamed. My friends would be horrified if they knew how desperate and crazy I get when I'm in love. They all see me as a strong, competent, successful woman who can handle any situation put before me. But all that strength and confidence go out the window when I'm in love and I become insecure and dependent, looking desperately to my lover for any small sign of disapproval, any indication that he's losing interest in me.


In an age when women are supposed to be strong, independent, and liberated, it is embarrassing to admit that when it comes to relationships with men we still tend to behave in ways that are far too reminiscent of our mothers and grandmothers. Let's face it: it's just not politically correct for women to still be losing themselves in relationships. We're supposed to have stopped all this foolishness years ago. Today women are expected to maintain a strong, independent, successful life while at the same time be a loving mate to their man.

But the truth is far different from the ideal picture some women wish to paint of their lives. Women are still losing themselves in relationships as much as they ever were. Many women have received enough information and support from the codependent movement to help them recognize their reasons for choosing unavailable, abusive, or alcoholic men. And due to public awareness and domestic violence programs fewer women tend to stay in abusive relationships, although the numbers are still alarmingly high. But while many women are now making better choices, many are surprised to find that they are sacrificing themselves for their man as much as they ever were. In fact, some of the women who are choosing more available and more loving men have found they are losing themselves in their relationships even more than before.

How to Determine if You Are a Disappearing Woman

No matter how successful, assertive, or powerful some women are, the moment they become involved with a man they begin to give up parts of themselves--their social life, their time alone, their spiritual practice, their beliefs and values. They begin to disappear. In time, these women find they have merged their lives with their partners' to the point where they have no life to go back to when and if the relationship ends. I call these women "Disappearing Women."

While Disappearing Women come in all ages, colors, and sizes and from all cultural, socioeconomic, and financial backgrounds, there are certain characteristics they all seem to share.

If you think you might be a Disappearing Woman but are uncertain, the following test will help you decide:

1. Do you tend to fall in love quickly and intensely and often feel as if you are out of control when it comes to the feelings you have for your lover?

2. Do you become less focused and therefore less effective on the job or in your career when you become involved with a man?

3. Do you tend to spend a great deal of your time daydreaming and fantasizing about your relationships?

4. Do you spend far more time thinking about the future than dealing with the present? Do you console yourself by telling yourself that things will soon get better instead of facing how bad things are today?

5. Do you neglect your friends to be with your lover? Or do you devalue your own friends in favor of your lover's friends, or drop your friends if your lover disapproves of them?

6. Do you drop your own interests and take on the interests of your lover in order to spend more time with him?

7. Do you tend to question or devalue your own feelings, opinions, beliefs, and knowledge whenever they differ from your lover's?

8. Do you become extremely depressed or anxious when you are unable to be with your lover for even short periods of time?

9. Do you tend to be distrustful, jealous, and possessive of your lover?

10. Do you need a great deal of assurance that your lover really cares about you?

11. Do you remain insecure in your relationships no matter how long you and your partner have been together?

12. Do you tend to feel invalidated, patronized, misunderstood, and unappreciated by those you are closest to?

13. Are you willing to change yourself to please your lover (including changing your physical appearance, buying new clothes, working on changing the way you speak, or trying hard to stop a particular behavior)?

14. Will you do practically anything to make the relationship work?

15. Are you usually not the one to end a relationship? If you are, is it because you have been forced to face the fact that your partner does not love you?

16. Do you feel so devastated when a relationship is over that you don't think you can survive the pain?

17. Have you ever had suicidal thoughts because of a breakup?

18. Have you ever entertained homicidal thoughts toward an ex-partner?

19. Do you take a much longer period of time to get over a relationship than other people you've known, even though you may get into a new one right away?

20. Have you ever avoided relationships altogether for a significant amount of time following a breakup because you were so emotionally devastated, even though you felt lonely and longed for an intimate relationship?

