3 Reasons It's Essential To Maintain Independence In Relationships

Written by Patrice Herbst

Like so many women, I had accepted that there was such a thing as the perfect "head-over-heels" romance we see in movies. I had experienced this dynamic with my first boyfriend in college, so I chose to believe in it. He was perfect in all the right ways. He knew me better than I knew myself. Our arguments always ended up with us tangled up in the sheets; We sought each other's advice and opinions, and we relied on each other for emotional support.

Our relationship began to fall apart after one year of what I thought was bliss. Basically, we had been living in a make-believe world where we idealized each other as something larger than life, and neither one of us could live up to our own expectations. Our reliance on one another was actually a neediness that was extremely fragile. I depended on him more than I should have, and was addicted to his comforting words and behaviors, relying on them for my basic sanity every day.

After that relationship deteriorated, I met my husband who was the exact opposite of my college boyfriend. My husband is practical, independent, and notably concise with his words. He didn't pick up on subtle cues or recognize that women like me sometimes need a bit of cajoling in order to open up. He expected me to be proactive in letting him know about my feelings. Unless I told him that something ailed me, he assumed everything was A-OK.

These two men landed on opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to romance. My college love was codependent, intuitive and soulful while my husband was practical, logical and autonomous. I felt love for both men, but after experiencing both types, I would opt for the less whimsical form of love.

Here are three reasons why I prioritize independence and practicality in my relationship, and suggestions for how to achieve this kind of "rational love."

1. Making the decision to love is safer than falling in love.

According to my husband, he has never been blinded by love, pulled by that unforeseen force where he falls head-over-heels for someone. My husband has always taken a more calculated approach at love. Upon meeting me, he compared his value systems, religious beliefs, humor, common interests and moral compasses with mine and determined something like this: "So far, so good. Let's see where this goes."

His commitment to me, so grounded in reality, felt incredibly safe, for both of us —— safer than a love that felt as if it hinged on the constructs of my boyfriend's fleeting whims. After all, if our love was based on need, that need might one day disappear and so might the love. When looking back on my college boyfriend, we certainly did not mesh well in certain belief systems that are apparent now, and had I taken a step back to evaluate our relationship on a more practical level, I would have recognized this earlier.

2. I manifested love: I didn't have to wait for true love to just happen to me.

Instead of waiting for a sign from the universe to let me know that I found The One, I decided to take matters into my own hands and decide for myself. In the beginning, I waited to feel that uncontrollable tumble down the crazy tunnel of love, but because my husband was so level-headed, I was forced to remain that way as well.

What I discovered was our love for each other was rational and clear —— as opposed to irrational and blind —— and we could allow our love to grow rather than test it at every corner. I learned that I did not have to be at the mercy of my fickle emotions when it came to love. Instead, I opened myself up to the emotion with all of my senses in tact. Love never felt so simple and wonderful as it did with my eyes wide open.

3. There are less insecurities in a relationship that has a foundation of independence and practicality.

Since my husband is incredibly self-sufficient, he has never relied on me for advice but instead merely appreciates it if I have some to give. It took me a while to be convinced that he wouldn't leave me if I didn't say all the right things. My college relationship felt contingent on our neediness for one another, which ultimately disappeared, thus eliminating an actual sense of need (and desire) for one another.

I now see a partnership as something different. It's a chosen union between two independent people who are as OK with themselves as they are with each other. It's my choice to be with my husband every day, and I look at him as enhancing my life rather than completing it.

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