Love, Lindsay

'How Do You Balance Being An Independent Person And Relying On Your Partner?'

All your relationship questions — answered right here, right now.

Lindsay here, A Plus's resident relationship guru/columnist. While I may not know everything, I do know a lil something about love and our seemingly endless pursuit of it. Having written dozens of A Plus articles about dating, relationships, and sex, I'm ready and willing to investigate all of your romantically-inclined questions (submit here!) — because I've asked them myself. What I hope to bring to A Plus's readers is a sex-positive, body-positive, and most importantly, you-positive perspective on modern love. Consider Love, Lindsay your digital Cupid. 

This question originally appeared as a submission to a recent Reddit AMA I hosted. Because the subject is so relevant and relatable to so many people and their romantic experiences, I thought it was important to use this platform to address it in full: 

"How do you balance between being a person who is independent and relying on your partner? The mentality of being an independent person versus being half of a whole. How do you find that balance?"

Many people ask themselves this question during the early stages of a committed relationship because you're transitioning from a completely solo lifestyle to one that involves a partner. Note that I said "involves," not "revolves."  That's an important distinction, but one that's easy to forget when you're head-over-heels excited about someone.

It's understandable you'd want to spend a lot of your time with them, but it's important to balance that with time spent developing yourself and maintaining your friendships. "As a dating coach, there's nothing I hate more than singles telling me they want to find their other half," James Preece, 'The Dating Guru,' says. "You are a unique individual on your own and you certainly don't need someone else to 'complete' you!"

Instead, I believe it's important to focus on making sure the person you're dating complements you. As I've heard from many single friends, both women and men, there's often a misconception that entering into a relationship — even with the right person — will fix all their individual problems. (Spoiler alert: it won't.) 

Many people, for example, expect a relationship to fix all their personal insecurities, but that is rarely, if ever, the case. "Yes, of course, you want to find someone amazing for a wonderful relationship.  But before you do that, you have to realize what you have to offer first. If you aren't completely happy with who you are, and the way your life is going, how can you expect someone else to want to share it with you?" Preece says. 

"We're responsible for our own happiness and success, which derive from our self-esteem, effort, and actions," Lancer explains. "Codependents have a habit of meeting others needs believing that they will then meet their own, rather than looking inward and being self-responsible."  

Even the best, most compatible relationships experience mutual problems that can be exacerbated by the problems each partner hasn't worked through individually. No matter how #goals your relationship may be, it's still essential to have strong sources of social support outside of it so that, whenever you and your S.O. do have an issue, you're not wholly dependent on them and can seek outside counsel. 

"It also depends on what we're relying on our partner for and what our goals are. We rightly rely on our partner for emotional connection and support, intimacy, sex, a certain amount of companionship …" Lancer explains.  "Other things, such as entertainment, leadership, co-parenting, financial support, inspiration, planning, traveling, or adventure may depend on our partner's willingness and ability. We should ask for what we want, but also accept our partner's limitations, which might spur us to be more independent." 

That's exactly why Lancer doesn't see the balancing act between independence and partner reliance as an "either-or dilemma." Like so many elements of a romantic relationship, this is all about nuance and — oh yeah — compromise. "When we're part of a couple, it's natural to think of our partner's wants and needs, and hopefully we do," Darlene Lancer, a licensed marriage and family therapist and codependency expert, says. "However, most of the time, that doesn't require us to sacrifice our own." 

A healthy romantic relationship often includes many small sacrifices, like spending an evening at your partner's important work event rather than a fun party. The key is to manage these sacrifices so that you don't end up changing something inherent to the person you were before you met your S.O.. (Remember that's the person they liked enough to enter into a relationship with them in the first place.) "If we are mindful of our needs and desires and don't make automatic concessions, usually compromise can be easily negotiated," Lancer adds. 

If you think you're being too dependent on your partner or just searching for more ways to assert your independence, I suggest making a "Me Time" schedule. Set aside specific days and times to meet up with friends, pursue your individual passions, whatever made you happy before you got coupled up. "Try and be the best version of you possible. If you don't have enough going on, then get out there and change that," Preece says. "Take up some new classes, attend events, and work on improving yourself every day. Make your life as fun and interesting as possible … You have total control of what happens next and what you do." 

An added benefit of maintaining your independence in a relationship is that when you and your partner do reconnect after time spent apart, you actually have something new to discuss and share with them. That not only helps "keep the mystery alive," but is totally fulfilling in a way your relationship can't, nor frankly should, be. 

"While you absolutely do need to enjoy each other's company and spend lots of time with each other, save some room for you …" Preece adds. "You'll learn and teach, adapt and grow. This ultimately will lead to happy, stronger relationships." So while it's great you're excited about this special person in your life, it's important to stay true to the person they liked so much in the first place. (Hint hint: That's YOU.)

Love, Lindsay 

Cover image via Ruslan Zh on Unsplash

More From A Plus

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.