Does Your Marriage Need More Independence?

This Independence Day, I encourage you to think about your own independence within your marriage. I’ve seen a lack of independence hurt many relationships. Sometimes women get caught in the trap of being too focused on their husband after marriage. Our husbands fall in love with our vibrant individuality, but then are surprised when we start making everything about them.

What drives a person to be overly focused on their partner in a marriage?

  1. Insecurity. If you have a weak sense of self, odds are that you feel insecure and cling to your husband to make sure you don’t lose him. Unfortunately, excessive closeness can feel suffocating, so your husband may do the very thing you’re afraid of–pull away from you.
  2. Niceness. Many women also believe they must be nice and nurturing at all times, so they are constantly looking for what their husband needs. You may have the misconception that if you don’t completely take care of your husband, he will think of you’re selfish and become dissatisfied in the relationship. Be warned: If you are too nice and never take care of yourself, your husband may start to take you for granted,  and this is an inevitable recipe for resentment.
  3. Need for approval. Another common fear is that if he doesn’t approve of your choices, he will become disinterested. So you may give up what you like to wear, the things you like to do, and the types of foods you like to eat in order to please him. Unfortunately, the more you twist yourself like a pretzel to get his approval, the more needy and boring you appear to him.

Independence doesn’t mean that you don’t think of your husband at all. (Behaving that way would create a whole other kind of relationship problem!) It’s good to care about him and want him to have his needs met.  However, it’s also appropriate to consider your own needs and expect your partner to support you in meeting them.

Your relationship will be healthier and happier when you both have a secure sense of self, trust one another, and can move between independence and closeness in your relationship. If your own sense of self is feeling a little shaky, try to ease up some on your focus on others. Get back in touch with who you are and what you like to do. Give some of that care and validation you lavish on others back to yourself.

It sounds counterintuitive, but pulling back a bit to take care of you will actually bring your partner closer. My book Strong Women, Strong Love has more ideas for nurturing yourself and your relationship.

Happy July Fourth, and enjoy your independence!