“You’re just too independent.”
This statement absolutely baffled me.
I heard it from both of my first boyfriends, and I was thoroughly confused.
My mother had always told me that my independence was paramount. I was to rely on myself and myself alone, and that other people would respect me more for that hyper-independence.
Turns out she wasn’t quite right.
Having a partner who is independent, motivated, and able to navigate life by themselves can seem like a great ideal, but when you get down to the reality of it, you can be left feeling like your partner is emotionally unavailable and doesn’t need you.
And whilst we should be able to function without our partners, it’s also nice to feel like you’re valued and needed.
So what sort of things do highly independent people struggle with in relationships?
1) They struggle with needing alone time
The perfect opportunity to decompress, to check-in with your own thoughts, to meditate, and to practice self-care.
Independent individuals tend to relish their alone time. It’s where they operate best, and they often need it to recharge and focus on themselves.
But along comes trouble when they get into serious relationships.
It’s always important to acknowledge your partner’s needs and respect each other’s space.
However, highly independent people can have a hard time getting used to having someone in what was previously their alone space, almost all of the time.
Particularly when couples get to the move-in-together stage.
Where are they supposed to run and hide when they live in the same house?
Not being able to sequester yourself away and focus on what you want to do alone can alarm many highly independent people, which often puts them off the idea of long-term commitment or sharing residences.
Solution: Communicate what you need in terms of personal space to your partner.
When living together, try and form boundaries as to when you need some alone time and where possible, create your own personal space (like a study or a reading room).
2) They forget to communicate with and reassure their partner
On top of physically struggling to adjust to a lack of alone time, highly independent individuals can also find themselves clashing with their partners over having to answer to them.
Answer is probably the wrong word, but healthy relationships do involve consistent communication.
Good morning texts, how was your day messages, funny memes.
Those who enjoy their independence can find the sudden need to check-in with a partner overwhelming and overbearing.
Having spent many years answering only to themselves, the responsibilities of updating a whole other person on your whereabouts, telling them what you’re up to, and the pressure of finding equally unfunny memes can be stifling.
Solution: Try and initiate conversations with your partner and set out how much you both ideally expect communication.
If your expectations vastly differ, try and meet in the middle. If you struggle with forgetting to text back, set reminders; for example calling for 5-10 mins at the end of the day to have a quick catch up.
3) They find asking for help almost impossible
Asking for help only demonstrates your weakness of character and inability to support yourself.
…or so I thought.
I still struggle with asking for help. After ending up in the emergency department last year, I had to very sheepishly text my boyfriend and ask if he would drop off an overnight bag for me whilst I stayed in hospital.
I felt awkward and embarrassed and like a big ol’ burden.
Yet, he was there within the hour; armed with snacks and books and my favorite pyjamas. He even asked the nurses if he could stay with me overnight.
I had also told my mother I was in hospital.
“All the best darling!”
She confessed she was quite busy and was expecting some gardeners, but wished me well – an expected response.
The difference in these responses confused me.
My body being my problem, I was shocked at the enthusiasm my partner showed for jumping in and helping me out.
Turns out that’s pretty normal in relationships.
Asking for help and expecting to be supported by your partner is commonplace.
Even the most independent amongst us will need to ask for help; whether untangling fairy lights, building IKEA furniture, or burying a body.
But believe me is it difficult to actually step up and ask.
Solution: Just start asking.
You don’t need to ask for help on big things to begin with; try and ask your partner to help you put on your bedsheets (which I hope you’re more than capable of doing yourself) and build up from there.
4) They struggle to commit to and support others
There’s an unfortunate love story where a hyper-independent girl falls in love with a codependent boy. They love each other very dearly and admire all sorts of wonderful traits in each other.
But then the co-dependent boy becomes what the hyper-independent girl can only term as clingy.
He tells her he needs her.
He gets frustrated when she’s not available or willing to listen to his woes.
He pouts and sulks and says that she doesn’t love him enough.
This is quite a standard blueprint for highly independent individuals entering into relationships.
Obviously, falling for someone who is prone to codependency starts them off on a back foot. The best thing I can suggest is therapy.
However, highly independent people will undoubtedly struggle with having to support another person and be needed by that person.
Initially, it might feel quite comforting, to be needed.
But quickly, this can feel like a ball and chain around your ankles.
You’re left reeling and choking, trying desperately to swim away to the surface.
Learning to commit and assume responsibility for a partner is a challenge. It’s getting used to the feeling of that extra weight, and learning to swim with it.
Solution: Whilst being independent is a great quality, try and focus on the positives that other people bring to your life.
Partners should never feel like a ball and chain around our ankles, but if they do, consider if this is the right relationship for you and if you are ready to commit to someone.
Avoid playing with people’s feelings just to see if you’re able to actually commit and support them when you’re pretty sure you’re not ready to share your life with someone else.
5) They have a hard time compromising
Obviously you still need to pursue your own dreams and goals when in a relationship.
But when it comes down to two tangoing, there are areas in which you need to compromise and find middle ground to succeed.
This can be on decisions big and small; where you live, who gets the car in the mornings, what you’re going to eat for dinner.
Being hyper-independent means you’ve had a lifetime of making all of these choices for yourself. You relish in your ability to dictate your own story without letting other people get in the way of what you want.
Then all of a sudden you’re having to factor in the fact that your partner wants to live in the suburbs, not by the sea.
And they kind of fancy a curry for dinner when you want noodles.
Learning to communicate your desires and then compromise with your partner if you both want different things is a struggle for highly independent people.
Initially, it feels like sacrificing that independence you rely so strongly upon.
But it’s worth it in the long run.
Solution: How much is it going to hurt you to eat curry once in a while?
Relationships require give and take, so reflect on these situations when they arise and try to objectively see the most logical outcome. This might mean at points changing your stance, which will initially be difficult but grow easier as you learn to compromise and grow together.
The ideal compromise?
This term is used to suggest a relationship whereby parents recognize the emotional connection they share whilst maintaining their own individual identity.
It doesn’t come easy, and if you’re someone who falls into this category of being highly independent, it’ll take a lot of self-reflection and learning to get comfortable with it.
But it’s a lot better and healthier than blasting through life on your own two feet, never letting people in or asking for help.
It’s also better than developing emotionally unhealthy relationships that leave your partner bitter and confused when you struggle to communicate or to commit, leaving both parties with tender wounds.
If this list resonated with you, for your sake and for the sake of your partner/future partners, try and assess areas where you could learn to let others in.
Even if you think and you know you can do it yourself, a burden shared is a burden halved.
Plus you get a lot more love and fulfilment from sharing your life with people you care about.