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Independence in a relationship: Why is it important and how to start dating yourself?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

Independence in a relationship is easier said than done. Why would I do something alone when I can just do it with my favourite person? However, the idea that your partner is your other ‘half’ has always irked me- I’m not aiming to be half a person!

So, why is independence in relationships so important? Well, firstly the cynical (maybe avoidant) part of my brain sees independence in a relationship as a form of damage control for not being TOO devastated if the relationship ended. Obviously, this is a bit pessimistic, but not relying on someone for every ounce of your happiness is pretty healthy. It’s very comforting to have ‘your person’ to lean on when you need to, but learning how to self-soothe and create your own fun is equally important. A relationship is an addition in your life to make it even better, but without them life should still be good!

To look at this with a slightly more optimistic frame of mind, independence in relationships can actually make the time you have with your partner even sweeter. This is a bit ‘distance makes the heart grow stronger’, but having some time away from your relationship means you will probably appreciate the time together more.

Obviously, it’s not a bad thing to want to prioritise your partner, but it’s all about BALANCE. So, making sure you give yourself space to explore your likes and dislikes, and have a bit of self-reflection time. Start becoming the kind of person with a fun list of engagements, so when someone asks you what you’re doing this week, you don’t just answer ‘uhhh…seeing my partner?’. Lol.

How does one ‘date themselves’ then? And how can you learn to be independent even when you have someone special in your life? Here’s a list I’ve compiled that you could try out.

Solo dates

This might feel a bit weird at first, especially if you are a little uncomfortable with the idea of going places alone. But try a new coffee shop in your area, bring a colouring in book, maybe plan to call a friend, or do some journaling. You could grab a bite to eat and bring your book, enjoy a bit of people watching, listen to a podcast. The solo-date world is your oyster!

(for extra help, try typing into TikTok ‘planned weekend’ or ‘solo date ideas’ and you’ll get hundreds of videos for inspiration)

Give yourself some projects

Get a new notebook and write down some projects you want to do. Mine was recently making the Sandy Liang scrunchie with my sewing machine, but you could grab some old magazines and do some collaging, make a friend a birthday car, rearrange some pictures on your walls or make a new Pinterest board for some DIYs you want to try. Get inspired and excited to spend some time with yourself- I always find alone time so much more fun when you have something to do with your hands.

Plan solo dates for your partner and vice versa

If you and your partner are struggling to be completely independent of each other, why don’t you plan a solo-date for the other person? This could consist of something small, like finding a route for them to walk while listening to a playlist you have made them. Or it could be a whole itinerary of places to eat, drink, specific snacks to buy, films to watch, and journal prompts to use (if you’re a planner like me hehe).

Practice some self-love and value other relationships in your life

You can probably list a lot of things you love about your partner, but how easily can you list what you love about yourself? Why don’t you try to write yourself a love letter in the way you speak to your partner. If this is too much for you, my favourite exercise to try when I am not feeling full of self-love is to list the things I love about the people around me, e.g., my friends, family, housemates, colleagues. Often, I find I can pick out good traits of others around me, even when I am struggling to do so for myself. Once you have the list, try and pick out which traits you also have. Are you also hard-working like that one friend? Are you a great listener like that one family member? We forget that we are made up of all the people around us, so carving out some time to value these relationships and how they make us better people too is a great form of self-love. My favourite quote at the moment is ‘my friends are good because I am!’- give yourself some kudos for all the things you bring into the relationships in your life.

Alone but not lonely

This is a way of thinking about the alone time you have. It’s easy to feel lonely when you are not with the person you love, especially when it is out of your control, for example, because they are far away, or they are busy. However, shift your mentality to ‘planned’ alone time and think of it as a way to maintain your relationship- you have chosen to be alone in this moment, so you are not lonely even though you are alone!

At the end of the day, relationships are an edition to your life, so carving out some time to appreciate the ways you make yourself happy is just as important as considering the ways to make your partner happy. You are a whole person- not just someone’s ‘other half’, and you deserve a multi-faceted schedule that doesn’t just revolve around one person. Giving yourself some time to be independent in a relationship is a great practice in self-love, and also helps you stay present. Enjoy being in a relationship, but also enjoy being your own partner too!

Hi, I'm Eleanor- a 4th year Politics and International Relations student!