Because of my career as a life coach, I am a living instrument that gauges the most common harbingers of a relationship’s demise. At the top of this list: autonomy, or rather, the lack of autonomy in a relationship. That’s right—being your own individual, independent of your significant other!
Coupling and autonomy are the Yin and Yang of successful long-term relationships, and it’s healthy to have both in equal measure.
My experience however, has revealed that after couples build a strong connection during the first years of their relationship, they fail to separate themselves and their individual identities from one another. Consequently, and once the sunshine and moonbeams of new love subside, claustrophobia sets in, they feel a sense of unhappiness, and they can’t quite understand why. In this case, there is very little wrong in the relationship, but just like any satisfying glass of water is savored, it must be refilled before it can be enjoyed again. This refilling can only take place through autonomous experiences that fulfill the spirit of the individual, so they can offer that back to their mate as inspiration. Here’s a few suggestions how to successfully instate or reinstate autonomy without burning the bridge back to the relationship.
Practice Heart-centered Communication: When one person in the relationship feels the need for “space,” the initial (and natural) reaction of the other is to take offense. If some alone time is what you need to replenish your inspiration, it’s important that you communicate this in a way that ensures your partner understands it when you say, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Heart-centered Communication (which you can learn more about here), allows both parties to actively listen to one another speak without commenting, whether you agree with him/her or not. The ultimate goal is to make sure they understand that doing your own thing is a good thing. And it should be a mutual goal that’s positive! Go out into the world and bring each other back the gift of inspiration and some good stories to share!
Absence makes the heart grow fonder: Everyone remembers that old adage, and saying has been around for a long time for a reason. I recommend taking at least one trip a year away from your significant other, and spending at least one evening a week doing the same. And when you do this, do not communicate at all! No Facebook, text messaging, Skyping, or any other form of communication except postcards. The advent of modern technology has made it almost impossible to miss anyone anymore because they’re a click of a button away. I believe this makes it incredibly difficult to remember how much you appreciate your partner. The paradox is that my giving each other distance, you become closer to one another.
The long leash: I coach a lot of couples where one or both partners spend far too much time together, not because they enjoy each other’s company so much, but because they’re insecure that their partner will cheat on or leave them. By constantly being by their side, they never have to worry about where they are or who they’re with. Talk about co-dependent! Trust has to built on faith, and faith can only come with risk. Just like puppies, people who have short leashes want to run away as fast as they can, but if you give the leash some slack, you’ll notice the person is content enjoying the walk alongside you. Don’t smother your partner! Let them enjoy the walk with you, and that walk could last you the rest of your beautiful lives together.
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