Episode 17

(Part 2) How to find identity outside fostering

In part 2 of our “Identity outside of fostering” series, we cover traps to avoid and how our self-perception shapes how we communicate.


Today, we’re getting into some deeper things concerning identity, and we want to shed some light on the traps or dangers of how we see ourselves to help all of us make better decisions in our lives and especially in our marriages. 

We’re approaching this from the perspective of a stay at home parent. However, if you’re not a stay at home parent and still struggling with this, take the content and apply it to you.

Traps that trip us up:

Comparing yourself to your spouse

  • Leads to jealousy, bitterness or resentment
  • That leads to conflict in your marriage

Comparing yourself to your former life before marriage or kids

  • Leads to depression, anger, shame, feelings of unworthiness
  • That leads marriage issues because your spouse doesn’t like the “new” you, or you feel like they couldn’t possibly
  • Victim mentality can happen where you even blame your spouse for life today

If one spouse pressures the other to be more, do more, achieve more

  • Leads to one person feeling like a failure or not good enough especially for their spouse

Caring a lot about your spouse’s opinion to the point you allow it to shape your self-perception

Culture/societal expectations that are real or perceived that leave you feeling insignificant or unworthy

Controlling people or a controlling spouse whom you lack healthy boundaries with leaving you feeling:

  • Guilted or like a disappointment or a failure
  • Leads to major people pleasing because you feel that will make them happy and then they’ll like you, or to avoid assumed conflict or maybe they’ll eventually be nicer to you if you please them
  • This doesn’t work and just reinforces unworthiness and a poor self-image

How your spouse’s opinion/care/support affect a spouse’s identity in good ways

  • Supportive and caring of you
  • Accepting of who you are
  • Encouraging to grow and improve but not in a controlling way
  • Encouraging of you as a parent and the important work you’re doing
  • Encouraging breaks and replenishment time

Identity and communication

In an argument, people sometimes communicate from a place of defending who they see themselves as or who we want someone else to see us as

  • For example, in an argument or fight, we say things like “I’m just trying to get you to see (insert positive thing about yourself or your intent)
  • The goal is to be heard or understood because you’re feeling not understood which leaves a person feeling sad, alone or worse, rejected

Another thing people do is they subtly or not so subtly share things that are meant to make us look good to someone else

  • Again, this is another one of those finding worth and significance in people’s opinions of us and how it makes us feel better about ourselves
  • The question is why don’t we feel fine about ourselves without people’s opinion or affirmation

How we see ourselves is so powerful and so much of our thinking, decisions and emotions hinges on self-perception. 

Finding freedom in self-forgetfulness

The pursuit of selflessness and less selfishness

Shedding of ego and pride allows a married couple to be serving, generous and sacrificial to each other

Contentment and health can be found in neither holding an identity of good or bad, significant or insignificant, but in not focusing on self so much period and focusing on others

  • This can be monumentally challenging for some of us
  • Story about us adopting and how I (Joel) felt my selfishness come to the surface and it said “don’t do it.”
  • We have to practice not focusing on self


Author Rick Warren said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

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About the Podcast

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Fostering Marriage
Keep your marriage strong when fostering kids

About your hosts

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Joel Fortner

Joel has been married to MaryBeth since 2010 and began the fostering journey in 2019. They have a heart to serve married couples who've chosen the fostering journey. He and MaryBeth have 2 biological kids and 2 foster kids (and 2 dogs) and make their home in middle Tennessee, where Joel serves as a leader and coach with Chris LoCurto and team.
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MaryBeth Fortner