Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the dangers of co-dependency. I mean, I’ve been on my own for a long time… the last time I referred to a guy as my “boyfriend,” it lasted about three months. That was… probably three years ago. After all that ended, I got into such a strong relationship with myself that, I’ll be the first to admit, it’s hard to let other people in. Sure, I’ve dated up a storm… but I know for a fact that I can rely on myself… and my independence is nearly impossible for a guy to compete with, which is why guys seldom make it past a third date with me.

Anyway, I’ve been chatting with a few friends (both single and in relationships) and doing some research about this line between independence and co-dependency. Where is it, and how much of yourself is healthy to give up once you actually commit to a relationship? What can you do to maintain your own independence – your sense of self – once you decide to intertwine your life with someone else?

The consensus seems to be (surprise, surprise) balance.

Yeah, easy to say, but really freaking hard for most people to do. You need to make adjustments, whether it’s the hoes you go out with on Friday night (who don’t respect your relationship) or watching The Bachelor on Monday night instead of some football team you don’t even support. At the same time, you still have your own interests, things to do without your partner that are inherently you. Otherwise, you’ll smother them.

“Once you give someone ALL your focus, you’re isolating yourself from others… and if it doesn’t work down the road… you’ll have no one.”

Gieselle C

It’s weird and tough, which I guess is why I’ve been subconsciously avoiding it. You can’t just do whatever you want, whenever you want. You have another person whose feelings and needs you should consider… yet somehow, you still have to keep a handle of yourself. So, who comes first – you or your significant other? I guess it depends.

How do you maintain your independence while you’re in a relationship?

Apparently, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a cliché for a reason. When both partners trust each other, time apart isn’t an issue. You shouldn’t fear being apart… but a lot of times people associate “alone time” with secrecy, and that’s where things can get hairy. But I guess when you come back at the end of the day and choose to be with that person, that’s where things can really grow. I guess it’s something called interdependence, which is the dependence of two or more things on each other. Being your own person, but not being so selfish that you don’t care about how your actions impact your partner.

My takeaway is that more than anything, it’s about awareness because your dynamic within the relationship can change for any number of reasons at any time. You can go through phases of codependency. At the end of the day, in order to make things work – to work together – you have to be present with your person and be aware of the dynamic. Reflect with them on how the changes are impacting both of you… and figuring out the best way to deal with it. Your life isn’t just about you anymore, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

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