A travel blogger couple recently posted this quote on their Instagram account: “If you truly love someone, you’ll want to spend every moment of every day with them.”
I get it. When you meet someone who makes you happy and brings out the best in you, it’s hard not to want to be around that person all the time. You probably like doing similar things and share hopes, dreams, and goals.
And as your relationships gets more serious, it’s natural for your lives merge even more. With that comes giving up a little bit of your independence.
But it’s really important not to lose yourself in a relationship. I believe the health of a relationship depends on maintaining who you are as an individual and balancing this with becoming somewhat dependent on your partner.
Logan and I don’t always get it right, but we try hard to balance spending time together with our own projects, our “me” time, and hanging out with friends.
How do we do this?
It’s not a perfect formula, and it will be harder to maintain this balance once we move in together later this year. But here are some things we do to preserve our independence while also learning to depend on each other.
Look to yourself, not your partner, to “complete” you and make you “whole.”
This can be really hard. Defining who you are can be daunting, especially in the world of social media where compare and despair can make you wish you were someone else.
Figuring this out – who you are and what you want to do with your life – doesn’t happen overnight. It takes trial and error and changes over time. It may seem easy to let a relationship – your identity as a girlfriend/wife or boyfriend/husband – become the thing that gives you purpose.
While it may feel like enough during the honeymoon phase of a relationship, over time you’ll start to feel unfulfilled, like you’re missing someone more. And that’s because one person cannot be your everything, one person can’t be the only thing that gives your life meaning.
Logan and I spent most of our twenties exploring our individuals personalities and discovering what’s important to us. We matured and increased our emotional intelligence. We learned better ways to handle conflict and how to express our feelings so differences in opinion don’t turn into big fights.
I did the same – I stopped practicing law, spent time freelance writing, ended a long-term relationship, and moved to Bali for three months.
When we met, we both had pretty good ideas of who we were/are. Of course we hope to continue to evolve throughout our lives, but we realized that there’s so much growth and change that happens during your 20s. We both changed A TON.
That doesn’t mean you can’t meet your soulmate at 20 and get married. I just think it’s much harder because you still have so much to learn about yourself as an adult in your 20s. You can do that alongside your partner, regardless of when you meet him/her, but it’s really a solo endeavor.
Don’t allow your partner to become your “everything.”
A year and a half ago, Logan was a beautiful addition to my life. I hope he’s in my life until we are both very old, but I also know that I would survive without him if we separated or if he died. It’s scary to think about either of those things happening (and to be clear, I don’t want them to happen), but I feel confident in who I am with or without Logan.
He does not complete me because I do things every day, like my work as a psychotherapist, writing, being active, spending time with family and friends, that make me who I am and bring meaning into my life.
I don’t care if you are dating, engaged, or married and have kids – your partner should not be your everything. Even though we don’t like to think about it (because it’s scary and can cause anxiety), there is never a guarantee that your partner will not choose to leave at some point or die unexpectedly.
If one person is your everything, you are taking a BIG risk. A sobering reality, right?
This doesn’t mean your partner can’t be your best friend. Logan and I are.
But Logan isn’t the only person in my life. I have family and friends, and I make time for all of them regularly because Logan is not my whole world. He is a HUGE part of it, and I want to be around him often, but he’s not the only thing that makes me happy and brings meaning into my life.
We need different kinds of relationships in our lives. Partners/spouses, family, and friends – they all serve unique purposes. One person can’t and shouldn’t be everything to us.
Depend on your partner for support and encouragement.
Some dependence in a relationship is healthy and necessary. You are trusting your partner with your deepest insecurities and vulnerabilities and asking him/her to keep them safe. That’s emotional dependence.
There are days when I feel tired, overwhelmed, or down, and I need Logan to lift me up. The same is true for Logan.
We don’t fix each other’s problems, but we give feedback and cheer each other on from the sidelines.
That’s healthy dependence to us.
What are your tips on how to preserve independence in a relationship? I’d love to hear.
Featured image by Bria Peterson Photography