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Maybe You Are Independent Because You Fear Involvement.
Heart and Mind Series
The Word “Independence” -- Does it Fit in the Vagaries of Romance?
We were driving over the Continental Divide on our way to a big trial in Eagle County. It was taking over 2 hours, so we had some time to talk. She was an attorney in her 30’s. The conversation wandered toward her relationship.
“You know, I’m an attorney, and he has his own small business. But I think he is afraid of the word “independence”.
“Well, you can see why it could be vaguely threatening.” I turned toward her as she was looking at me occasionally along with the black surface of the interstate. She was driving, of course. She was Independent.
“You know I am not talking about an “open relationship” or proposing outrageous sexual stuff. It’s just that I want him to understand that my Independence manifests itself at times in different ways.
“Does he get what you are driving at?” I was quietly participating in her quest for her understanding of his reactions.
“If You Just Wouldn’t Use the word “Independence”. It Makes Me Nervous!”
She went on to explain how he looked at the word. “He told me --- It’s not what you want to do, or when you want to do it. I am happy to have you do things that will make you feel “Independent”. It’s like when you use that word, you are trying to tell me something bigger about our relationship…something I don’t get….something I am not understanding.”
“Well, you know, his fears are natural.”
She stopped to get some gas. “I know, I know. Is Independence a code word for your “boring” or “I want someone more exciting”.
“If I read you write, you are just saying you want to direct your life and include couple activities, but not have to do social activities ALL the time in a couple’s context.” I was hoping I had expressed that right.
“Yes. It’s not that he is possessive or controlling. It’s just that I make him nervous with my style. If this were sexual, I would not use the word “independence”. I am quite happy with him, and he is with me. I think it’s just that “words get in the way”. You know?”
When It Really Does have a Sexual Component
As we drove up to Eagle District Court, her voice got lower. “Well this story has a funny ending.”
I leaned forward and sipped on a not so hot cup of coffee. “He wants sexual independence.”
She took her eyes off the road for a second. “How did you know?”
He was so over wrought over your use of the word “independence”, I knew it meant something more to him than it meant to you.” That did not make me smug.
“Yeah, he wants to talk about one of those clubs.” She rolled her eyes as we pulled into the courthouse parking lot.
“Let’s talk about this after the trial, at dinner.” I offered a positive upside, even though I could tell she was not the happiest.
“So much for Independence huh?”
We talked that night at dinner and spent the next two days chatting about these issues. It made me realize that the word “independence” can mean lots of things, and especially when used in the context of romance, it can present several issues for getting along and compatibility.
So then I thought ---- The word Independence should have a modifying adjective in front of it.
Sometimes life is draining enough, testing enough, tiring enough – that we seek the privacy of our own convictions and our own emotions. However, as couples, one of the reasons we are together is to be able to assist each other through the headwaters of trouble and emotional turbulence.
Paulo Coelho, in his blog, says the following:
“Clearly, there are moments when this fire blows in another direction, but I always ask myself: where are the others? Have I isolated myself too much? Like any healthy person, I also need solitude and moments of reflection. But I cannot get addicted to that.”
He draws a picture that is at once a warning and an acknowledgement that people do want the strength of themselves, but as humans, we really do need each other, and should not stray too much into the realm of seeking only for ourselves. Like the warning about exercising together or, not together, there is a combination of issues that fall together. Be independent, but not too independent.
There are some couples that have “our friends”, “your friends” and “my friends”. Sometimes this kind of spread has a vivifying affect on the couple. Others it can be a sad drawn out competition between which group is better, cooler, more successful, less of a drag on “us”.
I have seen that the most successful couples who are very sociable tend to come to a schedule like highly active partiers. “Independence” in this case really stands for “letting me have fun with my people when I want to”, and you doing the same.
Not a contract, but a friendly understanding. Couples who provide this for each other really GET IT, and the couple’s are pretty happy in this regard.
One couple would fight like this: “God, your garage band friends are just noisy drunks. They live in the past. And they don’t have any use for me…so I don’t have use for them!”
“Well, your debutante’s need some help. They are just phony upper class girls who get together at their special spots and calmly go about getting completely snockered. I don’t see what kind of benefit you chics have for each other!”
This kind of dialogue could be played over and over again, depending on the cultural, ethnic, religious and regional kinds of issues playing themselves out in the life of the couple. Clearly there are independence issues involved, but also clearly, you do not want to ruin your relationship over old friends, long gone buddies or girls who really are more jealous of you than you really will admit.
Establish a peaceful setting, and if you think you really need to modify the way you deal with all of these “temperamental” type situations, then do so in the quietude of music you both enjoy and a place where nothing controversial will naturally arise. These kinds of things are intended to be sources of fun, not be the nasty destroyers of your peace and comfort.
Matching Needs for “Space” Independence.
Natalie Shettlesworth, an author and young mother put it this way: “I think it gets down to a couple coming to an agreement about “space”. If both people understand what kind of “space” each other needs, then they tend to allow for those needs, propose ways of satisfying those needs, and scheduling outings so that the “space” needs of each individual are met.
Monitoring each other’s “weather vanes” can help the couple be sure that they are on the right path. There is nothing worse than one member charging off in a certain direction with an assumption that after consideration is not really the right way for the couple to go.
“No. I did not want to climb Mount Rainier; I wanted to drive to a spot where we could get a great close view.”
As a quote from thinkexist.com states:
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”
The Couple that did not want to Exercise Together
She was a runner. He was a runner. Wasn’t it natural? No, it wasn’t first of all they both wanted NOT to talk or RELATE. Second of all, he integrated wind sprints in between jogging. She loved a nearby park and got into a special state pursuing her own thing. This made them both ecstatic, but NOT with each other. This took them weeks to work out because they both were hunting for their perfect “pleasurable high”. They knew that each other was a “bother”, but did not want to put it that way. They take the same time in the evening. They drive to a certain spot together, then they meet back together at the end. This has them both happy and feeling “independent”. And, they both feel like they are providing this for each other. One could say that they are still “exercising together”, but allowing for more “independence”!