Independence in a Relationship
Does the beginning of a relationship mean the death of your independence? For some people, the answer may not be as clear cut as you may think. A reason for this may be found in part by the examples of “commitment” as portrayed on TV, social media, or popular culture. There are many stereotypes regarding what a committed relationship looks like. Some of them can be very positive; however, there is one in particular that can be discouraging, and that is the overly intertwined or “co-dependent” couple.
You know the one. The couple that cannot do anything without each other, the woman that changes entire elements of her personality to suit her new partner, or the man who suddenly loses interest in all his friends because his partner is his new focus; the couple that seems to live, breathe, and eat as one. This couple no longer has two independent people in it, but rather one entity in which neither partner is fully recognizable on their own.
Unfortunately, for many people, this may be the only model that they see of what commitment is "supposed" to look like. Due to these misconceptions, and more, some people may feel like being in a relationship is just not worth it. They might want to have a committed relationship, but see certain obstacles between who they are and what a “committed relationship” looks like. They may think “I don’t want to have to ask permission to buy what I want”, or, “Being in a relationship will mean that I have to get approval to hang out with my friends”, or, “If I get into a relationship, I will have to give up many of the things I like to do in order to do ‘couple’ things”. For those who value their independence, these ideas can seem stifling and claustrophobic.
In a healthy relationship, the balance between independence and co-dependence is “interdependence”. Interdependence in a relationship is that sweet spot in which your needs for cooperation and companionship as well as your needs to retain your autonomy and independence are met. Finding the balance is a process that starts with knowing your own needs, wants, boundaries, and expectations. Then you and your partner can decide what you want your unique committed relationship to look like. Every single person in this world is different so it stands to reason that every relationship will vary based on the two individuals in it. There is not a one-size-fits all formula. Once you know who you are and what you want, you can begin to formulate the romantic relationship that works for you.
Kristal DeSantis, M.A., LMFT-Associate, is the founder of Austin STRONG: Relationship Building Center in Austin, TX