DATINGRELATIONSHIPS

July 4th is coming up and I’m excited to celebrate the holiday with my family and friends. Because I was born and raised under Communism, where independence wasn’t valued (to put it mildly), I especially appreciate the holiday that honors it. I’m proud to be an American and live in a country where my independence is respected on every level, including in a relationship with my husband.

If you want to get into, or already are in, a relationship and you’re concerned about keeping your independence, here are my 5 top ways to go about it:

1. Create your own source of income. When Paul and I moved in together, I was a full-time student earning my second Master’s at NYU and working as an unpaid part-time intern at the United Nations. Because Paul earned money, I could have fully relied on him financially during that time, but I didn’t. I still took out student loans to pay for my personal expenses. When I graduated, I got a full-time as a consultant at the UN and later, when I started my own business, I continued to rely on my own source of income–even when I was staying at home with a newborn.

No matter how much money he makes, create and maintain your own source of income. Working as a freelancer part-time, starting your own business, investing in stocks or rental property—somehow,find a way to make money on your own. Even if you always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, do something on the side that generates additional income. It’s empowering in many ways. Your man (especially if he’s wealthy) will then know you’re not with him just because of his money. And you will feel fulfilled, not only as a wife and mother but also as an entrepreneur/investor/freelancer. Besides, you won’t have to justify to him why you need to buy a $200 face cream or go to a $5,000 personal growth seminar.

2. Maintain your personal circle of friends. When I was dating my husband, I met most of his friends and enjoyed new things, like couples’ dinners. But I also continued spending quality time with my girlfriends. I still do. On average, I see my friends at least once a week. My husband actually admires me for creating a circle of friends where we love and appreciate each other.

No matter how much fun you’re having with him in a new relationship, make sure to remain loyal to, appreciative of and connected to your friends. Especially when you feel like you want nothing else but to be with him. If you already made plans with your girlfriends, don’t cancel them at the last minute just because he asked you out. He will learn how to value your social life from you. If it’s important to you, he’ll soon perceive it as important too. Besides, if you both have a big fight or, worse, break up, you want those friends be there for you.

3. Prioritize your “me time”. I start every morning with a personal ritual that includes meditation, journaling and exercise. I had a daily morning practice before I met my husband, and I still honor it eight years later– even if it means waking up a bit earlier, before my guys wake up and monopolize my time. Because I know that if I don’t, I won’t feel as good throughout the day. So I look at one hour invested into “me time” as giving me an average ROI of feeling good for the next 14-16 hours.

When you start your day by focusing on YOU, you’re sending a powerful, clear message to the world that you matter, you love yourself and you care about others. You are doing everything you can to show up as the best version of yourself. Besides, you can always go back to bed, where he is waiting, afterwards without feeling like you sacrificed something important to have a lazy Sunday morning.

4. Honor your deepest desires. When I got into a relationship, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do some of the cool things that I used to do as a single, like going out dancing all night, going to personal growth retreats or traveling to places of my choice, because my husband had different desires. Yet, it turned out to be even better because now, when I go out dancing, it’s mostly with my husband and my girlfriends; or, if he isn’t there, the best part is coming home, where he’s waiting for me. For my birthday, my husband gifted me a ticket to “Date with Destiny” with Tony Robbins (something I had dreamed about going to for years) and we’re also going to Burning Man together (something on my “bucket list”).

When you get into a relationship, share your deepest desires early on and do something to fulfill them . For example, I have a dream to travel with my family to India, Kenya and Madagascar, so I sponsor children in those countries and envision visiting them in the future. (I find the best way to inspire others to be kind, giving and grateful is by visiting places where people have so little, yet are kind, giving and grateful.) Also, involve your husband early on by introducing him to your desires . For instance, I bought a ticket to “Unleash the Power Within” with Tony Robbins for my husband and we attended the event together just two weeks before our wedding (those 4 days of personal transformation got us closer than 4 years of dating would).

5. Contribute financially. When we moved in together, I offered to pay for little things we shared, like utilities. I still pay that ConEd bill. On a large scale, I’ve been covering all the expenses for our son and pay for things that create memories, like a family vacation to Mexico earlier this year.

When you start dating a guy, offer to contribute financially after the initial few dates. If he refuses to accept your money when the bill comes, prepare a home-made dinner with fine wine for him, or get tickets for both of you to a baseball game, jazz club or Broadway show. Not only will he appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity, but he’ll also know you’re a team player—and that’s a quality every man highly values in a woman he considers for a long-term relationship.

These are my top 5 ways to keep your independence when you’re in a relationship. Comment here and tell me about how you assert your independence when you’re part of a couple.

Happy July 4th!