How To Truly Maintain Your Independence In A Relationship

When it comes to relationships, your time away from each other is just as important as your time together. Independence is a key ingredient of healthy relationships, but it can sometimes be lost as you and your partner get closer. Avoid a codependent and maybe even toxic relationship with these tips to help you truly maintain your independence.

  1. Ground yourself in values. Whether you’re just starting to date someone new or deep in a relationship, it’s essential to know your personal values. Values are the beliefs that guide our actions and life decisions. And when you’re in a relationship, having values outside of the relationship keeps you on track to be the person you want to be. Qualities like open-mindedness, generosity, and growth are examples of values. Get to know yours, and never change them for a relationship.
  2. Have goals outside the relationship. One of the best ways to stay independent and empower yourself is to maintain goals outside the relationship. When your only goal or vision for the future is to be with your partner, it’s easy to lose yourself and your identity. So whether it be a professional goal, a hobby you want to get better at, a fitness goal, or anything else, make sure to always have some ambitions that don’t involve your relationship.
  3. Don’t forget to socialize. The excitement of a new relationship can consume a lot of time and attention, but don’t forget to check in with friends too. Spend time away from your partner, and hang out with friends who will keep you in check. If you’re in a long-term relationship and have lost friends over time, try expanding your circle by getting to know new people. Learn to not depend on your partner for everything, and make space for healthy friendships in your life.
  4. Spend time alone. Time alone is also necessary to check in with yourself and your feelings. Solitude is arguably the best way to get to know yourself and what’s important to you. And it’s key to staying independent and self-sufficient when necessary. Try a hobby or relaxing activity by yourself, and give your partner time to do the same.
  5. Know your needs. Focusing on your needs in a relationship may sound like a contradiction to independence, but they actually go hand-in-hand. Here’s why: when we’re unsure of what we need, we’re more likely to cling to a partner out of insecurity. On the other hand, if you know what you need, you can better set boundaries, solve disagreements, and move on securely. You can also learn which needs you’re able to meet yourself or with the help of someone else, like a friend or family member. In short, it’s easier to feel secure and independent when you know your needs and are able to work to get them met.
  6. Try new things. Trying new things together can be fun, but trying new things apart can also help to keep the relationship fresh. When you have experiences without each other, you have more stories to tell. You can teach each other what you’ve learned on your own, and you solidify your independence by proving to yourself what you’re capable of doing without your partner’s help.
  7. Don’t adopt all their interests. Changing for a guy (or woman) isn’t always a bad thing, especially if it helps you grow more into the type of person you want to become. But sometimes, when we’re into someone, we try to become their clone. Dating a musician and finding yourself studying his playlists? Getting cozy with a soccer player and pretending to be into sports? Adopting your partner’s interests is a quick way to lose yourself. Instead, own up to your differences, and keep some interests separate.
  8. Respect each other’s privacy. Intentionally hiding important information is a no-no (and a total red flag!). But it’s okay to keep some harmless things private from each other. For example, resist the urge to trade phone passwords (and if you struggle with this, you may want to work on building trust in your relationship). Or, if you spend a day apart, don’t tell each other every detail about what you did. Remember, though, that privacy is okay, but keeping hurtful secrets isn’t.
  9. Don’t fix each other. To truly maintain your independence, you must remember that it’s no one’s job to fix you, nor is it your job to fix them. Comforting and caring for each other through problems is part of having a healthy partnership. But it’s not necessary to solve each other’s problems. Just as asking for help is important, in some cases not asking for help is also important. Support each other, but don’t use each other as a crutch.
  10. Remember, you’re both human. Of course you already know you’re both human. But we can sometimes forget that a partner is more than just our partner: they’re a son or daughter, friend, employee, student… Your partner takes on many roles in life that make up who they are as a person, and being your partner is only one of them. And the same goes for you too! Respect the responsibilities you each have outside of the relationship. And make time to honor your other roles, relationships, and priorities too.
Relationship educator, writer, host of the Relationship Reminders podcast, and mental health advocate hailing from the US and currently based in Tokyo