7 Essential Tips for Loving an Independent Person

Shannon Hilson

Self-sufficient people need love, too, but they’re not willing to settle for just anyone and anything.

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My ex-mother-in-law used to flat-out refuse to use my name when she sent me gifts or cards in the mail. Instead of addressing things to “Ms. Shannon Hilson,” as I’d asked, she’d insist on simply tacking “Mrs.” onto her son’s first and last name and calling it a day. She continued to do this even after I asked her multiple times not to.

She reasoned that I was too independent and needed to stop seeing myself as an individual and start seeing myself as her son’s wife, first and foremost. I disagreed. And when my ex turned out to have even less respect for my sense of autonomy than his mother did, I wound up asking for a divorce. Like his mother, my ex didn’t know how to love someone who was their own person first and “someone’s wife” second, and it cost him his relationship with me.

Self-sufficient people don't need to be in relationships even though they may very much want to be. They can take care of themselves and get along on their own. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want love or hope to find the right people with whom to spend their lives. Here are some tips for loving the independent person in your life and ensuring they’re happy with you for many years to come.

1. Check the relationship games at the door.

No grown adult looking to enter into a relationship with another grown adult should be playing games like they’re still in junior high. But that approach is going to go over especially badly with an independent person. They don’t want to waste their energy figuring out what someone really wants or needs from them, and they’re not going to try.

They value frankness and honesty in their partners as much as they value it in themselves. Take them at their word and make sure they can safely take you at yours. Be honest, sincere, and forthright. If you’re not sure about something, in particular, ask them about it instead of merely assuming.

2. Let them have time and space to themselves.

I’ve been married to my second husband for nearly 16 years now, and we’re a much better fit for one another than my ex and I were. We’re very close and spend a lot of time together, but he also understands that I have other things going on outside of our relationship. He knows I need time and space to myself to write, study, work, exercise, or just be sometimes.

The independent person in your life will need this, as well — probably to a much greater extent than your past partners have. It doesn’t mean that they’re not into you or that they aren’t as committed to your relationship as you are. It’s healthy and beneficial for both people in a relationship to have hobbies, interests, and goals outside of those they share with their partner.

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3. Honor their right to make their own decisions.

When you’re in a committed relationship, it goes without saying that you should make big, life-changing decisions together as a couple. But if your independent partner is anything like me, they’re always going to value making their personal choices on their own. They’re not going to appreciate you pressuring them to change their mind or — worse — demanding that they do things your way instead.

I often run things by my husband to see what he thinks before making individual decisions because I value his opinion. Other times, though, I prefer to figure things out on my own, even if I might be making a mistake. It’s all part of how I learn what works for me and what doesn’t, and I appreciate people who can step back and leave me to it when asked, even when they don’t necessarily agree with my choices.

4. Respect their time and plan ahead.

My ex had a horrible habit of springing plans on me at the last minute, often expecting me to rearrange my entire schedule with little to no notice. He also had a tendency to promise my time to other people without asking me about it first. He thought he knew better than I did what was important, and I found that unacceptable.

If you’re dating someone independent, don’t do this, especially if you want to keep dating them. Never just assume they’re free or that they’ll be happy to clear their schedule for you if they’re not. If you need or want some of your partner’s time, ask them for it in advance so that they can plan for it properly. And accept that they’re sometimes not going to be available. They have other things going on that are important, too.

5. Know they may have trouble asking for help.

As someone strong, self-sufficient, and proud of it, this is still something I struggle with, and it probably always will be. I’m a natural problem solver, so I thrive under pressure and like the process of finding solutions on my own. I’m also used to not needing much help with very many things. When I do need help (or could, at the very least, use it), it’s hard for me to ask for it.

My husband understands this about me, so he often won’t wait to be asked. If he knows I’m going to be super busy with work on a particular day, he takes the initiative and gives me a hand with tasks I’d normally do myself but probably won’t have time for. If I don’t feel well, he’ll bring me some tea to drink or get me medicine to take that might help. If he’s not sure whether I want help, he simply offers and lets me decide. It means a lot.

6. Be their biggest cheerleader.

Like many independent people, I have many ambitious goals, and I reach for the stars with everything I do. And when accomplishing something is very important to me, I’m the type of person who will grind until I make it happen. I love that about myself, and I need the people closest to me to love it, too.

Independent people don’t want to be with partners who doubt their abilities, put down their dreams, and don’t support them in the things they want to do. My ex was like that — a naysayer who actively discouraged anything I did to try to work toward my own goals. My current husband is the exact opposite — someone I can count on to be cheering the loudest from the first step I take toward a goal to the last.

7. Cherish them for who they already are.

Because they’re not going to change. An independent spirit isn’t something a person grows out of, nor is that something you should want your partner to do. Independence and free-spiritedness are beautiful qualities that should be commended and admired. It’s not just what’s best for your partner, either. Being with someone who embodies those qualities helps you live a more prosperous, more fulfilling life, as well.

When your partner is a self-sufficient individual in their own right, you have more freedom to explore your own independence. You won’t have to spend your energy always reassuring them or holding their hand through every little challenge in life. Instead, you’ll have someone in your life who encourages you to chase your dreams and pursue interests of your own. And they’ll be secure enough in themselves to genuinely cheer when you win.

The best kind of love isn’t about being the absolute center of someone’s universe (or expecting them to become the center of yours.) It isn’t about being unable to live without the other person, either. It’s about two individuals who are already whole coming together and becoming a real force to be reckoned with. Together.

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Professional copywriter, blogger, critic, and journalist. Evergreen content on self-improvement, fitness, food, relationships, dating, freelancing, and productivity. Occasional hot takes on news, trending topics, movies, music, and television.

Monterey, CA
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