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  • Writer's pictureAlesha Lawrence

"Give Me Some Space!" : Establishing and Maintaining Autonomy In Relationship



The Old Ball And Chain Without The Ring


You ever have that special someone you cannot imagine yourself without, but asking your significant other for some Me Time puts them in a thought bubble of hopelessness as if they did something wrong? Do you experience an off feeling when your main squeeze likes, views, and comments every post on your socials that is similar to being under a microscope? One thing that is important about being happy together is also being happy apart, so let me touch base on what it means to have autonomy in a relationship and how to communicate it with your partner. I am no doctor, as a matter-of-fact, up until eight months ago, I was an introvert longing for companionship and found myself in an unpaid internship with my boyfriend due to the amount of time we spend together. Okay maybe that is the mean way to say it, but what I am trying to sell is the fact that my boyfriend is an individual who does not like to be alone and I prefer the majority of the day on my own or with my friends. But, that does not mean I loathe spending time with him. Some people would argue how they wished they had someone “obsessed” with them and how they do not mind clinginess, but let me tell you that those are thoughts before the event. Afterward, it becomes old quickly.

Let me chat with my people who know where I am coming from. Everyone else, tune in. Our smothering teddy bear-like significant other was not born this way, however, they did operate this way for a long time before they met you, and either no one called them out on it or it ruined their past relationships. Have you had to give them a heads up that you want a day away from them to recharge, but even when they agree, they still find a way to text you during your time off? How about choosing to switch off all notifications for the day and see double-text messages from them asking where you are and if everything is okay?

For this one, my boyfriend will come to my room and play the “knock-wait-knock again” game for however long until I either answer with an attitude or let him believe I am not there so he can leave. The last time that happened, I swear I could see his shadow in the same spot from underneath my door for more than ten minutes of knocking and waiting as if I went to shower, he sent texts in between that too.

Now it was not always like this, in fact in the beginning we were all over each other at the start of the pandemic-fied Fall semester of 2020 where we were practically fugitives fighting for privacy together in my room (no one was allowed in each other’s rooms at the time). The first time I needed time from him was after a disagreement and he needed reassurance that I still loved him before he left while also swallowing the pain of not being able to kiss or hug me good night due to my agitation. I will also say that my boyfriend is a sensitive guy who does not take confrontation well and becomes emotional during arguments, but that is from him facing the wrong he said or did after I explain it to him. The pain on his face read that I was someone who is going to catch on to all of his B.S. and that he needs someone like that to make him stronger.


Check All That Applies To You


Enough about me, the origins of a dependent significant other comes from a long history of being carried by others emotionally (friends and family), or being with someone of possessive nature that makes them possessive as well. What you may be experiencing with your significant other is on the lines of “me and no one but me” and their expectations from that can vary.

  • Do they want you to spend more time with them, or are they choosing not to reach out to anyone else in their circle so they can always be available for you? Both are red flags, no matter the degree.

  • As romantic as it sounds to always have someone waiting for you, it gets unsettling with their behavior towards you and others. I am talking about them asking about people who you are texting at that moment, or them throwing a small fit over an attractive public figure on your timeline, even though you never spoke to them, much less keep up with them in real-time.

  • When they come along with your friends, like a club or a party, are they truly letting their hair down and having fun, or looking around at everyone in attendance at the establishment to make sure their eyes are nowhere on you, where fun is not on the menu because they are on a mission? There is nothing wrong with protection, but babe it is hard to dance with you when you are stiff as aboard.

  • The party scene may not be their thing, they would rather be home with you, so next time they will stay back at the crib and text you throughout the night while you are out with your friends.

  • Your Significant Other (S.O.) could go see what their friends are doing only to find out they already had plans made without them since they were around you most of the time and figured they wouldn’t be interested in the first place. As a result, they are alone and will be clawing their hair out waiting for you to come back to do the same things they did with you earlier, and the day before that, and the day before that. Alesha, can you get to the part about Autonomy now? Sure, I’m on it.


