independent

Is Your Independence Infecting Your Relationship?

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You pride yourself on being independent … your own person  – and you like it that way. You love your sweetheart and want to please them but their protective or controlling nature is interfering with the relationship. Is your partner’s behavior smothering you? Do you feel “joined at the hip” instead of walking alongside your significant other? You can’t see into the future, but you can see clearly that their attitude is going to dismantle the relationship if they  don’t give you some breathing room.

Is This Your Relationship?

You: You want some alone time and are enjoying the day curled up with a good book.

Your partner:  They are annoyed, angry, or hurt that you’re choosing a book over them; using the time they want to spend together.

Or maybe these remarks sound familiar:

“You don’t have to worry about anything. I’ll take care of you.” Or, “I don’t want you to going out at night without me.”

Your response might be to hit the ceiling … or maybe you swallow the Cool Aid, nod your head in agreement, pretend s/he didn’t mean it, or you tell yourself you’ll deal with it later.

Do you feel you’re being pressured into giving up control of your actions or emotions to your partner? Are you afraid to make decisions, take certain actions, engage in certain activities, live a lifestyle to which you’re accustomed and that you enjoy? Can you embrace independence or is your independence taking a hit to satisfy him/her?

 

Why Does Your Mate Act This Way?

When you give up or are asked to give up some of your independence, your partner may be overstepping boundaries. S/he may see the relationship as only “us,” not two unique individuals coming together but still maintaining two separate identities.

Your partner may be inclined to assume certain roles in the relationship. S/he may do this because it may seem familiar or comforting to assume these roles, because this is how their past relationships operated, or because they see this role as a demonstration of their love or commitment. The trouble with this attitude is that, taken to extremes or beyond what you feel comfortable with, it can destroy the often good intentions behind it, causing more harm than good.

 

Restoring Independence

Maybe it’s time for a heart-to-heart discussion with your sweetie. A relationship is a gift that chance has bestowed on you both. Does s/he see the relationship this way, or to them is the relationship a necessity or does it serve to satisfy certain desires?

You might tell him/her they matter to you, but at the same time, you are each whole and separate persons with your own independent needs and interests.

You might tell them they are not responsible for your happiness. That kind of responsibility can lead to demands on their part and resentment or a sense of powerlessness on your part.

You might tell them it’s important to you to grow as an individual in a relationship. Your personal goals are not going to be his/her personal goals – some of them are, but don’t expect the whole enchilada.

You might tell them that independence can actually keep the relationship fresh and exciting.

You might tell them that being independent allows you to support each other’s unique goals and capabilities.

You might tell them that when we allow and respect our partner’s space, this draws our partner closer to us.

You might tell them that you would prefer to be asked directly what you want and need from them rather than assuming they know what you want or that they can read your mind.

 

Making Progress

Being able to keep your independence and individuality also equips you for the uncertainties of life (you might want to leave that out of the discussion). You and your mate can cooperate together to find an honest and authentic way of relating to one another so that you each can maintain your independence and get what you want out of a life and still be together.

Once your lover’s feelings of discomfort or loneliness pass, you are on your way to maintaining – or recovering – your sense of independence … and that could be a relationship-saver.

Are You Lost in Love?

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Are you a wallflower, fading in the presence of your mate? Is your personality in hiding? Have you suppressed or swapped out some of your beliefs and attitudes, dropped friends or activities for those of his/hers? If you have a nagging sense of feeling out of touch with yourself, feel frustrated, angry, or upset and can’t put your finger on why, maybe it’s because you’re neglecting your own needs … losing yourself in your relationship.

 

The Give and Take of a Relationship

Losing yourself in a relationship doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen spontaneously. Loss of self is the culmination of a series of thoughts and actions, a gradual behavioral change that is tied to a special someone you love – your partner – and to the relationship you’ve established with that person.

Maybe what’s going on is new, occurring for the first time in the new relationship you’ve entered. Or maybe it’s a pattern, behavior that repeats itself whenever you become romantically involved. There’s a good chance you may not even have noticed the shift consciously; or if you did, you may have dismissed it, telling yourself that it’s natural, just part of being a couple.

To some extent, couples, as they grow closer to one another, do change the way they express their attitudes and opinions, conceding to one another’s likes and dislikes at times in order to solve problems, be open to something new, or as an expression of love and support.

The difference between those healthy changes and getting lost is a matter of how extreme those changes are and your level of awareness, whether there’s intention, and whether it’s reciprocal. In other words, when you lose your identity, you’ve gone through major internal changes, you’ve given up pieces of yourself rather than merge who you are with that of your mate. You’ve suppressed your identity rather than created a relationship based on give and take.

 

What’s Behind Your Disappearing Act?

So how can you sort out what’s going on? First, it’s important to be brave and open Pandora’s box to see what might be happening. You might ask yourself if any of these statements ring true for you:

·         You have a general lack of self-esteem and tend to hide behind others because it feels safer.

·         You fear that if you express disagreement or your own wants and needs, that your mate will abandon you.

·         You hide behind someone you’re close to because you don’t feel worthy or that what you have to say or your opinions are not valuable.

·         It seems easier to let your mate run your life for you, answer for you, make decisions for you rather than speak your mind.

·         Your mate tends to overshadow you, encouraging your acquiescent or submissive behavior.

·         You feel lazy and lack the strength to stand up for yourself. This could be a sign of an underlying condition, such as depression or stress.

 

On the Road to Recovery

Explore the you before and during the relationship and how you feel about it – not only by yourself, but with a close friend, a therapist, and your mate.

Honor yourself, take care of yourself, learn or relearn to be independent, meet your basic needs first. You need these things before you can have a vibrant, meaningful, fulfilling relationship. It takes two.

You need to know where to draw the line, how to establish boundaries. If your partner has a strong personality – one that enables your wallflower behavior – recognize that, then call attention to it so that s/he’s aware of the effects s/he might be having on you, intentionally or unintentionally.

In a healthy relationship, we make deliberate decisions on how we want to express ourselves and when we want to flexible or stand firm. We have our own “voice” and we need to be clear within ourselves how we acknowledge and act upon that voice. Likewise, our mate needs to decide how to behave based on his/her voice and allow you yours … that give and take.

The underlying cause of your disappearing act might be simple tweaking or it might take some deep digging to unearth. Either way, you should be encouraged that there is a way out of the mess. The fact that you know something isn’t right and want to change means that you’re on your way to rediscovering yourself.