One of the best things about the early days of being engaged and marriage is feeling like you’re really starting to build your life together. Even if you already lived together or have been together for years, it feels like a subtle transition—things become more bonded, more settled, more secure. But while there’s a lot of focus on building a strong foundation in your marriage—which is obviously important—fewer people talk about another key part of a happy marriage. Marriage is about being strong together, but it’s also about being strong apart. So how do you develop more independence in your marriage?
Sometimes, it takes a concerted effort. Because with all of the focus on couple bonding, we can become a little too bonded. Those nights at home curled up together watching Netflix can start to replace the hobbies we loved to do independently. Our partner can become our safety blanket and suddenly we only socialize as a pair, rather than getting quality alone time with treasured friends and family.
Luckily, even if you’ve started to get a little too dependent on each other, there are plenty of ways to gain that independence back—and make your relationship stronger in the long run. Here are seven tips to get you started.
1. Rediscover Those Lost Hobbies
There was something you loved to do before your marriage. Maybe it was yoga, maybe it was life drawing, maybe it was traveling on your own—maybe it was just enjoying a cappuccino in a cafe in peace. No matter what it was, find it again. Our hobbies and passions make us who we are, but sometimes those exciting little details can get ironed out as we get further into a relationship—and maybe even into motherhood. Start to dip your toes back in the water and see where it takes you.
2. Get Outside
Sometimes, independence is about mental space. If you’re used to processing everything with your partner—running every detail of your day and every deliberation by them—the first step toward independence is a psychological one, so it’s time to clear your head. Go for a walk by yourself, even if it’s only 10 or 20 minutes. Listen to music, a podcast, or nothing at all, whatever feels right. We do so much mental processing when we’re walking—it’s been proven to help us think better—so you might find that you get back in touch with your own mental independence, which is so important.
3. Reconnect With Old Friends
If you’ve gotten into a habit of socializing as a couple, it’s time to break it. Go out for a cocktail or a coffee with a friend—or a group of girlfriends. As much we might love our partners, they can’t be everything in our world—that’s not fair on them. Embracing other relationships in your life will not only open up your world and make you feel more independent, but it will also make your relationship stronger by taking some of the pressure off.
4. Travel Solo
OK, so taking a trip independently might be a little much for some people—but you don’t have to book 10 days in Bali to get some time on your own. Taking a day trip to the beach by yourself or even just spending the day in a new neighborhood is a great way to shake out of a slump and get back into your own head. If you feel like you really need some space, then sometimes a more drastic shift can do the trick.
5. Make Nights In Special
There is something incredibly luxurious about having some time in your own home all to yourself. My partner and I call it “cave time”—when she’s out for the night, I get to totally unwind in our apartment. I might have my favorite takeout, watch my favorite show, have a long bath with a good book—your night might look different, but it’s all about really enjoying that alone time in your space. Once you get used to it, you’ll start to crave it.
6. Embrace Your Own Opinions
Sometimes being independent in a relationship means having more independence even when we’re with our partner. If you have a habit of deferring what they want or need—their restaurant choices, what they feel like doing, what they want to watch on television—try speaking up a little more. Saying what you want to eat that night or where you’d like to go on vacation may seem like small nods toward independence, but they’re important ones. It's a reminder that you're separate people with separate needs—and that's totally OK.
7. Enjoy The Download
Let’s share an open secret—gossiping with your partner is the best and pretty much everyone does it. One of the most fun parts of doing more things independently is that you get to talk about them when you see each other again. Maybe there was a weird lady in your pilates class, maybe you found out some big news from an old friend—but you can unpack it together. If you spend all of your time together, then there's nothing to catch up and talk about. So learn to relish those moments of hearing about each other's day and having a proper catch-up. It's more fun than you think.
It's crucial that you form a strong relationship with plenty of quality time—but not at the expense of your own independence. Make sure that you're making time to feel fulfilled all on your own. The happier you are, the better partner you'll be, so this is a real win-win.