Being independent in a relationship sounds like an oxymoron. If you’re in a relationship, how can you be independent? The idea isn’t to kick your partner to the curb, but it’s about knowing you’re more than your relationship, it’s okay not to hand over your entire soul to your partner, and you’ll survive if they leave. Treat them well, of course, but understand how to not make them your whole world. Here are some ways to avoid relying on your partner for all your happiness.
- Don’t Abandon Friends and Family
You might be tempted to put your friends and family on the backburner now that you’ve found love. After all, the honeymoon stage of a budding romance might seem like everything you’ve ever wanted—but it’s important not to discount the handful of people who have been by your side forever, even if their steady, reliable presences don’t fill you with bliss and intrigue.
Holding tight to your roots protects you from ending up lost in your romantic relationships. When you keep the familiar people around from your past, you keep yourself safe from depending on one person for all your needs and perspectives. Having other people that you can count on ensures your relationship doesn’t feed your entire worldview.
- Explore Hobbies
Find fun things to do outside hanging out with your beau. Spending time with your partner is fine, but sometimes they can’t be around; or their continued presence might, believe it or not, start wearing you thin.
You’ll need other things to do with yourself. This way you either won’t resent your partner for having a life outside you, or you won’t continue feeling like your partner has total control over your daily affairs—so take up painting, trying knitting, or start a garden!
Allow yourself to remember who you are and what fills you with joy outside your relationship. Set yourself up to have a good time, even when you’re alone—having hobbies is one way to make being alone not only tolerable, but something to look forward to.
- Care About Your Dreams
A relationship is possibly a dream come true for you, and there’s no shame in valuing your relationships; however, you had dreams before you met your partner, and you’ll have dreams after them.
You don’t have to ditch the past or the future to make your partner happy, especially if you know retaining some independence would be healthy for you. Keep up with your studies, pursue your career goals, write your book, sell your paintings.
And don’t underestimate the power of being financially independent from your partner! Learning skills that matter to you and making economic use of them is a safety net in our society. You may hope for the best and the rest of us do too, but people are often unpredictable. Expect the best, prepare for the worst. It’s important to be able to support yourself, without counting on someone else to meet your basic needs.
- Set Boundaries
Getting too enmeshed with your partner, to the point where the state of your feelings depends on theirs, is called “codependency.” Codependency can set you up for huge hurt down the line. Either you won’t be able to function without your partner’s input; or your partner will be in position to harm you by deviating from your plans, experiencing emotions you can’t handle, or leveraging your devotion against you.
To avoid codependency, learn what boundaries are and how to set them. Boundaries help you remember where you end and someone else begins. When you set boundaries, you ask your partner to respect your individuality and make a checklist of your values. You’re creating parameters between you and your partner, meaning it’s easier to see each other as separate people and accept your differences.
- Take Care of You
Remember to love yourself too, not just your partner. Obviously there’s no crime in looking after your partner, but if they’re all you’ll let yourself fret over, you might start feeling left out of the equation.
A sense of resentment is especially a risk if you catch yourself doing more for your partner than they appear to do for you. They may clearly care about you, but you’ll easily forget that if you’re sacrificing self-care to look after them. The relationship will start to seem like a lot of work with low payoff.
Jacob Carmichael | Contributing Writer