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  • Writer's pictureAveril

Striking a Balance: Exploring Hyper-Independence in Relationships

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Independence is often celebrated (particularly within Western cultures) as a valuable quality, promoting personal growth, autonomy, and self-reliance. However, when taken to an extreme, hyper-independence can understandably pose challenges within close relationships. Striking a balance between individuality and togetherness is essential for fostering healthy and fulfilling partnerships. In this article, we will explore the concept of hyper-independence in relationships, its potential consequences, and provide insights on how to cultivate a healthy balance.

Understanding a desire for hyper-independence

Hyper-independence in a relationship refers to a dynamic where one or both partners prioritise their individuality to such an extent that it hinders emotional connection, intimacy, and shared experiences. It may manifest as a reluctance to rely on another or be relied upon, a struggle to connect deeply with a partner, or a desire for excessive personal space and autonomy.

Origins of excessive independence

Past hurts

A person may desire extreme levels of independence as a consequence of a range of past experiences. For some individuals, it may result from previous relationships in which they have been severely hurt or disappointed, leading to a fear of this happening again and an overwhelming desire to protect themselves from potential emotional pain. Being in an intimate relationship requires that we accept the vulnerability and possibility that we will experience hurt, a terrifying prospect for many people.

Modelling and reactionary behaviours

Hyper-independence may also be behaviours that have been modelled by a parent (for example, an absent or neglectful parent may teach a child that others cannot be depended upon), or conversely, develop as an overcorrection in response to a parent or past partner that has been overly intrusive. If, for example, a child was not allowed any privacy, one possible result is that they may become an adult that feels very protective and sensitive to intrusion. An individual that has come out of a relationship in which their partner was very controlling or otherwise hindered their personal growth may feel understandably determined to maintain their autonomy at any cost in their next relationship.

Difficulty with accommodating others

Some may find it challenging to understand how to appropriately balance their own needs with those of others. Again, this tendency may have been formed through modelling or in reaction. For example, a child that has every want and need catered to may not have had to learn to accept disappointment, going without, or compromise.

At the other end of the spectrum, someone who has had to always prioritise the needs of others, or who grew up with scarce resources, may have learned that they need to fight their corner to ensure they don’t miss out. There may be a sense that giving to others means that there will not be enough for themselves.

Understanding the origins of hyper-independence can help individuals and couples navigate these patterns with compassion and work towards finding a healthier balance that allows for both independence and connection. By recognising these behaviours, addressing the root causes and working through any unresolved emotional wounds, individuals can gradually let go of the need for excessive independence and foster healthier relationship dynamics based on trust, interdependence, and emotional closeness.

Consequences of hyper-independence

Emotional disconnect

Hyper-independence can stunt the development of authentic emotional connection within a relationship. When partners prioritise individuality to the point of emotional detachment, it becomes challenging to foster a deep emotional bond, share vulnerabilities, and cultivate intimacy. The partner of an excessively independent person may feel shut out and limited in their ability to genuinely understand them. Although this may stem from the understandable desire to avoid pain, it only ensures that we will never be truly connected.

Lack of support and collaboration

This extreme self-reliance may hinder a person’s willingness to seek support from a partner or collaborate on important decisions. Whether this originates from a desire to maintain autonomy, or a lack of trust that they will be supported by others, they may miss out on the benefits of mutual support, compromise, and shared decision-making.

Limited intimacy

Physical intimacy can suffer when hyper-independence takes precedence. Vulnerability and emotional closeness are vital components of intimacy for many people, and when one or both partners are resistant to sharing and connecting on a deeper level, or a partner feels unconsidered and shut out, willingness to engage intimately can be compromised.

Cultivating a healthy balance

Start with self-awareness

If these descriptions of excessive independence sound familiar, take note of what rings true. Knowledge is power. Reflect on how you’ve felt in past relationships — when have you felt most settled in a relationship, and what situations or behaviours from a partner lead you to want to pull away? You may have found that you’ve felt best with a partner that is similarly aloof, even if these was dissatisfaction in the lack of connection. You may have experienced relationships where you’ve enjoyed the pursuit of a new potential partner, then once settled into a relationship you have found that the shine has worn off quickly. You might describe the bulk of your past partners as “needy.”

Hyper-independence, while somewhat glorified in society, is frequently a defensive mechanism in response to past hurts. While it might seem appealing to rely only on oneself, at our core, most of us want the experience of being securely known and loved by at least one another. As you develop self awareness of behaviours that might signal excessive independence, you allow yourself the opportunity to move towards a middle ground and a more fulfilling relationship dynamic.

Open communication

Foster open communication with your partner. Learn to do this skilfully, as people who are excessively independent might find themselves tending to be painfully blunt in asserting their desire for individuality with the person that most wants to share their lives. Discuss your individual needs, desires, and boundaries while also acknowledging the importance of emotional connection and shared experiences within the relationship. Learn to negotiate and compromise with one another in a way that allows you to feel that you each have the others’ best interests at heart.

Accept vulnerability

Entering into a connected, intimate relationship requires us to accept the risk of hurt. While we can take precautions to minimise the risk, we must develop the confidence that we will also be able to survive if we are hurt or disappointed again. Learn to be vulnerable with your partner. Vulnerability is the cornerstone of emotional intimacy and strengthens the bond between partners.

Establish rituals of connection

Create shared rituals or activities that promote connection and togetherness. This can include greeting one another when returning home after work, regular date nights, shared hobbies, or engaging in meaningful conversations to deepen emotional connection and foster a sense of unity. Accept shared responsibility for maintaining the connection and growing the bond between you, and you might find that your partner is able to relax and give you space.

Develop healthy, flexible boundaries

If you can trust yourself to maintain boundaries around your personal pursuits, while also making room for your partner and nurturing your relationship, you can be less defensive and protective of your time. Showing your partner that you consider them and that the relationship is one of your priorities may mean that they feel less compelled to pursue you for your time and attention.

While independence is important, hyper-independence within a relationship can create distance and hinder the growth and intimacy that partnerships require. By finding a healthy balance between individuality and togetherness (a state referred to as interdependence), couples can cultivate deeper connections, foster support and collaboration, and sustain intimacy. Embracing vulnerability, open communication, and mutual respect will help build a strong foundation for a relationship that honours individuality while nurturing a deep and meaningful connection with a partner.


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