Keeping Your Independence in a Relationship
Being in a relationship doesn’t mean throwing your sense of identity away and centering your life around your partner.
By Clara Tan
Your significant other may be your best friend, and you confide in them and spend hours together. After all, a relationship is built on two individuals who enjoy spending time with each other. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be co-dependent and be together all the time. There’s the saying that two halves make a whole, and that could not be further from the truth. Rather, it takes two whole people to form a healthy relationship.
Here are some tips from couples and individuals – all of whom are in a relationship – on how to be your own person:
Tip 1: Have goals for yourself that don’t centre around your partner or the both of you
Our goals and core values make us who we are and give us purpose in life. That does not include your goals as a couple, such as buying a home together in five years. Instead, think about what you hope to achieve for yourself. Is there anything you’ve always set out to do? It could be a solo trip to your dream destination, or even picking up a new skill.
In addition, when a couple supports each other’s dreams, it spurs each to pursue independent interests. Flight attendant Farhanah Mazlan, 29, can attest to this.
“My partner and I talk about our dreams from time to time to remind each other the goals we’ve set to accomplish. For me, I always strive to be better than yesterday by getting out of my comfort zone, and he wants to be content in whatever he does. He is supportive of my goals and frequently encourages me to do things that make me happy. Having open discussions about my goals with my partner motivates me to achieve more in life.” – Farhanah
Tip 2: Have your own hobbies and interests
While it’s great discovering new activities to do with your partner, the hobbies and interests you had before you got together should not take a backseat. Not only does having your own hobbies nurture your independence, it maintains your sense of self, too. If you don’t have a hobby in particular, take this opportunity to find something you enjoy doing outside of your partner’s company.
Having separate hobbies and interests can have a positive impact on your relationship too. Samantha David, 30, and Dinesh Ajith, 28, both editors, have found that their differing interests actually make their relationship stronger. Sam enjoys diving while Dinesh is an avid gamer.
“Being independent allows me to take care of my own needs. I make it a point to set aside a few hours a day to game because I enjoy it and it helps me de-stress. By doing so, it gives me the energy and motivation to contribute more to the relationship. For instance, I make sure to spend quality time with Samantha by having meals with her when I’m not gaming, or planning outings for the weekend.” – Dinesh
“Initially, I was a little sad that Dinesh would never join me on dive trips, but now I’ve come to accept it and even appreciate the time away from him because that way, I can maintain my own sense of identity doing what I love. This makes me happy and as a result, this satisfaction carries over to the relationship, which makes our bond stronger. Also, I can share stories with him and it gives us even more to talk about when I return home, so all this makes us closer in the end.” – Samantha
Tip 3: Have your own opinions
Compromise is important in any relationship, but decide what values are non-negotiable for you and communicate them to your partner. If you have clear opinions about a topic that’s brought up during a conversation, express your views.
Think about what matters to you. For example, is lack of honesty a deal breaker for you? By the same token, you should respect your partner’s thoughts and opinions. Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Ezra Lim, 22, says that in his relationship, he and his partner do not take the passive route.
“We have open conversations about how we feel. If I have opinions on a certain topic especially tricky ones like, say, politics, I will just state how I feel, and at the same time ask her about her thoughts. We can always agree to disagree.” – Ezra
Tip 4: Have mindful time apart
It could be as simple as treating yourself to a relaxing spa day or hitting the gym alone, or spending quality time with your friends and family. Having time apart, even if you are married, is important as it rejuvenates you and gives perspective on your true self. A good first step would be to make ‘me’ time as part of your schedule and lock down those dates.
Desktop artist, Andrea Chua, and financial consultant, Mogan Kalidass, both 28 and married for three years, squeeze in ‘me’ time by establishing a routine with their own friends.
“I don’t really get much free time as my work hours can be long. However, I try to meet my friends (without Mogan) at least once a month, especially if there are new releases for movies or games. Being so busy, when I finally get to enjoy my own free time, I feel refreshed!” – Andrea
“I usually schedule a gathering at my place every two weeks or so, so my friends will just come by and chill out. It’s nice as it feels like the good old days and to a certain extent, it makes me feel young again as I used to have these get-togethers when Andrea and I were dating.” – Mogan
Keeping your independence in a relationship isn’t difficult, and remember, it’s all about being your own person instead of relying on your partner to be complete. You were an independent and unique individual before your relationship, so continue being that!