How To Cultivate Independence In A Long-Term Relationship
Honor Your Individuality
In my experience, independence flourishes best in a long-term relationship when there is a deep sense of trust from both parties. This mutual trust creates a natural foundation of freedom, allowing couples to move through life both as a team and as individuals.
During this stay-at-home season, I’ve been especially observant of how my husband and I are practicing independence while living and working from home together. We both thrive on having a schedule, so communicating about our day has been helpful in sustaining independence. Even though our schedules look much different than they used to, we’re creating our own schedules that include designated time together, as well as scheduled time apart. Some days, this looks like honoring the other person’s need for a solo walk around the neighborhood. Other days, it’s offering a quiet space when one of us wants to work on a project instead of watching Netflix.
That said, maintaining independence in a relationship requires transparency, communication, and a deep understanding of what the other person needs to thrive in their own unique and complex identity. There’s a delicate balance and dance that must be learned when prioritizing the things you love while also honoring your partner’s needs.
Ways To Practice Independence
Below are some tangible practices my partner and I have implemented in our relationship to support our independence and individual needs.
Maintaining our personal projects
I’ve found it extremely important in my relationship to maintain personal projects. This can mean hobbies or entrepreneurial pursuits—giving your heart to something other than your sweetheart creates a healthy balance, so honor your own dreams. If both of you are setting goals and scheduling time to work on personal projects, this also creates a supportive environment and an encouraging foundation for your relationship.
Setting our own goals
My partner and I love to talk about our future, and we both have a clear understanding of our shared goals. However, maintaining personal goals is just as important. This can range from financial and educational goals to fitness and travel goals. It’s wonderful to discuss personal goals with your partner, especially when it comes to finances and personal pursuits. In my relationship, I’ve found that we best hold each other accountable by encouraging one another. The key here is to take notice of this support while not relying solely on the reassurance from your partner. Use this encouragement as a simple tool to keep you on track.
Discussing our personal finances
Of course, sharing finances with a partner is a delicate topic and unique to everyone. Early on in our relationship, we made it a point to discuss our finances to establish our personal relationship with money. Today, we aim to split everything when it comes to spending; however, we don’t share bank accounts. We have one savings account that we add to, but otherwise, we keep finances separate. This allows us to maintain financial independence while honoring transparency about spending and saving.
My partner and I are both social people and love to go out together, but we are still working on figuring out how to balance solo socializing within our relationship. When we’re not practicing social distancing, we do this by finding social gatherings that we can attend alone.
Solo socializing allows for our own personal network to blossom and, again, helps to advance personal goals. We’ve found that this goes for family time as well. If you’re in a long-term relationship, you most likely spend holidays with extended families from both sides. It’s really meaningful to make time for one-on-one trips to visit your own family or have dinner with a close family member without your other half.
Nowadays, we’re both taking our own time to call friends and family. Again, creating a schedule and sharing it with each other is helpful. This way, we each know when the other person will be taking an evening or afternoon to touch base with loved ones.
Prioritizing alone time
We live in a society that encourages busyness, so notice if you fill your schedule so much that you’re not allowing for self-care. Especially in this slower season, it’s fascinating to witness time in a new way. For instance, I find myself reading a book on my couch at 2 p.m. on a Sunday when I would normally be out with friends or running errands. I go outside with a blanket, leaving my phone inside, to be alone in nature. These simple moments alone with yourself are so important. If you are in a long-term relationship, this need to find alone time will come up naturally but communicate with your partner when you are feeling especially deprived of solitude.
Vacationing by ourselves
There have been two notably large trips that I’ve taken since being in my six-year relationship with my now-husband. The first was a 14-day solo backpacking trip around London and Scotland that was incredibly liberating. I also spent 21 days in the desert of California earning my 200-hour yoga teacher training certification. During both of these trips, we got to explore new ways of communicating and developed a deeper sense of trust.
Not everyone has the desire to travel alone, and I definitely enjoy it more with a companion, but getting away with you, yourself, and, well, yourself, feels like a chance to reconnect with your soul in a completely different way. Allowing for this kind of freedom in your relationship creates a deeper connection and strength for you and your partner to experience.
In this time that travel is on pause, consider using some of our staycation tips, or a solo drive around your town or city. Getting out of your normal surroundings to be in your own thoughts is liberating and grounding.
Every relationship is different, and everyone has their own needs in aiding their personal growth and satisfaction, both in the relationship and as an individual. However, implementing these simple habit shifts can create a stable foundation of fulfillment and comfort in any long-term relationship.
What are some of the ways you’ve allowed for independence to flourish in your relationship? Share in the comments below!
Courtney Jay Higgins is the Associate Editor at The Good Trade. She is also a Yoga Instructor, vegetarian, wellness and fashion enthusiast. Originally from Colorado, her soul found California when she came to get her degree in Visual Communications at the Fashion Institute Of Design & Merchandising. She has a background in telling a story through writing, creative direction and content creation. Check out her blog and Instagram for her unique perspective on the mergence of fashion and spirituality.