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How to Be Independent Even If You’re In a Relationship

Being with someone doesn’t mean that you have to turn into an extension of them. Keep your individuality, and be sure to shine brighter than ever.

how to be independent when you're in a relationship

We all have that friend of a friend who went through a bad breakup and was never the same again. Perhaps it happened to a close friend. Perhaps it happened to you. Either way, it is not uncommon for people to lose themselves in a relationship. The whole idea of finding a special someone tends to overshadow one’s right to independence.

No matter how much you love your partner, don’t sacrifice your independence for the relationship. There are plenty of ways to be together without giving up a huge part of yourself. If your partner demands this of you and refuses to budge, then you need to get off your butt and walk away.

Conserving your independence is one of the most important things that you can offer yourself, as it gives you the freedom to be the real you. Changing yourself to please another person isn’t right, as it will lead to plenty of problems down the road. From minor resentment to downright hate, to infidelity to messy divorces, nothing good will come out of selling your soul. [Read: 15 types of toxic relationships to watch out for]

How to maintain your individuality while in a relationship

Whether your relationship is a few days old or you’ve been together for years, here are some very important tips that you should keep in mind when it comes to taking control and being more independent in a relationship. There are myriad ways to do this, but here are some of the basic things that every person out there should pay attention to:

#1 Have a job. I am in a relationship with a man who made life so comfortable that working wasn’t necessary. However, as time went by, he unconsciously used money as an incentive for me to behave according to his wishes.

There were requests such as “help me out with this, and I’ll buy you that bag you’ve been eyeing,” and “here’s some cash while I’m out of town, and please don’t forget to pick up my dry cleaning.” I started feeling more like his secretary than his partner. As happy as I was to do these things for him, I felt horrible about myself.

It was hard climbing out of the financial rut that I had buried myself in, as I was so used to being a pampered woman. Losing my individualism and being dependent on him changed me, as I had to explain why I needed money for this, why I needed to buy that, and so on. Thankfully, I took control of my life, jumped back into the workforce, and I am now back in control of my finances.

No more handouts from him, and to be honest, our relationship is doing better than ever. He appreciates and respects my independence, and honestly, I’m a much happier and stronger woman for it.

Considering my experience, I can’t stress just how important it is to be in control of your finances. It gives you the power to make your own decisions and be your own person. The more dependent you are on someone, the more likely you are to lose yourself, and that is the deadliest trap that you could possibly fall into. [Read: Useful money management tips for couples]

#2 Keep your friends close. It’s totally fine to have a shared group of friends, but always remember that it’s very important to have your own group. This is especially true if you met your shared friends through your partner. In times of turmoil, they will always take your partner’s side, regardless of who’s in the wrong, and you will be left with zero support. The realization that your friends will not be there to support you through your darkest hour is perhaps one of the saddest things ever.

Always make time for girls’ or boys’ night out, and although it’s fine if your partner joins you every so often, try to spend solo time with your friends at least several times a month. Being with people who were there long before your partner will remind you of who you really are, and they will give you the best kind of support if shit hits the fan.

#3 Spend time alone. There’s no need to behave like Velcro when you’re in a relationship. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending some time alone. Whether it’s enjoying a lovely spring day with a latte at your corner café or taking some time apart to indulge in hobbies, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally flying solo.

As much as I love the man I’m with, I love me too. I have no qualms about ditching him for a Sunday afternoon to get my nails done, indulge in scones and tea, and just do all the girly things that I adore. [Read: What you can do when you want to spend some time alone]

#4 Have hobbies. There’s no need to give up what you love for your partner, so it is very important to have your own hobbies. If you find someone who loves doing the same things as you, then bravo.

However, most of the time, couples tend to have relatively different interests. She may adore Bikram hot yoga, whereas he prefers collecting Star Wars figurines. No matter what, remember that there’s nothing wrong with doing stuff you love without your partner. It’s important to feed your soul with things that pique your interest and ignite your passion.

#5 Have an opinion. Another way to keep your independence is to have an opinion. You may be in a relationship, but that doesn’t mean you’ve given up your voice and brain, right? Stand your ground, voice your opinion, and play an active role in the partnership. If you want to be apathetic about small stuff like deciding where to head to for dinner, then go right ahead, but when it comes to the big stuff like your future, make sure your voice is heard.

The same can also be said about standing your ground on things that you believe in. If you end up with someone who’s completely against gay marriage, whereas you wholeheartedly support it, don’t change your mind just because you want to please your partner. You are your own individual and are entitled to your own opinions.

#6 Don’t sacrifice too much. You can also retain your independence by retaining what’s important to you. Some people say that being in love is all about sacrifice, and to some extent, they’re right. It’s fine to give up some things for the wellbeing of your partner and your relationship, but just be sure that you don’t sacrifice too much. You will end up resenting your partner, they will end up resenting you, and all the sacrifices that you made will be for nothing.

For example, your partner may relocate to another country for work, and after much thought, you decide to tag along. Only do so if you have viable job opportunities there and that you are able to go ahead with whatever long term plan that you’ve mapped out for yourself pre-relationship. The last thing you want is to feel stuck, bored, lonely and completely dependent on your partner wherever you end up. [Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and you don’t know it]

#7 Don’t obsess over the small stuff. Another great way to be independent, even if you’re in a relationship, is to not sweat the small stuff. Getting obsessed over petty things will drive you crazy, take focus away from the things that really matter, and worst of all, snatch away your independence.

An example is freaking out over why your partner hasn’t invited you to move in yet. You will worry about it day in and day out, obsessing over why your partner isn’t ready, whether it’s something you did, whether you should even be together and so on.

One question always leads to another, and there’s no doubt that your brain will go into overdrive and blow everything out of proportion. Always remember to let things slide, don’t obsess over the small stuff, and to remember that life goes on, regardless of how tough times may be.

#8 Don’t sign or do anything that’ll work against you. Another massively important thing to remember is to never sign anything that may work against you in the future. I’m not talking about marriage. I’m talking about everyday stuff that you share with your partner.

I have a good friend who recently relocated to Sweden with her long term Swedish partner. She found a job there and is financially independent. They remain unmarried, but recently bought a home together. What surprised me was that she went ahead and signed all the property documents without understanding a single word or even doing her research on the process.

From bank related mortgage paperwork to partial ownership of the house, she signed all the Swedish documents in front of her, despite the fact that she can’t speak or read Swedish. Who knows what those papers may have said!

There’s nothing wrong with wholeheartedly trusting your partner, but at the end of the day, when it comes to your life savings, everyday finances and signing off on stuff that’s legally binding like bank loans, being a guarantor and asset ownership, it is always best to understand everything you’re getting yourself into. This is even more important when you’re investing abroad. Always remember that a country’s laws will protect its citizens’ rights above yours.

Although my friend is happy in her relationship, she has voiced concerns about getting royally f*cked over, should things end badly. Sad to say, this is a good example of giving up your independence in a relationship, and if you ever find yourself in a similar position, do not even think of doing the same thing. Be sure to always cover your ass and be smart about your choices. [Read: Should you be worried about justifying your life choices?]

In the end, is it certainly a joy to find someone whom you can pledge your life to, share experiences with and grow old with. That’s one of life’s greatest gifts, and you have to be sure that you are wholehearted appreciative and grateful that you were given it.

However, never compromise your independence and personal happiness, because if you have to, then it’s a sign that this relationship may not be the right one for you.

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Lianne Choo
Born in Singapore and raised in Malaysia to multi-racial parents, Lianne is a self-proclaimed travel and food junkie. Having traveled extensively around the wor...
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