If you answered yes to more than five of these questions, you are a Disappearing Woman. While you may try to fool yourself into thinking that things will be different if you could just meet the right man, or if you could just lose some weight, etc., the truth is you'd be the same no matter what kind of man you were with, or no matter how gorgeous you become; the truth is you have a problem when it comes to maintaining your sense of self in a relationship.

If you are like most heterosexual women, you want an intimate, loving relationship with a man. You long for a committed relationship in which you can feel free to express your deepest emotions, where it is safe to be your most vulnerable and most loving. You want a relationship in which you can be yourself, drop the facades and pretense, and be real.

Unfortunately, like many other women, you may have begun to feel that your desires will never be fulfilled. Based on your past, and perhaps present, experiences, you have come to believe that being yourself and being in a relationship are mutually exclusive.

Ironically, you may have become afraid of the very thing you long for. Afraid because you realize you have a tendency to lose yourself each time you enter a relationship with a man, to give up important aspects of yourself or your life to please him. Afraid because loving a man has often meant sacrifice or pain.

You may have come to realize that for you, loving a man brings with it a tremendous risk--that you will once again put your career, your relationship with your friends, or your well-being in jeopardy to be with a man, that you will sacrifice your needs, your values, or your integrity to please and keep a man.

Some women have decided that no matter how much they want a relationship with a man, it isn't worth the price they end up paying. They've opted to stay alone rather than risk the loss of self they inevitably end up experiencing. Instead, they throw themselves into their careers and dedicate themselves to cultivating meaningful friendships. But most women keep trying, hoping they will find a way to do it right the next time, hoping they will learn how to achieve some sort of balance between loving a man and loving themselves.

If you are one of these women, if you still have even the slightest amount of hope in discovering this balance, Loving Him without Losing You will help you turn that hope into reality.

It's important to realize that you are not alone. As you read Loving Him without Losing You you'll meet many other women who struggle as you do to maintain their sense of self when in a relationship with a man. Today, millions of women such as yourself are suffering needlessly because they don't understand why they continue to sacrifice their individuality and their very souls when they enter a relationship. Far from feeling like an anomaly, you need to understand that your surprising and often shocking behavior is actually more the norm than the exception.

The next step will be for you to realize that there are valid reasons for your behavior. Losing yourself in a relationship is not a sign of weakness, stupidity, or incompetence on your part, as many women come to feel. By reading Loving Him without Losing You you will discover that women are actually culturally and genetically programmed to be nurturers and pleasers; this programming causes us to automatically set aside our own needs to take care of the needs of others. You'll learn that even today our culture encourages women to view the needs of the men in their lives as more important than their own needs. And you'll learn that women tend to have what are considered "thinner" boundaries that predispose them to have a tendency to lose themselves in relationships. Finally, you'll learn that women and men view relationships from different perspectives--men from the point of view of separation, women from the vantage point of connection.

Realizing that your behavior is not your fault--that it is part of your cultural and biological legacy--will help free you from the shame and embarrassment that have continually whittled away at your self-esteem and contributed to your behavior.

And it definitely will help you to know there is a way out. Next, you'll learn specific strategies that will help you curb your urge to merge, strategies that will help you no matter how extreme your problem is.

Last but not least, Loving Him without Losing You will help you transform yourself from what I call a Disappearing Woman to a Woman of Substance. It will teach you how to go deep inside and find your true inner voice and to discover the wisdom, integrity, and sense of balance that lie dormant within you.

By discovering your inner wisdom you'll learn when it is appropriate to give and when it is time for you to receive, when it is appropriate to ask for nurturing and when it is time to retreat and provide nurturing for yourself.

By discovering and developing your integrity you will refuse to stay with a man who doesn't appreciate and totally accept you the way you are.

By developing a sense of balance you'll learn that no one is all good or all bad, that there are many shades of gray. You'll come to understand that a healthy relationship has many ups and downs and is based on give-and-take, intimacy, and autonomy.

