Balancing Independence and Connection in Relationships

Healthy committed relationships have a balance between being appropriately autonomous at times and having significant connections at other times.

In one extreme, some people may be so extremely independent and self-sufficient that they barely interact with each other.  This often happens when individuals significantly focus on their careers, their children, a hobby, and/or maintaining their home.   At times, such individuals may report that they are “just roommates,” feeling disconnected, isolated and/or alienated.

At the other extreme, people may be so overly enmeshed with each other that they may not experience their unique identities.  This often occurs at the beginning of a relationship when individuals are entirely focused on their partner as they feel the exhilaration of their richly shared affection.  As their relationship grows, if couples predominately focus on merging with their partner, one of the individuals may feel smothered or possessed by their partner.  They may also feel empty, noticing that they have “lost their own identity.”

Healthy relationships have varying degrees of connection, easily moving from functioning independently as they experience their own unique identity, to feeling profoundly connected and caring deeply for each other.  Each partner can share their independent experiences with the other.  They can enjoy being stimulated by their partner’s new ideas and experiences.

Healthy relationships negotiate a mutually satisfying formula that works for them.  This formula will most likely be modified over time as they age and as their interests change.