It is healthy to have a certain level of autonomy in every relationship. However, sometimes when a marriage is not going well, people decide to increase their independence. At times, this increased independence can be confused with disconnecting from the marriage.
Independence in a relationship means you have taken personal responsibility for your own happiness. This might mean that you spend time with friends and family. It may mean that you choose to do so even when your spouse doesn’t want to. It may mean that you pursue your interests and hobbies. It may also include working toward some individual goals.
However, when people become disconnected, they often declare their independence at the cost of their marriage. For example, a person may start relying on friends and family more than their spouse and say, “I don’t need him anymore.” Or someone may say, “I don’t care what she says anymore. I’m going out with my friends after work no matter what.”
When people become disconnected it also becomes destructive to the relationship. Disconnection often means that people are angry and resentful. They stop working with their partner and go against their partner’s desires without talking about it first. They look out for their own needs only without trying to meet their partner’s needs.
In your quest for a certain level of autonomy, it is important to remain connected. It is healthy to have your own friends, interests, and goals. However, the focus shouldn’t be on “what’s best for me,’ but on “what’s best for us” as well. It’s important to talk to your partner about your feelings and to listen to your partner’s feelings as well when making decisions about how to reach a healthy level of independence.
Many couples find that their level of independence varies throughout the marriage. The most healthy level of independence may change slightly depending on the stage of your marriage. For example, a person’s level of autonomy may change when a couple first marries, has children, as their children move out of the home, and during retirement. If you are desiring more independence, take steps to remain connected to your spouse.