How To Be Independent In A Romantic Relationship

by Raven Ishak
Originally Published: 
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If you have a SO, you might them your best friend. You tell them all your worries, go to events with them, and spend hours watching Netflix together. But even if the both of you hang out all the time, it's important to be independent in a romantic relationship, too. Being in a relationship doesn't mean you have to be co-dependent. Healthy relationships are about two independent people who decide to share their lives and build a relationship together.

​"It’s very important to have independence in a relationship. Successful, healthy relationships allow for the both people to form a bond which lets them to not only grow together but also to grow independently as people. It’s essential to have your own sense of autonomy while feeling you can depend on each other. Also, if you give up your independence and abandon the things that used to make you happy, it will be reflected in your relationship," says relationship etiquette expert Mara Opperman in an interview with Bustle over email.

But why is it so hard for some couples to be independent in a relationship? For some, it's because of social anxiety. "A big problem with independence comes from underlying social anxiety. Those with SA struggle and ruminate about what others are thinking and most often infer judgments that are unfair and unlikely about their current self-worth or behavior. Helping to gain self-esteem through experience in social and/or work settings can help. Diversity of relationships is also key. Some people want to have just one partner in crime. But that can mean a lot of heavy lifting for your significant other. If we have friends, family and work colleagues with whom we share meaningful experiences we have less chance of getting burnt out any relationship," says director of therapeutic technology Dr. Scott Lloyd in an interview with Bustle over email.

If you feel like you've been hanging out with your partner too much, that's OK. Here are 11 ways to be independent in a romantic relationship.

1. Learn To Recognize Your Own Emotions

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Learning how to establish a sense of self is vital to helping you grow as an individual. You want to learn how to recognize your own emotions for situations where you need to stand up for yourself and make quick decisions when your partner isn't available. "Learning to recognize your own ​emotions, and how to regulate yourself when your partner seems unreasonable, or is unavailable. Good ways to do this include a daily practice of meditation, calming breathing exercises, yoga, running, swimming or any other physical exercise that reliably produces a calming effect on your body," says licensed marriage and family therapist Gracie Landes in an interview with Bustle over email.

2. Do Something By Yourself

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While it's always fun to share experiences with your partner, you want to strive to have some solo ones, too. "Get time on a regular basis to do something on your own that you enjoy and that give you energy. Have hobbies or interests you can bring back to share with your partner. This keeps the relationship fresh and allows you both to keep growing," says Landes.

3. Understand & Accept Your Partner's Point Of View

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It's normal for couples to have a different point of view from each other, and these differences are a great way to establish independence. "Learning to recognize and understand and accept the other person's point of v​iew, especially when it's different from your own," says Landes.

4. Learn To Be Interdependent, Not Codependent

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"Being interdependent in a relationship means you and your partner are good together, but you're good on your own, too. When someone is codependent, he/she tends to think that he/she is not OK on his/her own and he/she loses parts of herself/himself because he/she fears she/he might lose the relationship," says clinical psychologist Megan Fleming in an interview with Bustle over the phone. Even though it's good to be in a relationship with someone, it doesn't mean you have to be codependent. A relationship won't be considered healthy if you rely on that person entirely for all your wants and needs.

5. Think Of Your Core Values

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You never want to change your values to please your SO. While it's normal for someone to change them on their own, you don't want to just because your SO is forcing you to. "Don't give up your core values to be in a relationship. Figure out what's most important to you and don't lose sight of that," says Fleming.

6. Maintain Your Own Passions

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Continue to do what you love so you can grow a life outside of your relationship. "You can have your own passions and your own life, but from time to time it’s nice to share these things with your partner," says Opperman.

7. Learn To Love Yourself

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Honestly, one of the most important relationships you have to continue to nurture is the one you have with yourself. Normally, no other relationship will work out if you don't have a good relationship with yourself. "Don’t forget to love yourself. You need to take care of yourself and your needs," says Opperman.

8. Hang Out With Your Friends Without Your SO

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Before you and your SO got together, you probably surrounded yourself with friends and family. It's important to maintain those relationships even when you're in a romantic relationship. You don't want all of your happiness to depend on just one person. "You should also plan nights to hang out with your own friends and go out separately," says Opperman.

9. Find A New Hobby

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It's always fun to share a hobby with your partner, but it's also a good idea for each of you to do your own thing once in a while. It will allow you to have new subjects to talk about and help you appreciate the times you do have together. "Find a new hobby that you enjoy or go out and meet new people and make new friends,"says Opperman.

10. Figure Out What's Important Aside From Your Relationship

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While your SO is a very important element in your life, you should try to make sure that that's not the only important thing. "Spend your time thinking about what is important in your life aside from your relationship. Whatever you focus on will help remind you that there are other things in life aside from your SO. You need to happy with or without your partner," says Opperman.

11. Don't Place So Much Pressure On Your Relationship

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It can be easy to fall into the relationship trap when you have unrealistic expectations. Instead of putting a lot of pressure on your relationship, take the time to focus on your own needs and wants. "Until people know they can manage on their own, they put too much pressure on a relationship to provide the majority of their needs or to always go well. That's not a realistic expectation for a sustainable long term relationship. It's safe to be close to another person to the extent you can tolerate them being a separate individual," says Landes.

While it feels amazing to be in a stable relationship, you don't want your whole life to revolve around your SO. Take some time to be alone, find a new hobby, and figure out what's important aside from your relationship. It's time to find your independence while you're dating your SO.

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