One of the prominent causes for fear of commitment or anxiety about long-term relationships is loss of independence. Many think that independence and relationships cannot coexist. And, this fear is not without reason.
Society tends to think that a relationship is more than the sum of the two participating individuals. This forces couples in relationships to let go of their individuality and independence and forge something else that compromises their freedom.
- He who takes a woman gives away his freedom.
- A smart man doesn’t give his wife a lot of freedom.
These proverbs show how our society has been reinforcing the idea that freedom and relationships do not go together.
Even in these modern times, the story is no different. Couples are considered as a single unit. Most people think it is improper to invite one without the other.
Now, we come to the question of how this affects the individuals in a relationship. To the outside world, this sense of bonding and togetherness paints an idealistic picture. However, as individuals, why would anyone want to compromise their autonomy and sense of individuality for offering a picture-perfect view to the world?
This forced bonding and deprival of freedom is causing more harm than good. Those who are already in a relationship are not happy about the situation. Those who are yet to commit hesitate to do so because of the heavy price they would be required to pay.
So, what is the solution? The only way out of this tricky situation is to allow the participants in a relationship to retain their individuality and continue to enjoy their freedom. Instead of harming the relationship, this will end up strengthening it. This means to be your own person in a relationship.
Now, the question is how to put this into practice and become independent couples.
This article explores ways to bring in autonomy and independence in a relationship.
1. You need not share everything
It is natural to feel this urge, especially at the start of a relationship. There are many problems with this. For one, it robs you of the thrill of discovery. Getting to know each other should be an ongoing process. Revealing everything about each other in one go robs you of the pleasure of fun and excitement.
Again, this puts unnecessary pressure on you to explain every one of your actions. That doesn’t conform to the ideals of a healthy relationship. Not revealing something to your partner is not the same as lying. And if you feel the urge to lie to your partner, then it is time to reassess your priorities and take a long hard look at the relationship.
2. You should pursue an independent hobby
Maybe you already have one or more than one. You should not give up your hobbies after you get involved in a relationship for any reason. If you do not have a hobby, it is time to start one. And, it is important to use the hobby time as “me-time”. It is something you are doing for your sake and your pleasure. No need to convert it into couple time. There is always time for that.
To make sure that pursuing your hobbies doesn’t turn into a time to be together, you have the choice to say so outright. Or else choose something that doesn’t interest your partner. And, encourage your partner to pursue their own hobbies.
3. You should have separate friends and adventures
Being in a loving relationship doesn’t mean you should act like conjoined twins. In fact, a relationship is healthier when partners have a life away from each other from time to time. This means, maintaining old friendships and continuing the same activities you used to enjoy before the start of the relationship. You can also find new friends and adventures on your own.
This arrangement has to be two-way. While one partner gets to enjoy this, the other should not be denied the same. Both partners should have the freedom to choose what they want to do, whom they want to meet, and how they spend their time. This is essential for trust-building. Two people can still be together without compromising on freedom.
4. You should learn to say no and ready to accept it
There is a fine line that separates love and control. Often, you cross the line without realizing it. You would like to think that you are persuading your partner to accept your suggestion as he/she is unsure or not confident. What you fail to see and realize is that they know exactly what they are doing and the answer is still no.
Offer your suggestion and allow your partner to decide for themselves. And learn to respect and accept that without further ado. Being independent in a relationship means the freedom to say no and accept and be accepted with grace.
5. You should not let go of your dreams and goals
It is common in many relationships to see one or both partners sacrificing their life’s pursuits for the sake of being together. This tends to add a certain halo to the relationship. You would like to equate sacrifice with love and affection. This cannot be farther from the truth.
This act of sacrifice may work its magic in the short run or the initial phase of a relationship. As time wears on, you will start regretting your decision to abandon your dreams. By then, there is no way you can turn the clock back. This may result in accusations and counter-accusations that can sound the death-knell of a relationship.
6. You should be in touch with your emotions
You can be yourself and follow your passions only when you are conversant with your feelings and thoughts. Ultimately your sense of self is the propellant that can fuel your ambitions and help you reach greater heights.
That said, it is easy to get out of sync with your emotions. As you allow others to take charge of your life, you drift along without paying attention to your emotions. The ability to recognize your own emotions is a work in progress. You need to be in touch daily with your core self through activities such as meditation and mindfulness. Exercises for the body and mind can help you to be emotionally independent.
7. You should never forget to be who you are
The moment you lose touch with your real self, things would start going downhill for you and you would take the relationship down with you as well. “Be who you are” means being in touch with your true feelings and pursuing what you really want to do. It means not trying to be someone else’s idea of who you should be.
From the very basic personal choices to bigger life-changing decisions, you should have the freedom to make your choice and stick with it. In a relationship, if you are not enjoying the autonomy to make your decisions and you feel compelled to follow certain paths and do certain things, it is a sign of an unhealthy and toxic situation.
The simple truth remains that all individuals are distinctive – with diverse mindsets, passions, goals, and a sense of what is important and not. This means you cannot be yourself and at the same time be someone’s version of yourself.
As Shakespeare succinctly puts it in Hamlet when Polonius says, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man”.
You were free, unique, and independent before you entered a relationship. A relationship is worth having only if you get something from it and not if it takes away a part of you. Don’t be scared of revealing your individuality, celebrating your achievements, enjoying your freedom, or just being you.
Never allow anyone to tell you otherwise, not even your partner. People who aren’t able to love you for who you are, are not worth having. Give your partner the same freedom you expect for yourself.
Chase your dreams like you always have. Keep working on your goals no matter what changes happen in your life. Putting yourself first doesn’t mean you are being selfish. Do it because no one is going to.
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