Balancing Independence and Connection in Relationships

One of man's biggest internal struggles involves the need for both independence and connection. They seem to be mutually exclusive. How can you have independence and be connected at the same time? This struggle rages within individuals daily.

Multiply that struggle by two and you'll have the conflict that happens within relationships. It is nearly impossible to find yourself in relationship with someone who requires exactly the same amount of independence and connection as you and if you do, it's even rarer that you would want the same thing at the same time. It's more likely when you want connection, your partner wants independence and vice versa.

This can be difficult, at best, to negotiate and a downright deal breaker at worst. So what's a couple to do who has a conflict with freedom and love & belonging, between time together and time apart, between independence and connection?

  1. Recognize you want different things but still want to honor the relationship.
  2. Be clear about what you need to feel satisfied in your relationship.
  3. Inform your partner what you want and listen for understanding to what he or she wants.
  4. Make a decision about what you are willing to do for the relationship and communicate that to your partner.
  5. If you both are happy and accepting of each other's offer, then all is well.
  6. If you are still not happy, then look at the situation in terms of what lesson you are being provided the opportunity to learn.

For example, if you want more connection and your partner wants more freedom, then your lesson is to learn to be happier alone with youself. If you happen to want more freedom, then perhaps your lesson is to learn how to be more tolerant and accepting of the behaviors of others. 

Be aware that fair or not, the person who is looking for more freedom has the advantage here. He or she can get more freedom without the cooperation of his or her partner. However, to get more connection, you must have the implied consent of your partner. If you are the freedom person, please be considerate of the situation your partner is in. He or she needs your help to get that connection need but you don't need his or her help to get your freedom need met.

Finally, if you are in a relationship and can't, no matter how hard you try, get what you need, you may be looking at a deal breaker situation and choose to end the relationship. But if you have any investment in the relationship and are willing to support your partner in their independence and also help your partner fill his or her connection need, you should be able to achieve a healthy balance.

Have you ever been in this situation? What did you do?

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