How to Maintain Your Independence in a Romantic Relationship
Feature Image: Toa Heftiba
Romantic relationships are rewarding when both partners feel like they are equally important. Engaging in behavior that leaves you or your partner feeling alienated is a surefire way to create trouble in paradise. While not every relationship is perfect, I’ve found that couples who maintain their own level of independence are ultimately more successful than those who blend into each other over time.
My boyfriend and I have been together for three years and our relationship thrives because we provide ourselves, and each other, with the space and respect needed to grow as individuals. We share common interests, but we have not lost touch with the individual interests we have, for the sake of focusing our efforts on mutual tastes. My boyfriend likes to play video games before bed, and I like to read. He enjoys going to the gym, but I prefer to work out at home. He likes to limit his gluten intake, whereas I prefer to primarily subsist on carbohydrates. These may seem like inconsequential differences but ultimately it is these differences that allow us to maintain our independence while sharing our lives with one another.
Don’t Compromise on Scheduling
My boyfriend and I moved in with each other in January 2018 and navigating the process of combining personal schedules was easier than I expected it to be. This is largely because we both understood early on how we wanted to conduct our daily routines. My boyfriend often stays up late, but I need to go to bed by 11:00 p.m. because I cannot function on anything less than eight hours of sleep. He didn’t want to adjust his schedule to go to bed early and I didn’t want to adjust my schedule to go to bed later to gain more time together. While I was initially hesitant about this reduction in time, I quickly learned that we were more likely to bicker on the days when one of us was attempting to adjust to the other’s schedule. Spending as much time together as possible is great, but not when it means that the quality of your time is sacrificed in the process.
If your partner has a different sleep schedule or a different work schedule than you do, don’t try to conform to their routines and don’t expect them to conform to yours. As adults, we have had plenty of time to develop our routines and preferences as individuals, and it’s important to hold onto these preferences when you engage in a romantic relationship. If you like to wake up at sunrise to go for a run, then slip out of bed and throw your shoes on. Don’t wait around for your partner to wake up and join you. If you want to exercise together, go for a jog in the evening before you settle in for dinner. The things that are important to your schedule maintenance may not align with what matters to your partner, and that’s okay.
Meld your schedules as best as possible by setting aside time that works best for both of you. If you both have an hour in the morning between when you wake up and when you leave for work, sit down and have breakfast together. If your partner is working late and you need to pull an all-nighter to study for an exam, take a break when your partner gets home and share a snack with them before getting back to your books. No matter how you choose to make time for one another, be sure you are respecting each other’s preferences to avoid unnecessary arguments.
Don’t Expect Your Partner to Like Something Just Because You Do
When you’re really passionate about a new show or workout routine, you may be tempted to tell your partner about how great this new thing is. Sharing with your partner is essential but expecting them to like something just because you do can create a weird sense of pressure for them. My boyfriend and I typically have one T.V. show that we watch together while we eat dinner and the show varies depending on what we determine we’re both going to enjoy. This routine works because we jointly enjoy these shows and collectively make the decision.
Sometimes my boyfriend wants to watch South Park or Archer, and I don’t enjoy these shows, so I don’t watch them with him. Sometimes I feel like watching Sex and the City or the Great British Bake Off, and my boyfriend just isn’t interested in these shows. I don’t expect him to sit down and discuss Carrie’s relationships with me, and he doesn’t expect me to make South Park jokes with him. By eliminating the expectation of having the same preferences, each of us is given the time we want to enjoy the shows that we like separately. This doesn’t feel like a sacrifice for either of us because we watch shows together when we feel like it but we also give each other time to veg out on our own programs when needed.
The same goes for workout routines. My boyfriend is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about fitness and he designs specific routines to follow when he’s at the gym every day. This works really well for him, but I struggle to follow complicated workout routines due to personal issues I experienced when I had an eating disorder. My boyfriend understands what I went through and only suggests new things for me to try when I specifically ask for his advice. He never expects me to join him in the gym and I don’t expect him to do yoga with me. We discuss our common interests whenever we can. I always make time to listen to him when he has discovered something new in the world of fitness, and he always makes time for me when I’ve mastered a new yoga move and want to talk about it. Engaging in conversation about your separate interests is a great way to show you care without imposing an unrealistic expectation on your partner.
It’s Important to Do Your Own Thing
My boyfriend and I have the same core group of friends because we used to work with each other. More often than not, when we go out on the weekend, we are going out together to meet our mutual friends. This works well for us because we really enjoy hanging out with each other and it’s nice to have friends in common. Some weekends though, I like to hang out with my girlfriends or spend time with my mom. My boyfriend likes to see his friends or spend time with his parents on his days off, and it’s good for us to have this separation from time to time.
If you solely spend time with collective friends, or if you find yourself tagging along with your partner when they go to meet their friends and vice versa, each of you loses a part of yourselves by doing this. Your partner should have time on their own to see their friends and so should you. Make sure you are spending an equal amount of time engaging in shared activities and separate activities to prevent yourselves from losing independence in your romantic relationship over time.
Being in a healthy relationship is great, but so is being an independent person with their own preferences! Take time for yourself, and the things you love, and be sure to encourage your partner to do the same.
What do you do to maintain independence in your relationship?