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3 Ways to Uphold Autonomy in Relationship: A Woman's Guide to Self-Sufficiency in Partnership

As women, we put a great deal of mental and physical energy into our romantic relationships. From the time we are little girls we are exposed to storylines and images of fairytales, Disney princesses being saved by princes, and wedding ideation perpetuated by the media. Historically, women have had to rely heavily on men for financial stability, proper societal status, protection, and more. While there of course have been strong and independent women (and even matriarchal societies) since ancient times, most cultures have declared men the head of the household, the leaders of the pack, and the decision-makers at the top of society. Women have had to secure partnership not just for comfort and love, but for true security and survival in society. Our genes are still encoded with this partnership survivalist mindset, which may hinder growth, happiness, and independence for the modern woman.

While traditional gender roles have loosened in the last few decades, modern women still find themselves listening to the whispers of the past, while also dealing with current patriarchal shouts of the present. No matter a woman’s sexual orientation, women may still find themselves struggling to feel secure in their partnerships, with codependency and unhealthy attachment styles impeding their life goals, health, and overall satisfaction. How can we find balance in our romantic relationships while upholding security in ourselves? Read below on how to reclaim your power in partnership.

1.) Connect To & Uphold Sense of Self

The quest for the answer to one of life’s biggest questions “who am I?” can’t be found overnight and is ever-changing as we age and gain different life experiences. However, our sense of self and identity can be fostered with healthy attention and awareness of our own likes, dislikes, core beliefs, dreams, and personality. Many women attach a lot of their sense of identity to their romantic relationships, seeing themselves as someone’s girlfriend, wife, or caregiver figure. Younger women especially can find themselves taking on their partner's interests and hobbies while evading or putting their own on the back burner. Work on setting aside time to check in with yourself in solitude. Ask yourself introspective questions that will help you connect to and uphold your sense of self.

Examples include:

  • Regardless of what others want me to do, what do I like to do for fun/career/social time and why?

  • What are my core beliefs?/What issues are important to me?

  • What activities or hobbies make me feel good?

  • What are my goals/aspirations?/What do I want to accomplish in my life?

Stay true to yourself by acting as you would like to act. You should not need to adapt or change yourself based on someone else’s opinions, preferences, or desires. A healthy partnership allows you to feel comfortable in your own skin, without feeling pressured to be or act a certain way. The “right” partner(s) will help encourage you to be the best version of your true self, while also accepting you for your not-so-shiny parts. No one is perfect and every individual is unique; embrace your uniqueness in all that you are so you can march to the beat of your own drum (not someone else’s).

2.) Revisit Partnership Needs & Expectations

Certain needs or values that are great to uphold in partnership include trust, respect, kindness, open communication, etc. Other than the essentials, think about what you specifically need in partnership so that you can look for a potential partner who can meet those needs or so you can express those needs to your current partner in a healthy way. (Examples of other relationship needs include varying levels of affection, companionship, security, and appreciation). While discovering and communicating your true needs is essential, it is also important to dismantle unrealistic expectations about your partner so that you can uphold healthy boundaries and autonomy. For example, your partner isn’t responsible for making you happy or making you feel fulfilled in life. The only person who is responsible for your happiness is YOU! You need to be able to look to yourself to self-soothe, to have fun, to create, to take action. You also need to be able to feel comfortable building and maintaining relationships outside of your partnership.

As we’ve shifted out of collectivist communities and into a more individualized society, we’ve put too much pressure on our romantic partners to become our “everything”. We put pressure on our significant other to be not only our partner, but also our lover, our best friend, our career mentor, our adventure buddy, our expansive conversationalist, and basically the be-all and end-all of our support system. Look to yourself and to your network, in addition to your partner, so you don’t have to rely on them to meet ALL of your needs. It’s not fair to your partner for you to expect them to fulfill all of your needs and it’s also not fair to you. Remember that only you are in charge of your own emotions and that happiness comes from within.

3.) Carve Out Time Outside of Partnership Time

When we are in a relationship with someone, we can find ourselves spending a great deal of time with that person (especially if we live with them or live close by). While it’s wonderful if you want to spend a lot of time with your partner, you don’t want all of your free time to go to just one person. Finding a balance between spending time with ourselves, our partners, and everyone else can be challenging, but not impossible. It can be easy to fall into the routine of giving your partner most of your free time, but we have to be intentional about taking time for ourselves and with others. We can take time for ourselves by scheduling times to do restorative activities on our own such as:

It’s important to carve out time to see friends, family members, and community members, or others who aren’t your partner. It’s very healthy to be able to include your partner in some group activities and have shared friends/experiences of course, but taking time away from

one another helps uphold autonomy and better foster other friendships/relationships. It can also make you appreciate your partner time more.

Some activities you can put on your calendar include:

  • Scheduling a time to meet up with a friend(s), family member(s), or coworker(s) for a coffee date, meal, or fun activity.

  • Planning a girls' night where you have lots of quality conversations with other women.

  • Joining a club or a themed group such as a hiking club, painting class, or another organized meetup.

  • Attending a women’s circle to connect with other women of all ages and stages in your community. Our next women’s circle is on Saturday, August 27th, with this month's theme focusing on Beauty Standards & Body Image.

  • Reconnect with old friends or family members you haven’t seen in awhile by giving them a call or sending them a voice note.

While partnership can be a wonderful endeavor, it is also something that brings up a number of big life lessons, no matter the duration of the relationship. One big life lesson that can be learned is to always stay true to and connected to yourself no matter the nature of your partnership. As empathetic and caring beings, we can often put the needs and wants of others before our own. Communicating your values of balance and independence to your partner can be done in a kind, respectful, and effective manner. While compromise is encouraged and needed in every relationship, do not set aside your true needs to satisfy someone else. This is your reminder to take care of yourself. This is your reminder to bring the intention of balance to your relationship so that you can live a more fulfilling life.

Written By Michelle Eggink NTP

Meditation & Mindfulness Teacher

Ceremonial Breathwork Facilitator



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