Independence in Relationships

So often in relationships our concern is how to get closer, but what about striking a balance? How close is too close, and how do you hold onto who you are without holding back? For all of us who want to share our cake and eat it too, here are a few key components to standing on your own… together.

Celebrate differences
Not only is it okay that you love cartoons while your partner prefers the theatre, it’s healthy for your relationship. You should never feel guilty about having interests your partner doesn’t share. It’s probably what made you so fascinating in the first place! When you first begin spending time together, it’s natural for you and your beloved to explore your differences and introduce each other to new things, but as time goes on, your passions will settle into two categories: those you share and those you don’t. There’s no need to force them into the same column.

So if your partner’s not up for volleyball, join a league. You’ll have something to talk about when you come home. Don’t always settle for the films you both like; this is how ruts are born. Let your partner sit through your favorite screwball comedy; just remember — it’s just as important that you give his artsy foreign flick a chance when it’s his turn.

Have a Life
When it comes to making time for each other, the balance is key. Having more free time on you hands than your partner will leave you feeling dismissed, or even clingy. That can take a toll on both of you. Fill your time with your own interests. In the long run, missing out on a few hours with your significant other isn’t going to cripple your relationship. In fact, your passion for other things will make your time together more dynamic. If you need a separate vacation, take it. Keep up with friendships, even when it’s difficult to make the time. Trust that you can have your own lives, and still return to each other. You may even find that when you have a chance to miss each other, the time you do have in common is all the more valuable.

Establish Expectations
It’s considerate to tell your partner when to expect you and to call when you’re running late. It’s stifling to let another human being know where you are 24/7. But the difference usually comes down to communication. When you and your partner have a plan for when you’ll be together and when other priorities come into play, you can take time for your errands, your friends and yourselves without letting each other down. And, when you communicate regularly about what you mean to each other, there’ll be even less chance for hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

What your partner thinks of you is important. At times it may seem like everything. But remember that, essential as that is, it’s not who you are. Your beliefs, goals and friends that your partner doesn’t share are as important as the ones she does. Hopefully, your significant other is your second biggest fan — right behind you. Value your partner’s opinion, but don’t ever let it substitute for your own.

We strive to maintain independence because it helps us maintain a sense of ourselves and our own priorities. Ironically, being independent can also deepen your connection with a significant other. The more confident we are in ourselves, the more we have to offer another person. And when you know you’re relationship isn’t subsisting on need or insecurity, it becomes even clearer that the respect, love and mutual support that brings such strong, independent people together must be powerful indeed.

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