Whether it’s in your marriage or friendships, learning the importance of finding independence in your relationship will boost your confidence and create a stronger sense of identity.
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FINDING INDEPENDENCE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
You know the type—the couple that can’t stand each other and live like ships passing in the night.
And then there’s the other type—the ones that have no personality beyond being a spouse. They do everything together and aren’t sure how to function without one another.
I don’t want my marriage to be either one of these, but there are seasons in my life where I’ve been clingy, and others where I’ve been distant.
So how do we find the balance?
We need to remain connected, but also maintain our own identities so that our relationships are healthy. Years ago I learned the importance of going back to the things I loved before I was married and not letting my role as a wife define me.
I wanted people to know me outside of being a wife and a mother.
THE WORLD’S CUTEST COUPLE
When I was in high school, my family became friends with an older couple at our church. They were in their late 70s and lived in a tiny cottage on 5 acres of land off a busy winding forest road. I imagine when they bought the house, it was one of the only ones around. The tiny house held so much imagination and joy in its walls, you didn’t even have to say anything to feel it all around you.
I remember walking through that house and thinking, I want a house just like this someday. It wasn’t much, it wasn’t even really clean, but it was incredible. The hardwood foyer was about 3 feet by 3 feet with a dining room on the right and living room on the left.
The living room was filled with bookshelves from floor to ceiling, books in disarray, strange collectibles, a well-worn piano, antique chairs and couches with fluffy cushions that would tuck around you like an old comfy pair of shoes.
Off the living room was a window-paned door that opened to stairs down into a beautiful white-trimmed greenhouse. It was no longer used as a greenhouse, but a collection of vintage items, knitting projects and crafts crowded the space. Even in the summer, Christmas twinkle lights were haphazardly strewn about the room. This was her space.
A window over the kitchen sink looked into the next room, a long sunroom used as a workshop. It was difficult to walk through, a stack of wood planks lining the wall, decades-old machinery and half-finished projects littered the room. This was his space.
But the sweetest place to hang out was through the back door and out into the garden.
They would proudly lead us around pointing out the carrots, lettuce and tomatoes that were starting to grow and then let us take handfuls of fresh blackberries off the vine, ready for tasting. Their house was a magical place.
In their younger years, she was a microbiologist, and later earned a law degree! I don’t remember what his profession was, but I admired that she was so independent and strong, especially during the difficulties of the era she grew up in where most women were housewives or secretaries. She didn’t let anyone or anything define her, and I saw such freedom, joy and trust in their marriage.
When they were together, they bragged on one another and held hands. You could tell they still loved one another after all these years.
I wanted to be that couple. I wanted to have that marriage when I got older.
LEARNING TO HAVE INDEPENDENCE IN MY OWN RELATIONSHIP
When my husband and I were first married, I really struggled with loneliness. On the weekends, I would be ready to relax and unwind from a long work week through movie marathons and reading books. But he didn’t recharge through laying around like I did, he recharged through constant movement–staying busy with things he enjoyed–like one of his several hobbies.
He loved to play and record music constantly, edit videos for friends and family, try out leather working (a skill from his dad), and go hunting.
I found myself waiting around for him to “finish up” whatever he was working on, but he was having so much fun in the room next to me, that I would have to nag him to stop. I loved the passion he showed in his creativity, and I didn’t want to discourage him from pursuing that either, it’s just that I didn’t know what to do with myself with this free time.
When I confronted him about this, his answer surprised me: You need to get some hobbies, he said, Don’t you have anything you like to do?
My mind wandered back to that sweet old couple I knew before I even met my husband. To the dream I once had of having a cute little cottage with room for my husband and I to work on things we loved. His life was heading in that direction, why shouldn’t mine?
I got out my old sewing machine and starting learning to make things. And slowly I began to create my own hobbies. In fact, I was enjoying myself so much taking a writing course, painting, and sewing that many times my husband would ask if I could take a break to hang out with him!
We learned that while we loved hanging out with each other, we were interested in very different things. Things that inspired us and brought us joy and excitement.
Overtime, we learned how to connect so that we could have a better balance of time apart and time together.
BENEFITS OF HAVING INDEPENDENCE IN A RELATIONSHIP
Here are few ways learning to be independent in relationships is beneficial:
- Being confident of who you are
- Not having to give up things you loved before you were in a relationship
- Being ok with spending time by yourself
- Understanding what you’re passionate about
- Allowing you to love your spouse for who they are
- Enjoying time together
- Modeling independent skills for your children
- Allowing yourself to feel trusted and appreciated instead of controlled
So what can you do today to start becoming more independent in your relationship?
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When learning how to have more independence in a relationship, you have to be intentional. You don’t want to completely shut the person out, but learn to balance time together with time apart. You also have to learn how to navigate having your own opinions without tearing one another down. I’ve created a Marriage Growth Workbook that helps you grow and strengthen your marriage using Bible-based challenges.
For more posts on marriage, check out:
- Set Goals as a Couple in This Marriage Growth Workbook
- Marriage Advice From Older Couples
- 14 Lessons From 14 Years of Marriage
- 16 Inspirational Quotes on Marriage
- Simple Date Night Ideas for Married Couples
You’ve got this!
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