Why Independence in a Relationship Is Key

One of the major selling points of being single includes having the ability to claim time that you can dedicate wholeheartedly to focusing on yourself. Being single offers the space for self-improvement and growth that can be difficult to find while in a romantic relationship. Notice the word “difficult” instead of “impossible.” While thinking about your partner, trying to be there for him/her/them, and making time to connect with them can be consuming or require a lot of effort, you still need to make sure that you have energy left to work on yourself. In turn, this will stop you from getting lost in the relationship. 

It seemingly feels more natural to constantly be on the phone or spending time with your significant other. It may be easy to lean into this. It also might be tempting to think that you're just doing what is best for your relationship. However, independence can pay off in long-term relationships. 

If you were to nurture your relationship as you would a plant, you’d pay special attention to how much you’re watering it. You’d place it in the sunlight — affording your partner the support and reassurance they need. You’d offer it the water it needs to be maintained and to grow. You wouldn’t want to overdo it, knowing that you could be causing it harm and threatening its longevity.

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Some warning signs that you are becoming too dependent on your relationship include feeling the need to invite them wherever you’re going, constantly texting them throughout the day every day, feeling anxious when you’re apart or haven’t spoken in several hours, and feeling like you can’t live your life without your partner. Moreover, a 2021 article from Lifehack argues that “cataloging every last move each person makes and regurgitating it borders on stalkerish and certainly is not conducive to a sense of independence on either side.”

It’s easy to fall into the misconception of equating how much your partner cares about you with how much direct attention you receive from them — which doesn’t consider how much they think about you, how often something reminds them of you, or whether they take you into account while making certain decisions. Instead, by focusing on the other person’s intentions, a better understanding of where one stands with them can be reached.

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Arguably, the best time for a relationship is when you can provide happiness for yourself and would like to share it with someone else. You cannot rely on someone else for your happiness. It's an unfair and unrealistic expectation to have for someone else. Codependency of this nature can not only take a toll on your relationship, but it can also be dangerous for a person to experience. In fact, in a 2014 article, Northbound Treatment warns that a codependent individual may “refuse help from others,” have an “inability to be alone,” “neglect personal needs,” and even “fear [...] true expression.” 

Even without the escalation to codependency, a consistent reliance on another person is one reason why breakups can be such painful experiences. One may feel that the rug has been pulled out from underneath them. More than grieving the love shared with a partner, oftentimes people feel like there is a hole in their lives or that something is now missing.

Surely, your partner had appreciated who you were as an individual before getting into a relationship with you. This should be an extra incentive to maintain your sense of self. For example, maybe your partner always comments on how much they value that you're a hardworking individual with great dedication in your endeavors. Losing sight of your ambitiousness by getting too enveloped by your relationship can not only steer you off track, but it can also make you less attractive in your partner’s eyes since they admire this quality of yours.

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By the same token, the upkeep of your relationships with your friends and loved ones merit attention. Don’t feel bad if it takes more of a conscious effort now to check in than before. However, remember that they were there for you long before your partner came around. They deserve time and space set aside dedicated to them. Not to mention, each individual spending time with other significant people in their lives allows for more broad experiences, stories to tell each other, and the ability to lead full and complete lives.

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You have to keep doing what you need to for your well-being. That is not your significant other’s role in your life. That is a job you will have for the rest of your life that you must find joy in. Continue to focus on your aspirations, think about your priorities, and look for happiness within yourself.

Two people with half-empty cups, both demanding and waiting to be filled by the other person, will end up with just one cup. And, more often than not, they are two people who will ultimately be disappointed by their expectations. Whereas two independent individuals, each tasked with ensuring their own happiness and fulfillment in life, and choosing to be together out of love and respect rather than dependency, can make for an extremely fruitful relationship.