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.
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.
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.
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!
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