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Striking a Chord between Me-time and We-time…

Updated: May 15

What does one plus one amount to? Of course, we know it’s two! Are we talking math here? We are not. All we’re getting at is the importance of two stand-alone ‘ones’ that come together to form a solid ‘two’. This is to establish that when two individuals show solidarity, upholding their individuality and team spirit, they become stronger two-gether! If this sounds a bit confusing, read along to understand the role of independence within the realm of experiencing togetherness in relationships. 

The Foundation of Independence

Maintaining personal independence does not mean detachment or a lack of commitment. Rather, it has a lot to do with honing a healthy sense of self within the relationship. A renowned psychologist Dr. John Gottman discusses the importance of maintaining individuality in his research on successful relationships. He suggests that couples who encourage each other's personal growth and pursuits are more likely to develop lasting and fulfilling partnerships. 

Here, we illustrate a couple in their late twenties who make for a classic example of demonstrating the balance between independence and togetherness. One of them is an avid artist, while the other is thoroughly invested in hiking. Instead of sacrificing their interests, they embrace them, finding joy in supporting each other's passions. This not only strengthens their connection but also allows each to flourish independently. Going a step further and finding activities of common interest would be a whole lot more enjoyable for the couple, offering them the opportunity to spend more time together and move towards becoming true companions. 

Effective Communication to Strengthen the Ties

As we saw earlier, when couples spend more time pursuing wholesomeness together, they subtly start striving for better communication. Research by Dr. Susan Johnson, a leading expert in couples therapy, highlights the significance of emotional attunement, which means recognizing and responding to the other person’s emotions in a way that validates them to offer support to them. When partners feel heard and understood, they are more likely to express their needs and desires authentically, promoting healthy interdependence.

When a couple faces communication challenges early in their relationship, counseling can be a great resort. Through counseling, they learn to actively listen and express their emotions without judgment. By cultivating this open dialogue, they not only resolve conflicts more effectively but also deepen their connection, discovering a newfound appreciation for each other's uniqueness.

Encouraging Interdependence

While the couple nurtures the ability to genuinely appreciate goodness through the small wins and big ones, a deeper connection takes root. It is through this meaningful connection, that interdependence between the partners emerges. Right at the intersection of independence and togetherness, lies mutual reliance without sacrificing personal autonomy. A study by Dr. Harville Hendrix, a prominent relationship therapist, elaborates on the concept of ‘conscious partnership,’ where each partner actively contributes to the growth of the other. This intentional collaboration nurtures a sense of shared purpose.

As couples progress into the next decade, a new chapter in their life, the thirties, they begin recognizing each other's strengths, dividing responsibilities, and collaborating on shared goals. By acknowledging and celebrating their contributions, they create a supportive environment where both can thrive personally and as a unit. 

What can we then do to balance independence and togetherness in relationships?

Check-in Regularly

Set aside dedicated time for open and honest conversations. This is a space where partners reflect on personal goals, desires, and challenges, ensuring that both partners feel heard and understood.

Establish Boundaries

Communicate individual needs and establish boundaries that center around personal space. This harbors a sense of autonomy while maintaining a healthy connection.

Celebrate Differences

Embrace the uniqueness of each partner. Celebrate individual achievements and interests, fostering an environment that encourages personal growth. Perceiving an individual's strengths and quirks as a value addition to the human experience is a more wholesome way to go than a mere add-on to the list. Making this recognition-cum-celebration a regular affair inspires partners to feel more comfortable in their skin and walk into another day in the relationship livelier. 

Cultivate Shared Goals

Identify and work towards common aspirations. This not only strengthens the partnership but also provides a sense of purpose and unity.

In a nutshell, navigating individuality in relationships is a continuous journey that requires patience, understanding, and effective communication. The key lies in valuing both personal growth and the shared journey, creating a harmonious dance between independence and togetherness. That being said, a healthy relationship tying together individuality and collectivism in spirit is one where a partner is allowed to operate at a meager 20% on some days, while the other wheel picks up momentum of 80% to keep it running. Being comfortable with the arrangement of not always contributing at a 50-50 split in terms of energy and compassion on challenging days makes it more livable and lovable! 

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