How To Champion Your Independence When You Get Into A New Relationship

Let's say you went on a really good first date — the kind of first date that gives you hope in humanity. That date turned into another, which turned into another, and now you're spending almost every day (and night) with your new partner. Of course, finding someone you admire is exciting and beautiful, and perhaps you've worked hard to open up to love again. In the back of your head, however, you know that you have a tendency to become co-dependent. This time, you think, will be different. And to ensure that it is, both for your sake and the health of your relationship, it's a must to champion your own independence when you get into a new relationship. 

For those who love to love, sticking to boundaries when it comes to new relationships can be challenging. Even so, the alternative could cause a lot of problems, to put it gently. The net effect of co-dependency is that one person gets their wants and needs met, but at the expense of the wants and needs of the other. This could cause substantial issues in the co-dependent other, such as lacking trust, fearing abandonment, disconnecting from one's emotions, needing approval, and more. Where your independence hinges on your ability to both acknowledge your needs and desires, as well as freely pursue them, compromises must be carefully weighed. Here are some ideas to consider when you want to keep growing your relationship, while also prioritizing your own independence. 

Set clear boundaries

One of the best ways to maintain your independence in a relationship is to verbalize your boundaries clearly and consistently. Boundaries help define how you move through the world, including how you behave in your relationships, and clarify the things you do and do not have control over. Honoring and communicating your boundaries can help both you and your partner thrive together. Boundaries can take many forms and encompass many facets of your being, from the emotional to the physical. Perhaps you want boundaries around communication where, for example, you may ask your partner not to raise their voice when a conflict arises. Boundaries can also be as malleable or rigid as you wish. There is personal power in boundaries for this reason, where boundaries acknowledge your personhood — something that would otherwise be lacking in a co-dependent relationship. 

Boundaries are more compatible with the concept of interdependence, which acknowledges that you and your partner must both be fully independent human beings in order to create a thriving partnership. With interdependence as a framework, you can safely share responsibilities to and with one another. Both partners are mutually present, put in work to grow the relationship, but maintain the understanding that both partners need to be their own person. Here, each person's wants and needs are equally as important. 

Set personal goals

Another important aspect of maintaining your independence in a relationship is to set your own, personal goals. Similar to the boundaries you set, these goals could encompass many parts of your life, from your personal projects, to physical and health goals, to goals surrounding your emotional wellness. Having goals can assist you in creating a framework around your time, where you may want to devote an hour or two or more each day to working towards them. But while creating personal goals can be fun to do, and the thought of reaching your goals feels exhilarating, holding yourself accountable is where the work comes in. Being accountable to your goals might mean that you're not always compromising your time to hang out with your new partner. The earlier you communicate to your partner that you intend to prioritize your goals, and the more consistent you are with your goals, the easier it will be to maintain independence surrounding your goals in your relationship. 

Perhaps your partner is set on reaching their goals, too. For those who are used to co-dependent relationships, it might feel easier to drop your goals and race to help your partner meet theirs, rather than commit to your path. Having an awareness of this pattern is a fantastic first step. Then, remind yourself that your personal goals are equally as important. Staying accountable is necessary to both maintain your independence, and of course, realize your goals!

Maintain your friendships

It's a tale as old as time: your friend meets someone new and all but disappears from the face of the Earth. While some degree of this is expected when you enter a new relationship, spending all of your free time with your new partner can damage your friendships over time, and potentially erode your support system. When you want to maintain your independence in a new relationship, remember to make time for your friends. 

We need our friends for so many reasons — to laugh, to chat, to make memories with — but when you've been in co-dependent relationships, you might be used to devoting your time and energy to meeting the needs and expectations of one person. Remember that meeting your own needs comes first, and one person, such as your new partner, cannot meet every need you have. That is ultimately your responsibility. Spending time with your friends can remind you that you are your own person, and your partner is their own person. Your friends can be out an outlet for socialization, laughter, trying new things, and being a part of a community or group where you find a greater sense of belonging. Your friends can help build you up, show you your strengths, and support you when you need it. Friendships so often connect you to the broader world around you, and to fully embrace the world around you, you need your independence. 

Keep your hobbies

When you enter into a new relationship, you might naturally want to know about your partner's interests, and perhaps even participate with them in their hobbies. But remember that you do not need to be interested in every hobby that your partner is into, nor do they need to be interested in yours. Do not replace the hobbies that bring joy to your life, in favor of your partner's, where you might quickly lose your sense of autonomy. Instead, keep in mind that enjoying your hobbies, especially those that uniquely interest you, can help you maintain independence in your relationship.  

Developing new hobbies can also be a fantastic way to remain independent. Hobbies do not have to be a grand endeavor, either, requiring a ton of time and equipment. A new hobby could be as simple as taking walks around the neighborhood, reading books, listening to a podcast, or trying out new dinner recipes. If there's something you want to do but feel hesitant doing alone, you can also reach out to a friend to join you in trying a new hobby. 

Take care of your needs

Ultimately everything you do to maintain your independence when starting a new relationship comes back to asserting your wants and needs. For those who see co-dependent behaviors in themselves, recognizing what your needs are might be challenging. Even the simplest things, such as having a good night's rest, might have taken a backseat to someone else's needs that were perceived as more pressing or more important. 

While this can be a difficult realization, understand that co-dependent behaviors are adopted subconsciously over time, especially throughout childhood. You can, however, choose to make your needs your first priority. So, how do you get back in touch with your needs? Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological theory that breaks down what human beings need to both survive and flourish. Depicted on a pyramid chart, the hierarchy includes basic needs, psychological needs, and self-fulfillment needs. Within these categories are basic needs such as food, water, and sleep; psychological needs such as companionship and achievements; and self-fulfillment needs, which could include your personal projects.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs can offer you the big picture. From there, you may begin to reflect on your personal needs while in a relationship. Perhaps you need a partner who respects your boundaries, or who understands your co-dependent habits and actively works with you to break the pattern. Championing your independence in a relationship is possible, and with time, it might begin to feel natural.