Maybe you were focused on your career and time went by. Maybe you have been divorced or widowed for a while. Maybe you just never met the “right one”. But one day you find yourself involved with another person and your lives are beginning to blend together. And suddenly you are scared. How do you succeed at this process when you’ve always lived your life according to your own style?
Even the most independent people can find ways to share life, love, joy, laughter, and fun with the right person. You will work together to find the win-win in a variety of situations, but eventually each of you will need to make compromises. How do you make those compromises without giving up your sense of identity? Here are 8 secrets to find your commonalities and your different needs and determine if you can make the relationship work:
1) Communicate well
This is probably the most important piece of the puzzle in terms of making things work. It means asking for what you want, and speaking up when something is bothering you. It’s not a guessing game or waiting and hoping the other person brings it up first. It is about direct communication regarding what you want and what works best for each of you.
It also matters how you communicate. Avoid blaming, criticizing and attacking the other person. This will shut down communication right away, or worse, will take it to another level of hurtful things being said – all of which are ineffective. You can’t really take something back that is already out there. You can’t unknow what you know so be very careful and mindful of “keeping the garage door up” as I call it. You want to communicate in a way that will encourage the other person to stay in the conversation and hear you.
2) Make decisions together
Do you make decisions together or does one person seem to monopolize the end results? (You may be the monopolizer.) Both people need to feel they have a say in what happens. Look for the win-win in your discussions. Really try to be open to what the other person is saying. Sometimes the end result may be more about one mate, but then it’s very important to focus on the other person at another time.
3) Negotiate time to spend apart and together
You have complete control over how you spend your time when you live alone. You can stay late at work or go out with friends every night without affecting anyone else.
Things change a bit when you have a mate, but you don’t have to lose your identity.
Talk to each other about your current lifestyle and what elements you would like to maintain. What are your outside interests? How much time do you devote to work, school, church, hobbies or activism? What about”alone” time? How much do each of you need?
Feeling connected to your partner requires spending some time together throughout the week. How much time is going to be up to you and your mate. Don’t worry if your needs don’t naturally match. There is no right or wrong amount of time together. Compromise on what might work for both of you. Perhaps you can learn to share in some of these activities together.
4) Negotiate your roles regarding each other’s friends
We all come to the relationship with friends attached. They are part of our support system. How much time each person spends with friends is an individual need. Do you spend time getting to know your partner’s friends or do you each keep this separate? Or somewhere in-between?
Spending some time with each person’s friends doesn’t have to result in losing your identity. Some people end up finding a new friend in the partner’s relationships. However, it is important to make this work for each of you as a couple.
5) Decide on each other’s roles with in-laws
Family plays an important part in many people’s lives, sometimes even more important than friendships. If there is a family connection with you and/or your partner then it is really important to integrate the couple’s relationship with their family. The amount of time you spend with them depends upon you and your mate’s preferences.
Not all people have close bonds with their family, for various reasons. Sometimes the melding of different cultures or values in a relationship may affect the amount of involvement with each other’s in-laws. You and your mate must determine the degree of contact with the families in a way that works for both of you.
6) Develop a financial plan for now and for the future
This is a huge issue for every couple, regardless of how long they have been on their own. Some people see money as power in the relationship. This is not healthy. Again, it is about working together to form a system that is good for both of you.
You will need to decide if you will combine your money or keep it separate. Even if you keep your money separate you still need to decide about your financial goals as a couple. Some people keep their finances separate but come together on their financial goals as a couple, and may choose to have a joint account for the house expenses, vacations, savings, etc. Having shared financial goals for the future is extremely important in maintaining a secure attachment because you can see how you will fulfill your future together.
7) Decide how to spend the big holidays
Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two biggest holidays because they often represent the concept of “family” even when the family is dysfunctional or estranged. These holidays can also involve travel, adding the stress of time and money.
How will you deal with this? Some couples will spend one holiday with one partner’s family and the other holiday with the other mate’s family. Sometimes the couple will split up and each partner spends time with their own family. But then there is the issue of getting to know a mate’s family. These are all good things to discuss and plan ahead of time.
Even when family relations are intact some couples opt to enjoy one or both of the big holidays apart from the relatives. Not only is it important to discuss this as a couple, but to keep in mind how it will affect your families. Can you make alternative plans with the families? Perhaps visit them before or after the holiday so you can also get away by yourselves.
8) Negotiate the living arrangements
Often people choose to live near work, especially when traffic is a real concern. Others choose to live in an area away from the hustle and bustle and want to come home to a cozy neighborhood. Is commuting more difficult for one person than the other? Can one of the partners work from home? These are decisions that need to be made before settling down together permanently.
Do you live in a house or an apartment? How much space do you want or require? Does the need for upkeep play a factor in what you choose? Some people love tinkering around the house and others want a maintenance-free setup.
The amount of physical space you need can can be an important requirement because it comes from more of an emotional place. It can really be about what calms you or rejuvenates you. Do you need your own down time or haven to escape from the world (Man Cave / She Shed)? Or do you prefer to share the same space with someone? Some people can share a room with someone and not feel intruded upon. Others may feel the intrusion even if they are each quietly doing different things in the same room.
9) Know yourself and communicate your needs!
Opposites may attract, but some opposites will never forge a compatible relationship. For instance, an independent person needs another independent person, but one who also wants to come together and share a life. If one person really wants to have an intimate relationship emotionally and the other seems to keep their distance this is a serious challenge. A workaholic is not a good mix with someone who really wants an intimate and emotional bond with a partner.
It’s very important to know very clearly what each person needs in their life and where a significant relationship fits into this. Relationships are challenging enough without having significant areas of different needs adding to the mix. However, some qualities may be lacking in your life and those qualities may complement your relationship. Know yourself and those qualities you want in your significant relationship. And think about how you will recognize those qualities when you find them.
Even the most independent person can have a fulfilling relationship — but only if they can negotiate some compromises on the bounds of their independence. Incorporate the secrets above to determine those boundaries and increase your shared potential by leveraging your complementary qualities.