Loving Him without Losing You will:

  • provide strategies to help you avoid getting involved too quickly with a man;
  • show you how to stop idealizing the men you are involved with;
  • offer suggestions for how you can stay out of fantasy and remain focused on the present;
  • offer insight into why you tend to devalue your own opinions and beliefs and offer encouragement and strategies to help you begin to stand up for them;
  • encourage you to value solitude and show you how to tolerate it better;
  • show you how to develop a more substantial sense of self and create a life that you will be less willing to discard for a man;
  • show you how to develop better relationships with the opposite sex, from dating to flourishing in a committed relationship;
  • show you how to maintain your sense of self while in an intimate, committed relationship.

Who Will Benefit Most from This Book?

Those of you who've had a long history of losing yourself in relationships will probably benefit from this book the most. It will help you discover the reason why you have developed such a pattern and offer you strategies to help you break it once and for all.

This book will also be of particular interest to those who are currently in a relationship in which they have submerged their needs or given over their power or individuality. Some have lost so much of themselves in their relationship that they feel it is impossible to change or to leave the situation, even though they are desperately unhappy. This was my client Beth's predicament:

I realize I've allowed my husband to control our lives. When we married I was young and naive and I'd just left my parents' house, where my father completely dominated my mother. I ended up marrying a man just like my father and for many years I guess I thought it was normal to not have a say in decision-making, to center my life around my husband's needs. But as I've gotten older [she's now thirty-nine] I've come to realize that it isn't normal and it isn't healthy. I feel stifled. Sometimes it feels like I can't breathe and I just want to run away. But I'm afraid to venture out on my own, and besides, I love my husband. It's not entirely his fault. After all, I've allowed him to control me.

I'm the one who has to change. I'm the one who has to start acting different, and when I do, he actually responds fairly well. I just don't know if I have the strength and wherewithal to keep it up long enough to change the dynamics in our relationship. It just seems so much easier to give in and maintain the status quo.

This book will also benefit those of you who are so fearful of losing yourself in your relationships with men that it prevents you from experiencing true intimacy. This was the situation with Shawn, age twenty-three, one of the women I interviewed for the book:

This is my first serious relationship. But instead of being happy because I'm in love, I began to feel myself becoming less and less my own self and more and more a part of him. Like I was gradually disappearing, like the Cheshire cat in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Even though I still love Mark I finally had to break up just to see if I'd feel better alone. We see each other now as friends but whenever he starts talking about getting back together I start to feel smothered. I love him but I just don't think I know how to have a relationship and be myself at the same time.

Loving Him without Losing You will also help those who have experienced so much pain because of their tendency to lose themselves in relationships that they are afraid to get involved in another one. This was the case with my client Jenny, age twenty-seven:

There's this man at work who's very interested in me. We've had lunch together a few times and he seems like a really nice guy. But I'm afraid to risk it again. After my last relationship ended I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat--I lost fifteen pounds in two weeks. I became so weak and so distracted I couldn't do my job and almost got fired. I'm just getting my life back on track and I don't want to mess it up again by getting involved in another relationship.

No matter what situation you are in, whether you are just beginning to date or have a lifetime of losing yourself in relationships, whether you are married or single, whether you still have hope of changing or feel your situation is hopeless, Loving Him without Losing You will help you understand your behavior and discover ways to begin changing it immediately.

One of the first steps will be for you to understand exactly how women lose themselves in relationships. This will be the focus of the next chapter.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 17, 2011


    Every woman should read this book. It is chock-full of great research covering why we are disappearing women and recommendations on how to become a woman of substance. Beverly Engel really knows her stuff. She is every woman's cheerleader on empowering us to be strong women who have a voice and a mind and also teaches us how to understand men in relationships too. I absolutely loved it and I have bought several copies to give to the special women in my life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2000

    Every Woman has to read this!

    This book is a powerful tool to take us woman out of denial. I read this book and took personal notes and for the first time could identify the real me and more important understand that I was 'ok', 'normal' and a chance to stop the deadly cycle that all of us fall prey to...I would recommend reading this book twice! Read this before you start a new relationship!

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    Posted July 10, 2012

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    Posted May 4, 2009

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    Posted September 11, 2009

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