Over the years I have personally asked hundreds of clients this very question. According to my estimation, 90% respond in the negative.
Here’s how loss of perceived independence happens in so many cases.
You’re beginning adult life, celebrating your recent freedom from parental supervision.
You do what you feel, go where you want, believe what you will, act how you like. You experiment a lot, trying out new things and meeting new people. You don’t need much money (and probably don’t make much or receive financial help).
You feel independent. Sometimes this independence is very positive and sometimes it’s intimidating or overwhelming. Nevertheless, you have your feeling of independence and have big plans for an exciting future.
Then, you fall in love.
You make that commitment, which you may not realize involves a significant sacrifice.
Inviting another person into your personal world does several things:
1. You give another the right to have an influence over what your decisions.
2. You put yourself squarely in the middle of a new family dynamic, which activates your old scripts about how a family operates.
3. Your partner’s family scripts are activated as well.
4. Your family scripts collide.
5. You take on joint financial obligations and go into debt for cars, homes and consumer goods.
6. You have children, perhaps.
7. Your life becomes habitual – a daily grind, based on what you need to do to keep up a mutual household, meet each other’s needs and raise a family.
8. You may become financially dependent upon your partner, based on family need, debt, overhead or other factors.
9. You can no longer do what you want, how you want, when you want.
10. You may have sacrificed a personal dream for the greater good of the family.
11. You now have a new, extended family, to which you feel obligated, whether or not you like these people.
12. Enter your own example here_______________________.
Love is powerful. In the context of a loving, romantic relationship, none of these feel like sacrifice. It is what you do because it needs to be done. You want to do these things because much more powerful and important needs are being met.
When you do feel the twinge of an individual need going unmet, your loving partner is there to offer support. Your partner wants you to feel good, and vice versa.
Life with your soul mate is worth it. Better yet, you don’t feel the loss of perceived independence because this is what you freely choose and would do it all over again.
The above list, however, applies to relationships whether or not love is present.
When the relationship is full of strife, unrewarding or empty, you now feel the loss of your independence daily. And it’s a painful loss.
So, you long for your glory days and that feeling of freedom and excitement associated with the life you once knew…
If this is the case with you, please remember the following:
You can get your independence back. Most often, this requires a decision and a plan. A feeling of independence won’t just knock on your door one day and burst back into your life. You have to create it, step by step.
Often, you’ll need to do this while experiencing your partner’s insecurity and resistance.
So be it.
This is your life and if you long for something healthy, then you should get to pursue it respectfully.
The first step is to determine what missing – what you need to feel more independent? It could be: your own money, time, hobby, friends, spiritual pursuit or even a new level of fitness.
Once you know what you need (it could be several things) commit to pursuing it. Ask for your partner’s support.
If you don’t get support, then you have a couple of choices:
1. Maintain the status quo and appease your partner.
2. Pursue your independent needs anyway.
If you choose to move ahead against your partner’s wishes, you have a challenge on your hands. How do you move ahead while respecting your partner and understanding his or her resistance and heightened insecurity?
This doesn’t always work out well. Some people are so insecure and controlling that they simply cannot allow you to make a move without their approval. Thus, the problem. You feel trapped in this situation.
Relationships have ended because of this.
A lot of thought and consideration needs to go into the process. Few people who feel trapped in relationships can garner the courage to change the dynamic without support from a friend, family member, coach or therapist.
What do you need – in your current life – to feel more independent?
If you’d like help applying the principles in this article to your life, then fill out the form on this page.
Mike Bundrant is a retired psychotherapist, Master NLP trainer, and practicing life coach. He and his wife, Hope, founded iNLP Center in 2011. For information on coaching with Mike, please visit his coaching website AHA System.