Is it really possible to maintain independence in a relationship?

At the beginning of a new relationship with someone special, it seems like the most logical thing in the world to spend time with them 24/7. The two of you click, you love being around each other, you feel lost without them, you need to tell them everything and you need to tell them NOW. We’re all guilty of losing ourselves to the honeymoon period.

As time goes on though, it’s important to realise that there is a difference between your own identity and your relationship’s identity. We all know one person who finds it hard to exist independently of their relationship. It could be that friend of yours who has completely disappeared from your social circle since she fell in love, or that work colleague who speaks of nothing else but her boyfriend, or it could even be you.

A relationship can be an all-consuming thing, and of course it requires a huge level of commitment. But losing yourself completely means that you may start to neglect your own needs and aspirations. That in turn can lead to resentment, stress and even feeling like you are trapped.

In order to avoid things getting to that point, it’s important to be mindful of maintaining a sense of yourself, no matter how serious or long-term your relationship is. All those things that attracted you to each other at the outset – personality, dreams, funny quirks, sense of humour – those things are individual to each of you and they are what formed the foundation of your bond. Don’t let them fall by the wayside!

First and foremost – ensure you spend enough time apart. Sometimes even an evening spent separately with friends is enough to give you some perspective and to make you feel that you are your own person. It also gives you two the chance to miss each other a little.

It doesn’t have to be a girls’ night out on the town – why not book yourself in for that yoga class that you were reluctant to try as your partner had no interest? Or pop over to a friend’s house to watch GBBO rather than forcing your other half to sit through it, if his interest in Victoria sponges in negligible. Make time for yourself. Do it for your relationship, but also do it for you.

Another important factor in maintaining independence is to have a healthy level of communication. Becoming aware of each other’s needs and aspirations makes it far easier to build a strong relationship that has staying power. If you are feeling overwhelmed or in need of space – let your partner know.

When you love someone, it can seem like a bizarre idea sometimes to focus on yourself and to put yourself first. But remember that your relationship is the sum of two parts – and you are one of them.