How to Maintain Our Independence in Relationships

In the last few weeks we covered rebuilding intimacy and surviving infidelity in relationships and a number of common issues that many couples face. Our London-based therapist, Teyhou Smyth, has examined these issues and given some good advice for helping us to examine our relationships and deal appropriately with issues that arise. Sometimes though, something that looks or feels like a good thing, can actually be a problem in the longterm. In today’s Therapists Thoughts article, Teyhou examines the very real problem of co-dependence.

When you meet that special someone it can be difficult to refrain from jumping in with both feet without looking back. Physical and emotional chemistry is very compelling, indeed.

Some couples become highly enmeshed with one another and struggle with maintaining independence within their relationship.

The couple may spend all their time together and be in constant contact through text or IM even when they are forced to be apart. It may seem harmless at first glance, but the dynamic of this sort of desperate connection can be damaging in the long run.

Why is it harmful to be inseparable in a relationship?

Being inseparable in a relationship can feel intoxicating. And, like many other intoxicating things in life, there are inherent dangers.

Codependency problems:

When one becomes too reliant on their partner for emotional support and satisfaction it is called codependency.

Spending an excessive amount of time together fosters codependence and reduces each person’s ability to cope with feelings. This can establish a risky pattern of need and demand between two people, which can be particularly challenging when a couple is fighting and don’t have access to internal resources for coping with their pain.

Distancing from others:

Being inseparable may seem cute to your loved ones at first; they may look at your relationship and feel happy that you’ve met someone with whom you feel so connected.

Your friends and family may even cut you some slack for being less available to them, after all, you’re in a new relationship and the infatuation can be strong.

After a while, your loved ones are likely to be less understanding of your absence. When one important relationship takes you away from other important relationships, it is a set up for long term resentments.

Forgetting your sense of ‘self’:

Most of us spend a lot of time in the presence of others. At work, in the community, with loved ones; our lives are spent in “togetherness” so much that we can forget who we are as individuals.

If you are spending too much time with your partner and not having time alone, you are even more likely to forget some of the important elements of yourself.

Finding a balance in a relationship

Finding balance is important for any successful long-term relationship.

In order to nurture your connection with your partner, you need time together, as well as healthy communication and compassion for one another.

In order to maintain a healthy self, time away from your partner is necessary to reconnect with yourself, your friends and family and to stay grounded within yourself.

Set some ground rules:

Talk about the importance of independence within the relationship and set some ground rules regarding time apart. Even if you feel skeptical about making such a plan, it will instill a healthy habit that will help you respect one another’s time and boundaries.

Spend time alone consistently:

Set up a day (optimally once per week) to designate for time alone. Use the time consciously; work on a hobby you enjoy, go for a walk, meditate. Avoid ‘check-out’ activities like television or social media. Use the time to intentionally connect with yourself.

Visit friends and family alone occasionally:

Even if you feel like you are the same exact way with everyone, you may be surprised that your behaviors and attitudes subtly shift depending on whose company you are in.

This is normal and no cause for alarm, but it can impact your relationships with family and friends if they no longer get to see you without your partner in-tow. Be sure to take time to see family and friends without your partner occasionally.

If you nurture those other relationships as well as your romantic relationship and connection with self, you will be happier in the long run and your relationship is likely to be more successful.

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website]

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