Last month I launched a new weekly podcast series featuring real conversations with some of the most progressive people I know. I felt interviewing my own friends — many of whom live very full lives — just didn’t get deep enough into who they really are, nor did it address the matters that concern them on a daily basis; therefore the idea of reconnecting with everyone, having an intimate conversation, and sharing it with anyone who wanted to listen in was very appealing.
Not surprisingly, core themes emerge when you go deep. One of the most popular topics, as you can imagine, is relationships. One of the most successful discussions to date was with model Kate Dillon, who shared her thoughts around maintaining independence while being married with children.
As a strong, independent woman, I recognize the need for autonomy in my own life — in and out of a romantic relationship. And as a close friend of Kate’s — who is another self-reliant, freethinking individual — I couldn’t help but inquire about how she manages being a wife and mother. “I am still working through the transition,” she confided. “[I realized] we had to be partners and get past the love part. The love part becomes the foundation you rely on when things get tough.”
After the conversation, we came up with five ways to be autonomous while maintaining a strong relationship. Ironically, I feel that preserving some of your independence only gives a relationship more strength, spontaneity and longevity.
1. Take a time out.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in a relationship, particularly if you're spending your time tending to the needs of other people and forgetting your own. When you identify this, do yourself a favor and take a time out. Go read a book, take a walk in the park, get a massage, or even take a hot shower to have some quiet time.
2. Don’t forget your friends.
How many times have you heard friends complain that they never see you anymore ever since you’ve been hitched? The strong bond you build with your friends is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself in life. After all, to whom can you turn if the waters get a little turbulent with your significant other? Make the time for close friends — even if it’s one day a week. A girl’s or guy’s night out may just be the recipe for a successful relationship in the long run.
3. Have your own hobbies.
As much as it's important to have activities that you do with one another, it's also vital to maintain your own sense of self through activities that speak to your individuality. Perhaps you and your counterpart love to run together, but he or she can’t stand yoga. That’s ok. Explore the activities that bring you together and don’t be afraid to continue to do the ones that give you a sense of self.
4. Have some alone time.
Beyond taking a time out, it's important to give yourself an extended vacation from life once in a while. “I need a lot of time by myself to recharge,” Kate admits. This may mean taking a retreat away to another city or training for a triathlon or half-marathon, which gives you an extended amount of time to let your mind wander.
5. Communicate openly.
Communicating openly with your loved one is far and away the most important aspect to the health and longevity of any relationship. Even if you don't see eye-to-eye all the time, there's an undeniable power behind telling your counterpart when you feel as if you need time away. This will only add to a deeper understanding of your needs, and often will result in a compromise that you can both agree on.