The words relationship and independence don’t exactly seem to coincide. Relationships include two or more people who have a special bond with each other, while independence refers to not depending on others and being self-supporting.
However, you may know from your own relationships—or, if you haven't been in a relationship yet, having observed others—that being around your partner all the time can create a rather toxic and unhealthy partnership. You don’t want to fall into the trap of building a relationship where happiness is only found with the other person and you feel empty or alone without them. This is something that can be easily avoided and, if done correctly, will actually strengthen you and your partner's relationship.
Independence means being alone and fending for yourself without relying on the aid of others. This is not a lifestyle should live all the time, as companionship is important and necessary for humans. However, depending on your partner completely can lead to you struggling to feel happy and content when they're not around. Therefore, knowing how to have both independence and intimacy in a relationship is the key to success.
When you’re independent in a relationship, it means there's still a “you” and a “me” outside of the “we.” Some signs that indicate you may be depending a bit too much on your partner include:
Giving up things that made you happy before the relationship
Feelings of deep emptiness when you’re not with your partner
The relationship is your only source of happiness
You have exaggerated fearful thoughts or anxiety about the relationship
You change yourself to fit their needs
Engaging in these behaviors can cause the best version of yourself to slowly deteriorate and evolve into a person who no longer knows what happiness is outside of their significant other. Recognizing these red flags does not mean you and your partner need to end things. However, having a conversation and setting boundaries between the two of you may be necessary to keep your relationship from becoming codependent and unhealthy.
While you do need to learn and practice being more independent, maintaining intimacy is just as important. This by no means is meant to be a break between the two of you, but rather a new lifestyle that focuses on your own, separate needs so that when you are together, your relationship doesn't suffer because one of you is suffering individually.
If you notice you and your partner never have any time to yourselves, you can begin to reflect on changes you want to make for your own personal life while continuing to make your relationship work alongside that. While you should still certainly spend time with the other person, permit yourself to have time to yourself as well.
Some things you can do to make this work include self-care activities, focusing on your physical and nutritional health, and spending time with friends and family to keep up strong bonds with them as well. Neglecting these things in a relationship can easily cause things to go south without you even realizing it. When you add these things to your lifestyle alongside your partner, it doesn’t mean they’re not important, it means that you have a balanced and well-rounded life.
When brainstorming how you are going to achieve this balance in life, let your partner know about your concerns, needs, and plans. Communicating relationship concerns can be scary, but the relief and the release of built-up tension from keeping those things inside or never doing things independent of each other can cause the best version of you to come out.
The best way to approach your partner about this is face to face using effective communication techniques that keep the conversation tension-free. Don't put blame on yourself or them, but make sure to emphasize how you are feeling and why you feel the two of you need to be more independent. Setting boundaries around how much time you need for separate activities with your partner is a good thing to do here.
At first, it’ll probably seem overwhelming trying to balance a personal life with your relationship life when that’s not what you’re used to. It is okay to continue being emotionally engaged with your partner as you both work on this new lifestyle change. In fact, this can aid in the process of you two finding more independence and growing the relationship even more. Additionally, spending time apart from your partner and relying on them less will allow the times you two are together to be even more special and meaningful.
Relationships take two people. To make a relationship work, you might believe that you constantly have to be in each other's presence. However, this is far from the truth and a relationship like that can quickly become toxic and detrimental to your mental health. Instead, relationships should consist of times spent with your partner as well as time spent apart to avoid becoming too dependent on each other. When you're dependent on one another, finding other sources of happiness becomes difficult and can cause feelings of emptiness. If you feel as though this may be the case for you, seeking professional help may provide you with the best solution. At SokyaHealth, mental health professionals are trained to provide counseling and coaching services that'll lead you down the right path in all the relationships in your life. For more information, call Sokya at (866) 657-6592.