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10 Ways In Which Being Independent Makes Your Relationship Better

10 Ways In Which Being Independent Makes Your Relationship Better

Successful and happy relationships are really important if we want to live a long and happy life. This is the view of Dr. John Gottman, a relationships expert, in a recent interview with CNN. Being in a healthy relationship is going to impact much more than your gluten free diet or whether you run a marathon every week!

A vital component in a successful relationship is being independent. That may seem like a contradiction because it implies a certain distance and detachment. In reality, it will help you thrive. Here are ten ways you can make sure this happens.

1. You keep your identity

“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”- Erich Fromm

It is wonderful to have shared interests which will bond you in a marvellous way. However, you do not need to do this 100% of the time. The risk is that you lose your individuality and you end up as a very tight couple or morphed unit. Just think of the pleasure in doing something on your own and then coming back to tell each other about it.

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2. You are self sufficient

I know lots of couples where one or both are so dependant on each other that they just cannot function on their own. Simple skills like driving a car, cooking a basic meal and even making friends on Facebook are left to the other partner. The problem here is that you can become over dependent and this can result in a whinging and clingy significant other. Aiming for a degree of self sufficiency is very wise. It takes off a lot of the pressure.

3. You know how to keep the relationship fresh

After years and years, you know exactly how your partner is going to react and what she or he is going to say! It becomes a sort of ritual and in some ways, this is reassuring. But if this leads to a stale and stagnant relationship, then it is time to think again. Dr. Gottman believes that courtship never stops, even in a marriage lasting forty years!

The solution is to occasionally add in some or all of the following:

  • start a new hobby you are both keen on
  • cook something different
  • try a new weekend activity or venue
  • make an effort to meet new friends

4. You know how to create your own space

Keeping your identity means in practice creating some space and privacy for yourself. Ideally, there will be physical space and time to do this so that the other partner does not feel embarrassed or in the way. So, each can pursue their own friends, hobbies or just chill out. The important thing is not to feel that you are neglecting your responsibilities as a partner. You are both mature enough to understand this is not abandonment. You are, in fact, helping to nurture the relationship.

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5. You know how to grow in a relationship

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

Lots of couples exhaust all their possibilities within a few years. The relationship needs to grow. You will need more than a few novelties here. This goes much deeper. Here, you have to deal with conflicts when they arise. Learning how to lower expectations, or to practise more patience and acceptance are great ways to learn from conflicts and see them as an opportunity for growth. This is easier when you are more independent.

6. You realize the need to recharge emotionally

Being less codependent means that you are in charge of your emotions, feelings and perceptions. You are not going to let your partner hijack them!

In practice, this means that you are both able to take time off to recharge your emotional batteries. This makes spending time together afterwards so much more enjoyable. I love the advice that Darlene Lancer gives in her book Codependency for Dummies.

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7. You know how to be flexible

Independence means the freedom to schedule your workload. But when you travel a lot for work and your partner may be left alone for long periods, this can become a problem. You both know that flexibility will be the key to solving this problem. Your independence can really help here because you just know how to be flexible. Compromises can be reached and this can prevent the problem from getting out of hand.

8. You know how to be assertive

“We don’t try to become someone else’s mirror.” – Randy Paterson in The Assertiveness Workbook

If you are both assertive, it does not necessarily mean a clash or conflict. Finding the right dose of give and take is an essential element in being independent. You do not want to be a dictator nor do you want to be a doormat. Basically, you both know what you want and you are able to set the boundaries which reflect your needs and emotional well being.

9. You know not to check up all the time

Once you have established your time off with your friends, try not to check up by sending texts or phoning. There is nothing more annoying when you get these beeps and alerts. Cut it out!

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10. You know what to focus on

“The quality of our life is the quality of our relationships.” – Anthony Robbins.

Being independent means also feeling free to concentrate on your life’s ambition, whatever that is. It may be your work or some sport you love doing. This helps to put things into perspective and is also important for having your own sense of self. Not forgetting that we all want to be supported, cared for and loved. If we succeed, that will be the quality hallmark in our lives.

Featured photo credit: Couple framed/David Amsler via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward to talk to strangers. What is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

Numerous studies have shown that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]

A very interesting by-product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Another reason is that humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources. When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

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Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

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To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

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Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the techniques to talk to strangers, moving forward, you’ll reap these many benefits of getting over the awkwardness:

  • Broadens Your Network – After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.
  • Improves Your Communication Skills – I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become. Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.
  • Continually Learning – So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment. Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.
  • Increases Self Confidence – Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves. Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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