How I’ve Maintained Independence In My Relationship

Marc and I are celebrating 8 years of dating, and 8 months of marriage. This has made me reflect on our relationship, and how well we’ve grown together over the years. We have lived together for over 5 years in 4 different states, which includes 6 cities and 8 different apartments. To say our relationship has changed from that first apartment in Wilmington, North Carolina to now is an understatement. I love thinking back to each apartment we’ve lived in and reflecting on what stage our relationship was during that time. One of the biggest lessons I have learned throughout these years and all of these different places is that it is crucial to keep your independence in any relationship.

I learned this lesson the hard way while we were living in Burlington, Vermont. This apartment was a huge milestone for Marc and I. I had recently moved from my home state of North Carolina to Vermont and had my first job after college. Marc and I shared a one-bedroom apartment, and this is where our relationship really bloomed, but where we also went through our toughest transition. It was at this point we realized that Marc and I needed to spend some time away from each other.

Marc and I had become each other’s everything, especially moving to a new city where neither of us knew that many people. All of our free time was spent with each other, and I really felt like I needed my space. Marc and I had an open conversation and decided on some things we could change to make sure each of us had our own identity, outside of our relationship. We have stayed true to those things we discussed in 2014, and have found new ways to continue to keep our identity in our relationship. Here are a few things that have worked for us.

Having our own friends

I love when Marc and I find other couples to be friends with and nothing makes me happier than when our friends become each other’s friends. I believe though, you should always be able to spend time with your friends without your significant other. Sometimes you want to vent about them, and that’s okay and can be needed. Other times it’s just nice to go out to dinner with someone other than your significant other. Marc and I can be open with each other when we say we want to hang out with our friends alone without the other getting offended. Alone time with friends is something I request more than Marc. He doesn’t need that as much but understands that it’s something I need. I  am mindful of this and take him into consideration to make sure I am including him just as much as well.

Having our own hobbies

I love that there are activities Marc and I have that we share together, but it is so crucial for the health of our relationship to each have our own activities and hobbies we can enjoy without the other. This is where surfing comes in for Marc and yoga for me. I understand and respect Marc’s wishes when he decides to go surfing, and he does the same when I go to yoga. Even though surfing and yoga are our activities we typically do without the other, it is also nice to be able to share our passions with each other. I think another important thing to remember is not to put the others’ choice of a hobby down and think yours is more superior. We are all different people who enjoy different things, and what you choose to spend your time doing might be a foreign concept to your significant other. This does not mean one person’s hobbies are more important than the others.

Alone time at the house

I don’t want to have to leave the house to get alone time. Whether my alone time is spent cooking dinner or on the couch binging a dumb TV show – it’s just nice to have it in your own space without someone else around. Marc and I have actually scheduled this time before which ensured we didn’t skip over it and fall back into our normal routine. This is especially important if your schedules line up, and you are both always home at the same time. Lately, our schedules have been staggered so this time is automatically scheduled in.

Open communication when we need a little space

Marc and I have learned not to get offended when the other says they need a little space, and this took time. I think open communication in all aspects of our relationship has been the most significant help with this. This was especially important on our cross-country road trips. That’s a long time to be in such a small space with anyone, even your significant other. Being able to freely say you don’t want to talk right now and need your own space is important. I actually have a little sign I put outside the bedroom door that says “Please do not disturb. Come back in 10 minutes”. I typically only use this when I am meditating and do not want the distraction, but feel this could be used when you really just need a break.

Our own TV shows to watch

This is a silly, yet important one to us. I think a lot of couples can relate about having that one show you cannot watch without your significant other. Currently, ours is The Final Table on Netflix, and I know I’d be bummed if Marc watched an episode without me (although I am guilty of this, sometimes I like watching things twice!). This is why I have shows I watch without Marc, so when I’m in the mood to watch TV, I don’t have to wait for him. Marc and I also have very different taste when it comes to genres of TV shows we prefer, so this ensures we are still able to choose shows based on our own preferences.

Marc and I are constantly growing and learning from each other and our relationship, and having our own identities outside of our relationship is important to both of us. The list above is ever-changing based on our current environment. Some items on the list are more important to me, and others to Marc so we really make sure that there is a good balance. Practicing the notes above helps us appreciate time with each other more and makes us more present when we are spending time together. I’m excited to see how much this list evolves over the next 8 years.

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