The following article is a guest post, courtesy of Travis Noddings
While fireworks are exploding over our heads this July 4th in celebration of The United States of America’s glorious adoption of the Declaration of Independence, I’d like to remind everyone out there to rejoice in their own hard-earned independence.
Whether you’re entering a new relationship, strengthening an ongoing one, or just looking towards the future, it can be easy to let the freedom you experienced in your single life slip away once you couple-up.
You don’t always realize how much you’ve given up, but the good news is that it’s never too late to assert yourself and reclaim your title as an extraordinary, strong, independent individual! Can I get an ”Amen”?
Here are five tips to help you keep your independence while maintaining a healthy relationship:
1. Have your own space
Being together doesn’t mean you have to give up being alone. For couples that live together, creating a space that is all your own is an absolute must. No matter how much you love your partner, spending most of your time in someone else’ company can quickly become draining. Everyone needs a safe retreat to cool down, think, decompress, and be by themselves. Never be afraid to take a breather in a study, guest room, or just your own little spot in the city.
For most of the year my boyfriend and I live on opposite sides of the country, so alone time isn’t hard to come by. However, when we are staying together it’s usually in a tiny studio apartment that forces us into each other’s personal space. To stay sane, we take a few hours every weekend to sit separately (me on the couch, him at his desk) and work on our own projects or just generally goof off apart from one another. For a physical reprieve, consider walking down to a local café or visiting a book store for a bit. No one is likely to bother you in your own little reading nook, and you’ll feel a lot more refreshed when you return home.
2. Keep your own hobbies & interests
Just as important as having your own space, keeping certain activities for yourself (or with an outside group of friends) will help you stay connected with your passions and continue maturing independent of your partner. They are a great way to meet new friends, maintain an interesting and unique life outside of your relationship, and develop an emotional outlet for your frustrations and anxieties. You don’t have to plunge yourself into white water rafting, but perhaps drawing, yoga, kickboxing, blogging, or volunteering might offer you an escape. Bring back one of your long forgotten childhood hobbies and take it to the next level; you’ll be surprised by how much you didn’t know you missed it.
It’s okay to go to events, like concerts or seminars, without your partner (I am personally going to bow down to Beyoncé solo this August). Don’t be afraid to take extended trips apart, either. Whether it’s visiting family or taking a long-awaited road trip with your friends, you’ll both be happy for the detached downtime.
3. Stand your ground
Relationships demand compromise, but you are always in control of your own priorities. Don’t reorganize your life to meet “shared values” if you don’t truly believe in them yourself, or if they neglect your interests. Decide which things you aren’t willing to compromise on, but be prepared to cede less important ones if you want to keep a happy, healthy relationship. If your partner tries to sway you into giving up your personal time, or asks you to take on a chore that you despise, remind them that you need to focus on the things that are important to you and that you’ll trade responsibilities if need be. I always stop to ask myself “Is this something I want? Would I mind doing it for him here and there? How can I help him understand my perspective?” Thinking aloud to your partner doesn’t hurt, either.
Live life like House of Cards’ Frank and Claire Underwood—working together, but never giving up your own agenda.
4. Speak openly when you disagree
You’re allowed to say no. You’re allowed to get mad, vent, and voice all of your displeasures. The healthiest thing a couple can do is maintain an open, unconditional, non-judgmental dialogue. Speaking up is the only way you can ensure your independence while simultaneously working with your partner to improve your relationship. Make your opinion heard, and demand it be respected. It’s okay to bide your tongue for the little things, but don’t hold your voice down for too long—it’s the little things you keep letting go that insidiously become overwhelming.
If you aren’t getting through to them in the moment, reopen discussion when you’re both in a good mood (I strike during dinner, food always softens the blow). Alternatively, write your frustrations down in a note and leave it for them to find while you’re not around (if they get home before you during the week, in their backpack/briefcase, coat pocket etc). This will help you articulate your thoughts better and give them time to take in your argument without immediately reacting. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to mix in some sweet, appreciative notes after that one so they don’t live in fear of reaching into their pockets.
5. Celebrate yourself
As Tom and Donna say on Parks and Recreation, “Treat. Yo. Self.” You were an epic, independent, unique individual before you started a relationship, and you’re only getting better with time. Don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back, replay your greatest achievements, and push full-steam ahead on self-celebration. Never shrink yourself. Never let a partner’s doubts cloud your judgement. Make a list of your short and long term goals, and revisit them when you feel like you might be losing your direction. Keep your eyes trained on your hopes and dreams, and promise yourself that you will keep working towards them no matter what changes in your life.
Put yourself first.
Happy Independence Day!
Did you enjoy this post? Then make sure to check out Confessions from 7,200 Singles: 10 Sex Secrets Revealed.
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