​Balancing Independence and Togetherness in Relationships

​Balancing Independence and Togetherness in Relationships

The secret to a successful relationship will vary from person to person and depend on the roles and preferences of each individual at a specific time in their life. One thing is normally guaranteed: that you need to have a balance of independence and togetherness in order to thrive, and that this balance may fluctuate depending on your emotional and mental state.

Some couples seem to do everything together, whilst others appear to have entirely separate lives, convening only to talk about logistics like what’s for dinner or who is paying for what. While the lone wolves might shudder at the thought of the more together couple’s “co-dependence”, the together couple may wonder exactly what is in a relationship for the lone wolves. To put it simply: there is no right or wrong, as long as the relationship works for both parties and neither is left feeling either unfulfilled or smothered.


Communication is one of the most important factors when establishing the balance in a relationship. From emotional requirements to sexual needs, it is important that both parties are open and honest with each other. This is not just important for new couples; well-established couples need to make sure that communication channels remain open so that each can express their feelings and concerns. One common area for conflict or discord in relationships is sex; insecurities, or issues such as erectile dysfunction can cause silent conflict as one person is anxious about their physical or mental health and wellbeing while the other is confused and unsure as to why their physical relationship is stalling. Sometimes, all it takes is a little communication to address the problems and alleviate anxiety. Sometimes, more practical measures can arise as a result of the conversation, such as experimenting with condom brands and types, or trying ED treatment such as sildenafil (Viagra).

Checking in

It is surprising how many couples forget to check in with each other, particularly as they become increasingly comfortable with each other or start to take each other for granted. Going to the gym or for an evening walk may be a habit that one person picked up because the other was working, or putting the kids to bed, or at a different club. But things can change; work patterns can alter, kids grow up, and clubs can come and go. It is helpful to check in occasionally; if you notice that you both do things in concurrence with each other rather than together, check to see if you might try going for that walk or hitting the gym together. It doesn’t have to work, but it may be something that you both benefit from.

Appreciate the need for space

Even the most loving relationships need a little bit of space now and then. Being in each other’s pockets 24/7 isn’t an indicator of a secure and loving relationship; in fact, sometimes it can be a sign of the opposite. Respect each other’s need for space and independence and remember to check in and communicate to make sure that the status quo is still working for you both. For some couples, independence helps to keep the relationship fresh; it provides both parties external sources of inspiration, information and stimuli which they can bring back to their relationship.

Stuart Brown
Doctor of Sexual Health at the NHS Royal London Hospital & Relationship Expert. Columnist at An advocate of safe sex. Avid Arsenal fan.

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