Negotiating Relationships: Independence and Connection


Time together and apart

Have you and your partner ever talked about how much time you should spend together or apart? How much time you should focus on the two of you, and how much time you should do things with friends, family members, or on your own? Is it something you think about, at least on occasion?

We all grow up learning directly from our parents and others in our world what romantic relationships are supposed to be like. Sometimes we make the decision to do the opposite of our pseudo-role models. Sometimes we can take it for granted that couples spend their leisure time together—or we assume that we’re suppoKids holding handssed to pursue our own hobbies with our friends and spend quiet time with our partners. The point is we all have some ideas about independence in relationships and connection in them.

Has how you want to spend your time (with or without your partner) ever created problems in your relationship?

Do you and your partner’s lives totally overlap and you do nothing without the other? Do you lead pretty independent lives despite loving one another? Do you do something in between?

The independence-connection tango

There is no right or wrong way to be in your relationship. It’s just the way couples are. A common dilemma for partners, however, is to figure out this separateness and connection in a way that fits for both of you–knowing each has different needs and desires. Things may change for either or both of you as well in different stages of your lives.

Talking with your significant other:

Here’s something you may want to try with your partner. Give him/her a piece of paper and take one for yourself. On your own, draw where you think you are currently. Next, draw where you’d like to be. Now talk about it. Are you surprised at both of your answers or are they what you expected? Are you happy with the way things are right now, or do you wish they were different? Suppose things continue the way they have been. Are you good with that? Suppose you become more connected? What difference will that make in your relationship? What if you became more independent? What difference will this make? What’s your preference?

Negotiating relationships isn’t easy but it’s an important part of having a healthy partnership.