Get Well

Learning to Be Independent From My Significant Other

by Nathalie Peña

“I’m an independent woman and I don’t need no (wo)man” is the most powerful of statements that makes me want to snap my fingers in agreement. I’ve been in a relationship for over three years, but that won’t stop me from praising it.

I was late to the relationship game – waited ‘till the lucky 19 – by choice, because of pickiness and lack of interest in having a special someone. Being independent was a large part of who I was – I prided myself in that word being one of the main ingredients to make up my personality. This was still carried with me when I got into my long-term relationship. 

This newfound commitment didn’t stop me from pursuing my dream of studying abroad in France for three months when we were still building a foundation. It also didn’t stop me from focusing on my college studies while he had already graduated a year before and moved back home, five hours away. Because I’ve spent the majority of my 23 years thriving in my alone time, the inevitable thought of “Am I leaning too much on this person for my happiness?” began to swirl endlessly in my head as we kept getting more serious. 

The part of my persona that I cherished so much had scurried away once I got into the real world and all of its challenges that, instead of slowing down, continue to buzz in one’s face like an annoying bee. So why would I want to face that alone? I have that one person I can share all my complaints to; from job frustrations, to my lack of motivation to work out, my fears of financial burden, and my complaints of wanting a space to call my own. All of this can get out of hand when he is the only one getting an earful. For me, it’s hard to open up to someone, so when I got closer and closer to my boyfriend, it was easy for me to crazily share everything with him. He was the first (and pretty much the only) one to know of anything going on in my little universe. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s healthy to be vulnerable with someone, but I started to notice that I was also leaning on him as a way to escape from my problems. He was so great at making me feel better emotionally because he always listened and understood me, so using him as a physical escape became too easy of a route. 

In a period of struggling to live with my family and wanting to move out, I constantly pushed my significant other to move in together even when he wasn’t ready. Crashing at his place was the perfect substitute to still make him comfortable while satisfying my frustrations. 

Living out of multiple bags mixed with clean and dirty clothes to take back and forth for an almost two hour commute became a regular routine. Not having all my skin care / self care essentials every once in a while wasn’t a burden because his place was my mini haven – all of those inconveniences were fine as long as I got to leave a living situation that wasn’t fitting my desires while enjoying time with my favorite person. But then I was seeing it as the start of a detriment to my health – I sacrificed my health by not making early yoga classes, eating out more to avoid grocery shopping that would then have to be cooked after a long ride home, and not treasuring my night routine. 

In a period of working a 9-5 job, it dimmed my motivation to work on projects that made me happy, so when I found myself bored in bed, that meant automatically dialing the phone to see what he was up to instead of really figuring out what was up with me. He never saw it this way, but to my self-aware and independent nature, I felt like I was on the verge of being clingy. Far from what I thought I’d ever become. 

So have I figured out how to combat this? Kind of. I’ve started to set boundaries for myself to go back to focusing on me before him as a form of self-care. Here is what I have been trying to do more of to get out of this spiraling funk: 

● Take some days to not be the first to call
● Take some days to not speak to one another once in a while 
● Never cancel plans with friends just to hang out with my SO 
● Schedule time to see family 
● Be honest with my SO on how I need to work on making space for myself 
● Focus a bit more on my passions/passion projects (hi The Chill Times!) 

I still need to work on some of the above – spending more time with the family and exploring my passions specifically – but now that I’ve quit my full-time job and am working in a company that’s more aligned with my values while writing on the side as a creative outlet, I feel like I’m slowly getting there. 

I’ve always honored my alone time, so where did that go in the three years I’ve been committed to another person? I’m still knee deep in the process, but the process is happening and at this point that’s a mile-long step.

Feature Image via Vanessa Granda

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