How to Maintain Independence in a Long-Term Relationship

By David

December 16, 2013   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

When you’re in a long term relationship, it’s all too easy to lose yourself. This is particularly true if you live with your partner and, before long, that line where you start and they begin can become very blurry indeed.

But why does that matter? Surely, if you’re in a loving relationship, you’re supposed to become dependent.  That just shows how strong you are as a couple and that you’ve become an indomitable unit ready to face the world. However, all too often, this means that you lose something of yourself, of the person you were before. Whether that’s a hobby you used to be dedicated to or just the simple pleasure of solitude, in order for a relationship to be sustainable, both parties need to be at peace in their own company.

So when you’ve been with someone for a number of years, how do you retain or, indeed, regain your independence without your partner feeling like you’re distancing yourself? Depending on their sensibilities, it can be quite a delicate challenge. However, it needn’t be a case of “darling, I need some space, I want to carve out a new identity that doesn’t include you.” With a little tact it can be “darling, I fancy a new challenge; I’m interested in taking up a new hobby.” The gentle approach always trumps the mindlessly abrupt.

Don’t Share Everything

This is one thing long term couples end up doing – and sometimes by accident. When you share your life with someone, it’s all too easy to share all of your possessions too. Be it a shared bank account, a shared car or a shared group of friends, you may suddenly realize that you don’t own anything that’s just for you.

It’s important to have ownership over certain things – particularly friends. If you’re always socializing together it’s no wonder you’ll start to feel reliant. Instead, try having at least one friend that you see on your own on a regular basis. This allows you to recall the person you were before the relationship and this is especially true if that one friend is someone you know from way back when.

Try to occupy a corner of the house that is reserved for your things only. Rather than intermingling your possessions throughout a shared space, having a room or desk that you can possess will give you a sense of personal identity in your own home.

Get a Hobby that Grants Independence

Consider buying something that ticks a number of independence boxes, like a motorcycle. Typically, a motorcycle is a one-person vehicle and not only gives you the independence of the road but a new, dynamic hobby.

Motorcycles offer an untold amount of value, from the mechanics to the gear, to the brands and the community. Check Meetup for motorcycle socials in your area and go along. Sure, you might be a rookie, but you’ll meet dozens of new people that aren’t associated with your beau and will be more than happy to share their knowledge and develop your hobby. If motorcycles just aren’t your thing, consider a bicycle (not tandem) or a similar outdoorsy pursuit. Why not try sky diving, water skiing or a high octane competitive sport.  These are real confidence builders and will reinforce the idea that you can cope in a crisis. You don’t need your partner to rescue you.

The Power of Longing: Take a Break

It’s great to be together, but 24/7 creates dependence. Don’t be afraid to take a break, either with friends or on your own. To clarify, this doesn’t mean a Ross and Rachel kind of break, but a holiday filled with enriching experiences. This allows you to gain a fresh perspective that you can share with your partner when you reunite.

Most people underestimate the power of longing. If you’re around each other all time, you’re not allowing yourself to miss them. Whilst this might sound a little strange, missing someone is an extremely effective way of remembering why you’re together at all. Revel in the gut-wrenching conviction of love that comes from being apart. And then, when reunited, all of the quirks and curiosities of your relationship will be amplified and you can delight in knowing that your passion is stronger than ever.

Going back to the motorcycle idea, if you were to adopt such a hobby, it would give you the perfect excuse to take some time off. Go on a motoring tour for the weekend, ride a famous road or visit a biker café. Whatever you do, embrace the independence of traveling alone and the “thinking time” it affords you.

Independence Leads to Stronger Relationships

With a little effort, you’ll find your identity renewed and your relationship all the better for it. Two people can be committed to each other and still have a strong grasp of who they are. If anything, those who manage this often challenging balance ultimately become a stronger couple. Independence is crucial to self-worth and this has a direct impact on positive personal relationships.

Have you felt dependent in a relationship? What happened and how did you resolve it?

Written on 12/16/2013 by Emily Buchanan.

Photo Credit: Seranya Photography


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