“All the women who are independent – throw your hands up at me!” Destiny’s Child told me that when I was a teenager. Beyoncé has preached it in multiple songs since then. I’m a believer! In relationships, it’s important to maintain a sense of identity and independence outside of your significant other. Which sounds easier than it is sometimes, because when we’re newly in love and spend so much time with one person, our lives can morph into a semblance of dependency. “I can’t live without this person!” and “This person is the only thing that makes me happy” are lines that can come out of a relationship where some independence has been lost.
TAKE CARE…OF WHO?
Societally, I’m not sure what messages are being taught to kids, but when I grew up there were mixed messages. There was an underlying societal message that women were a little “less than” men, and women needed to be taken care of by men. And, a woman should seek to find a mate who would take care of her. In my household, my parents taught me I was capable of doing anything I wanted, and I should strive to not have to be reliant on a partner. In essence, they wanted me to grow up and be able to take care of myself.
For that I am forever grateful. I have never been dependent on a partner and I have created my own success. However, when dating in my 20s, I struggled with having a partner want to take care of me. I resisted, feeling like everything needed to be equal or I needed to do more. I hadn’t learned how to harness my independence and use it to contribute to and strengthen my relationships.
There are mixed messages on who should take care of who, but in my experience, there are four primary reasons why being independent, and taking care of yourself, is the healthiest way to also take care of your partner. Boom – mutually taking care of each other equals relationship success!
FOUR REASONS INDEPENDENCE IS HEALTHY IN RELATIONSHIPS
When you’re whole, you can give more to others.
I talked about the importance of, and how to, love yourself in this post. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to be happy with you before you can expect someone else to be happy with you! I remember being in my 20s, being at a low in terms of how I felt about myself and yearning so badly for someone to come along and love me. Spoiler alert: no one came. How could they? Without me being confident and content with who I was, no one could come and complete that equation for me. I was the only one that could complete me.
Feeling whole, knowing you’re A-Okay on your own and even if you want to be with someone, don’t NEED to be with someone, is the exact key needed to invite someone else to share you with you.
When you know you are whole, when you treat yourself with love and take care of yourself, it allows you to give so much more to others! Including a partner. One of my favorite quotes is “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” When you do the things you love to do, when you take care of yourself, it allows you to give love, take care of, and prioritize others. Your cup must be full in order to pour out of it and give to someone else. It’s my most favorite thing about self-love…it winds up contributing to giving love to others! And in a relationship, that’s so important. You want to give as much as you can to your partner, which ultimately means you need to do the same for yourself. So, having independence around knowing who you are, being okay to standalone and do your own thing, and giving to yourself all make space for a healthy relationship.
When you grow, the relationship grows.
There are plenty of events that happen over the course of a relationship when couples are challenged and must grow together. Especially in marriage, withstanding the tests of time is one of the hardest and most rewarding parts about it (according to those I know with a ring on it). But outside of growing together, it’s important to know the impact that personal, individual growth has on a relationship.
When you develop a new interest, take up a new hobby, get promoted or change directions at work, all those things help your relationship flourish. The ways you learn, grow, and change through those experiences bring a wiser you to your relationship duo. Your perspective is widened, your knowledge is expanded, your experiences are increased. And you bring all that back to who you are and how you show up in your relationship. Which helps the relationship continue to grow!
Where there is not growth, there is stagnation. Growing together through experiences PLUS growing individually through personal experience equals continued opportunity for a relationship to thrive.
Being the best you brings out the best them.
This might be my favorite of the four. In relationships, we always talk about bringing out the best in each other. Sometimes that happens unintentionally; we fall in love so hard and love everything about the other person so much it somehow brings out the best in ourselves. What’s even better than that is when we intentionally choose it!
When you are your best self, and you participate in whatever practices, routines or activities that support you being your best, it helps our partner want to show up the best they can for themselves, and for you. I love this one because it’s so true in my relationship and I believe wholeheartedly in the health of my relationship. We are both independent people and do things individually that help us be our best selves. I do yoga, denote time each day to journal, and follow a paleo diet. These things help me be my best, most energetic, zen and loving self. When I’m my best, he wants to be his best self. He wants to be the best partner he can be to me and believes he’s worth it for himself. He has his own practices he does regularly and then as two individuals, we show up as our best selves, inspired by the other to keep being our best. It is such a beautiful act of love! The things we do independently of each other help us be better together.
When you are the owner of your happy…YOU OWN YOUR HAPPY
In-her-20s-Darling-D did not understand this. I was waiting for someone to come along to complete me, for someone else to make me happy. WRONG ANSWER DARLING D! When you are dependent on someone else to make you happy, you enter dangerous territory. Having the freedom to be the director of your own happiness puts the power in your hands! It allows you to do all the other things discussed above, which create an independence for yourself that:
- You can rely on forever, and
- Contributes to a healthy relationship, whenever you’re in one!
When you are independent enough to own your happiness and not put it solely in the hands of a partner, you set yourself up for success in a relationship. You remove an unnecessary stress from your partner to be the one responsible to make you happy. You take ownership of your ability and choices to do what makes you happy. And that all adds up to more happiness in a relationship!
This anonymous quote says it all:
“A healthy relationship is one where two independent people just make a deal that they will help make the other person the best version of themselves.”
Go and be your best selves, individually together!