People in relationships tend to see themselves as being a part of something bigger than themselves or the sum of their parts. This tendency is reinforced by others outside the relationship who recognize that inviting one without inviting the other would be impolite.
However, it is critical for both partners in a relationship to maintain a certain level of autonomy and independence. This is not only important for maintaining one's sense of self, but it also contributes to more diverse experiences for both parties. Here are seven ways that being self-sufficient benefits your long-term relationship.
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1. It is not necessary to share everything
It is natural to want to share as much as possible with your significant other, especially at the start of a relationship. It's normal and typical, whether you call it hormones, desire, joy, or the first stirrings of love. But, if you tell everyone everything about yourself right away, what else is there to learn?
Love should be an ongoing process of discovery, and that can't happen if your significant other knows everything there is to know about you by the end of your third date.
Being self-sufficient entails retaining some of one's own identity. This is not the same as deception. If you feel the need to lie to your significant other about anything (other than where you went to buy his or her birthday present), it's time to reconsider your relationship and why you're in it.
However, you should not feel obligated to explain everything about yourself all at once, and neither should your significant other. Cataloguing and regurgitating every move each person makes borders on stalkerish and is certainly not conducive to a sense of independence on either side.
2. Find a hobby that requires you to spend some time away from your significant other
Hobbies are beneficial to our health. They provide us with an opportunity to escape the monotony of our daily lives, to express ourselves creatively, and to simply have fun. Finding a hobby, such as painting, writing, or even hiking, has been shown in studies to provide health and mental benefits such as lower blood pressure, improved creative problem solving ability, and a greater sense of satisfaction and independence.
To get the most out of it, find something you enjoy that isn't particularly interesting to your significant other and is uniquely yours. This is a great way to assert your independence while doing something your lover will appreciate once completed. Developing a hobby is a two-way street. Both parties should feel free to experiment with new ways of expressing themselves.
3. Take a break from your relationship
This does not imply that you should “see other people” or engage in any of the other behaviors that indicate that your relationship is effectively over. However, there is nothing wrong with needing some alone time from time to time.
Take a short solo vacation. Go camping, fishing, or simply relax at the beach. A few days apart can give you a fresh perspective on your relationship while also making the other person's company more appealing. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” as the old adage goes. Get away from it for a while to learn to appreciate the other person's company.
Being self-sufficient means being willing to stand alone as well as with others, and it can boost your sense of self-worth even when your other half isn't present.
4. Have a variety of friends and experiences
To some extent, this relates to No. 3, because a couple whose component parts cannot have separate experiences may be dangerously unbalanced.
It's fine to rely on one another, but codependency is often the first sign of an abusive relationship for both genders. As a result, each individual should have a distinct identity with his or her own friends and experiences outside of the relationship. This, once again, must be a two-way street. If either party says, “It's fine for me to go bowling or hang out and play poker, but you have to stay home,” this is grossly unfair and a clear sign of a controlling, unhealthy relationship.
When both parties are free to come and go as they please, without suspicion or concern about when they'll be home or what they're doing, trust is built, and both parties can celebrate their independence while still choosing to be together.
5. Learn to say and accept the word “no
“May I join you?” There are times and situations when this is appropriate, and others when it is not. The ability to say and accept “no” as an answer without inflicting or being inflicted with undue pain is a critical component of independence. This type of conversation could go something like this:
“I'd love for you to come tonight, but we're going to watch The Empire Strikes Back and then talk about the latest Jim Butcher book while we play D&D, and you don't like either of those things. You'd get bored.”
“All right.” [pause] “Well, maybe I'll see what the erotic book club members are up to tonight and we can go out for cocktails.”
“That appears to be a good idea. Please call me if you are going to be out late so that I am not concerned.
“I intend to.” [smiles] “Have a good time tonight!”
This is a healthy way to deal with the situation without causing hurt feelings. The rejection here has nothing to do with wanting the person to be there and everything to do with knowing the other person's tastes well enough to recognize they won't enjoy themselves.
Of course, it is contingent on both parties being completely honest about their intentions. However, we can safely assume that both parties are speaking truthfully. The person who asked may not be pleased with the answer, but accepts the refusal and his or her partner's implicit need to assert independence. As a result, this person considers how the partner can participate as well.
The underlying assumption is that the evening will end with both of them home and in each other's arms, and neither feels tethered to their partner's side. Being self-sufficient sometimes entails being able to reject another person's company gracefully while also accepting that rejection gracefully.
6. Never lose sight of your goals
Dreams shape who we are. They shape us and give us something to strive for. Just because you're in a relationship with someone doesn't mean you have to give up your dreams for them. In fact, the inverse is true.
A truly good and loving relationship is built on both parties having dreams and desires both inside and outside of the relationship. A good partner, on the other hand, is someone who is willing to support his or her partner's dreams without naysaying or ridiculing them. Knowing that mutual support is available if needed, as well as understanding that both partners require space to pursue their dreams, is the hallmark of a strong relationship.
Finally, your dreams are an important part of who you are. If your partner insists on putting their wants ahead of yours, it's time to reconsider whether this person is truly someone you want to be with.
7. Be yourself
Being self-sufficient entails being who and what you are, rather than someone else's version of who and what you should be. Something is clearly wrong if your partner insists on changing your hairstyle, wardrobe, or friends and interests to better suit their vision of who you are.
In the same way, love your partner for who they are, not what they are not. No two people are alike, and attempting to fit someone into a narrow mold is unjust to both parties in the relationship.
Be prepared to defend yourself when necessary, and never be afraid to ask, “Why?” You can't be yourself and another person's version of yourself at the same time. “This above all: to thine own self be true; it follows that thou canst not be false to any man,” Shakespeare said.
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You have heard it all before: "Live life to the fullest", "follow your dreams", "be who you are" and "if it is meant to be, it will be". These are all wonderful quotes that are meant to help you live a happy life but they miss the point. Our lives are interconnected with each other and with the world.
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