Women have had to carry a heavy load when it comes to forming long-term relationships. Historically, we’ve had to try and make them work. Our very existence depended on it. Staying with a man meant food on the table and a roof over the heads of a woman and her children. But now, things have definitely shifted in our favor. We don’t need relationships to survive and thrive. We take high-powered jobs, we get degrees, we live alone or we choose not to marry. We have our independence.
This wasn’t the case for most women, even as recently as 50-60 years ago (and in some countries, still today). So it’s natural that our independence is not only satisfying because it puts us in control of our lives, it’s something we have been fighting to get for centuries.
The ability to choose independence is powerful. The fact so many of us create full, rich lives on our own before we settle down in relationships makes us appreciate our hard-won freedom even more. Feminism isn’t a dirty word; it’s the progress we’ve made and where we want to go from here.
So here’s the rub: how do you keep your independence if you want a relationship?
Let’s be honest. We like our independence. We like making decisions for ourselves without committee. We want to pursue our own dreams without having to always factor in taking care of everyone else – children, husbands, nieces, nephews, parents…hell, everyone. We women are societally conditioned to care for others, but that’s another conversation.
But when we think about pursuing a relationship versus maintaining our independence, we aren’t really given a roadmap. What does that look like, to be a boss and a partner?
This choice creates an emotional conflict for many women: we might want a committed relationship, but hold the possibility at arm’s distance. Because being in a relationship might mean giving up parts of this life you’ve created – whether it’s your home, your weekend trips, your fantastic job that sends you traveling every week. It also means letting someone in who shifts that balance of power from me to we. You might wrestle with where to stand firm and where to compromise.
This is where love gets tricky. The nature of relationships is finding the balance of that power. Maintaining independence at the same time as making ourselves vulnerable, nurturing, and selfless. Relationships can be hard because we can’t be fully independent, but that’s also the sweet spot – the vulnerability of two people in love, who depend on each other and are willing to put their hearts on the line.
So how can you pursue a relationship and still maintain your independence?
There’s no set rule here. It’s a constant balancing act.
There is something beautiful in the day-to-day life-building with a partner. You are creating something together, and there’s a particular beauty in that. It’s a give and take. You are not always in control of your time and schedule and wants and needs. But you also have someone else paying attention to them, too – who is sacrificing his time and needs for you because he loves you.
Some days your needs will take priority, and some days his will. It’s a process of negotiation, communication, and perseverance. You have to be willing to value both your independence and also your vulnerability. I admit, this has been hard for me. I still resist my own vulnerability, and I’ve been married for seven years.
It is possible to be a strong woman and still be vulnerable.
Love requires both strength and resilience as well as vulnerability and letting go. It is the ultimate courageous act to love someone. So don’t let your desire for independence exclude your desire for partnership. It is possible to have both – as long as you are willing to give in to the ebb and flow – balancing your independence with nurturing your relationship. Both are necessary, and both are rewarding.