“I used to have such a full life before I was part of a couple!” That’s the complaint I hear so often in my practice and it’s almost always from women, not men. Why? Well, women tend to find it more challenging to maintain their autonomy once they pair up — mostly because we’ve been groomed by society to think about the needs of others first. That’s especially true when it comes to love. But relationships thrive when both partners give equal attention to me-time as well as together-time. Think about it: Having the freedom to do your own thing as well as spend quality time together prevents you and your S.O. from feeling stifled, which can lead to a split. Plus, solo time enriches your life and makes the moments when you’re in each other’s company way more meaningful. So if you’ve been letting your entire world merge into his, you’d be wise to create some breathing room with these rules.
1. Plan Solo Activities
When you’re immersed in those first few intoxicating months of a relationship, it’s only natural to find that you have less time for your usual hobbies. Spending QT with your guy and making him happy makes you happy, so who cares if you’re blowing off a random mani-pedi or Spinning class, right? Wrong. Consistently putting yourself second sets an unhealthy precedent for the relationship and sends a message that your life is based solely on what he wants and on his timeline. It’s critical to honor your own desires. That means getting those nails done if you feel like it, hopping on a bike and pedaling your butt off, or doing whatever it is you’ve been neglecting. Most important: Once you commit to these plans, don’t cancel — even if your honey wants to hang. He can wait.
2. See Your Friends Often
We’ve all known that girl — or maybe you’ve been the one — who goes MIA the moment she starts dating a new guy. Not only is this sort of behavior disrespectful of the long-standing bond you have with your friends, it also deprives you of the specific kind of love and attention they bring to your life that, no matter how great your boyfriend is, he does not. To keep from going this route, mandate a weekly or monthly GNO that’s an unmovable event. Whenever it rolls around, don’t ask your guy if it’s OK with him if you go see them, just tell him that you’re going. Remember: The point of having independence is that it’s not something you ask for; you check in and then you take it.
3. Take a “Me-cation”
If you’ve been dying to escape for a weekend away and your BF is busy or just not into the idea, don’t wait for him to come around — go by yourself! Rather than viewing time apart as a reason to worry about your relationship, reframe it in your mind as a chance to grow as an individual. Use the trip to become reacquainted with who you are separate from him and what you like and don’t like. If all goes well, you’ll come back home with fun stories of new places, foods, and experiences, which will make your conversations with him even more exciting.
4. Visit Your Family Alone
It makes sense that you’d want to bring your other half home for holidays. But there’s no need to bring him every time you go, especially if you get along with your family. It can be refreshing for you to spend time with your loved ones without him. And truthfully, your guy may not get all those inside jokes or stories (that’s why you spend half your time translating), or he may not find your home — or the people in it — as fascinating as you do. That’s OK! Home can be a place where you go down memory lane with the people who are special to you.
5. Tell Him Why You’re Seeking Space
Now, in taking all these steps, there is a chance that your man may get a little distressed by all your newfound freedom. At the same time, you may even start to worry that, by doing your own thing, you’re inadvertently pushing him away. Being upfront with him about why you’re taking more time for yourself can help protect each of you against these feelings. Reassure him that what you’re doing is good for you and for him and better for your relationship in the long run. If he’s still struggling with the idea of your having your own life,it may be time to reconsider how much you’re willing to invest in some-one who has trouble letting you do you.