Whether you’re dealing with your spouse’s infidelity or your marriage has simply fallen into a rut, you need to hit the pause button a second and ask yourself:

Have I lost my independence?

Read on to find out why the answer to this question could potentially save your marriage.

Is it a Question of Me versus Us?

When you and your spouse took your marriage vows, you understood that you were “two becoming one.” But many couples may take this idea too literally, thinking they both need to shed their previous lives like so much dead skin.

Sure, a married couple does need to focus attention on developing a life together with shared interests. It’s the glue of a marriage, no doubt. But don’t forget the things that drew you to one another in the first place: you had common ground and interests you shared, but being your own person – you also had interests that you came into the relationship with.

This is what made you unique over all others, the combination of ingredients that brought the right amount of spice to your connection with your future beloved.

When you drop these interests that you had, you’re stepping into an arena of dissatisfaction, which we’ll look at next.

Independence and Neglect of Needs

There’s nothing in a marriage agreement that says you have to give up your interests.

So why do so many couples fall into this trap?

Many couples start out with the very best of intentions: they put their focus and energies into making the relationship work. Think of the “honeymoon” phase: you can’t get enough of each other, you want to spend every waking minute together, and you want to do everything together.

This is only natural. The honeymoon phase is like a cocoon that you and your spouse pull around yourselves as you seal yourselves together. What generally occurs during this time, however, is a disconnect from your regular interests, such as his love of catching every college football game or her adoration of shopping for home furnishings.

But as the honeymoon phase fades, each spouse can begin to feel “unfulfilled.” The other partner is not supplying all of their needs 24/7, and they question their spouse’s ability to fulfill those needs.

Many have forgotten that they once met their own needs through their own varied interests!

Now, they’re feeling neglected, but what’s really being neglected is being fully themselves – in whatever way they originally came into the relationship. This may be why some cheaters use the reason, “my needs weren’t being met.” They’re blaming their spouse for something they themselves have created: a situation in which they have not paid attention to their own needs, but mistakenly think it’s the fault of their spouse.

So, let’s look at assessing your needs and how to reclaim the independent part of you that made you truly a full partner in your relationship. As you grow, you bring something new to the relationship – a spark that can be translated into good feelings throughout your relationship.

Step 1: Assess Your Independence Level

Think over your life before your marriage, and life within your marriage. What percentage of the earlier you have you allowed to slip away? Do you still engage in independent activities, or did you box them up and put them away as soon as you stepped away from the marriage altar?

Gauge how close you are to the person you once were, actively pursuing your own interests. This doesn’t have to mean to the exclusion of your spouse, either. In the course of this assessment, you may find new areas of interest that you can share with your spouse.

Step 2: Assess What Your Interests Are

Your interests today may be different than what they once were. Take the time to sit and think about who you are today, and what things draw you in. Are you interested in learning about wine? Or antique cars? Do you have a list of goals you’d like to accomplish in your lifetime?

This is something you can share with your spouse, as well. Having dreams enlivens us, and this can in turn bring you closer to your spouse.

Step 3: Adapt a Plan to Your Relationship

Being independent doesn’t mean you now shed your marriage like an old skin. Think of independence as a means of enhancing your relationship rather than an opportunity to be all about “me, me and me.”

Start planning for some activities you’d like to do, but keep in mind the marriage you’re in: will your activities mean your spouse has to take on the burden of housework and childcare? Find common ground so that you both can explore your pursuits independently, while still making time for fun together, as well as for your responsibilities.

My best to you as you save your marriage by remembering that you are an independent person with needs within the relationship.

Have you lost your independence? In what ways?

Would you feel a sense of guilt in pursuing some of your interests? Why or why not?

Do you think seeking some independence within your relationship can strengthen it, or do you believe it will strain things?  

 

Please share your ideas and personal experiences on this topic with other members of the community.

Wishing you hope and healing for your marriage,

Stephanie Anderson

Editor-in-Chief

Marriage Sherpa

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