Old Word, New Motive


By definition, autonomy is “the quality or state of being self-governing especially”. In regards to relationships, it is a deeply felt personal endorsement for your actions and your commitment to other people. Ideally, it is about being your person while in a committed situation. You can openly choose to be around your friends or like-minded people outside your relationship without being granted permission from your S.O. You are also able to be on your own when your S.O. is away from you and be able to maintain yourself for any period. Your social media or other online presence is not muted to your interests or thoughts, but it is respectful to your S.O. (i.e. following an attractive influencer is fine, but liking 20 pics and commenting drooling-heart eyes under their posts for your partner to see is a no). Overall, you and your S.O. have trust in each other when one is not around the other and your relationship does not heavily influence personal decisions.

The opposite would be constantly questioning and S.O’s whereabouts, consistently texting after leaving and for the duration of an outing, friendships or interactions with anyone of the opposite sex who is not a relative is forbidden, tagging along with a partner everywhere they go, including a partner in a conversation that has nothing to do with them, letting a partner make the final decisions on most ventures and activities, and any free time is spent with the S.O. Feel free to comment more red flags or other non-autonomous traits you have experienced and let’s get a conversation going. What I have just listed are traits in a toxic relationship because the lack of autonomy in a relationship can be toxic.

What can make it toxic are the expectations someone who lacks autonomy has for the S.O, in that their availability will be reciprocated in the same attitude. Of course, couples should always put aside some time for their partners, but choosing to isolate themselves from everyone to be available for their partner does not sit right. I want my man to hang out with other people aside from me. That comes from my introverted personality and the fact that I greatly enjoy my time alone, though I do enjoy moments with my small number of friends. He, on the other hand, would purposefully not reach out to his friends to hang out or use an active voice in texting to get together with them. He gave up “Saturdays for the boys” for the daily ritual of laying in bed and taking three naps while a reality television show plays in the background with me. I am a couch potato by nature, he is an outdoorsy California boy who is rarely home, so what is making him stay laid up with me or wanting in on whatever plans I have with my crew?


Lay It Down with Them


What my boyfriend is currently working after intense direction from is learning how to occupy himself without me, not waiting for me, and reaching out to the friends he has. When he was constantly around me, I grew resentful of his presence where I would mute my phone to not hear his texts or not answer my door when he comes knocking and pretend I am not in the room just to be alone. I knew that I should not feel that way and have to go about those measures with my boyfriend to be allowed to have peace, so I finally let it out with no chaser. Of course, you do not have to use the language I used unless it is necessary (let it out!) but my general speech was “I love you, I’m glad that you’re in my life, but I need you to find something else to do because you are SMOTHERING me.” The emphasis on the “smothering” part is what resonated with him. Of course, he said that he just wants to always be around me and want to be with me as much as he could give the unpredictability of a pandemic where we may have to leave school again, but if it does come to that point, are you going to focus on the time we did not spend together instead of figuring out ways to make our relationship work from a distance? Absence makes the heart grow fonder, so let’s practice that by you not sleeping in my room for a week.

I recommend lovers who are going through this should have a sit down with their partner and hold nothing back. Be respectful, but blunt. Do not change your language to not come off as attacking them because they should not only take this seriously but also take action to correct themselves to become better partners that will make the relationship better. I recommend having a mute session for a day that entails no calls, texts, or physical contact so both of you can utilize the day to work on yourselves by doing what you enjoy and what needs to be done. I can say that after a disagreement with my boyfriend and spending a day or two on our own, I was itching to see him after. I could not even recall the relevancy of that disagreement when that moment came.


Resources:

Bodien, Gwenda Schlundt. “The Benefits of Feeling Autonomous within Your Love Relationship · PROGRESSIEGERICHT WERKEN.” PROGRESSIEGERICHT WERKEN, 11 Apr. 2020, progressiegerichtwerken.com/autonomy-within-your-love-relationship/.

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