I lost my mother when I was 14, and after that I was determined to be entirely independent and self reliant. I had no room in my life for anymore hurt. I pushed people away and spoke my mind loudly. Then at 18, I was delivered another hard loss. My father passed away very unexpectedly. For a while after, I was in a tailspin, partying and falling into the wrong crowds.
Not long after, I met my partner. He steadied me, he calmed me, and he loved me. I clung to him, desperately needing him, needing some stability in my life. I came to rely and depend on him quite heavily. I was so worried about losing him that I began to shut myself out. If he didn't like my music, I just wouldn't listen to it anymore. If he disagreed with something I said, I never brought it up again. Most areas of our life together became this way. I quietly mourned the person I once was, but I felt so strongly that I needed to be whatever it took to keep him happy.
Somewhere along the way though, he wasn't happy anymore. I was so desperately trying to make things perfect for him that I failed to notice we were falling apart. Our conversations were no longer interesting because I just always agreed, or because I kept my thoughts to myself. I was always around, with no alone time or space for him, because I had given up my own interests and hobbies to pursue his. I didn't realize it, but I was slowly dragging him down in a very boring and mundane relationship. It sounds great to have a partner that likes all the same things that you do, and that has the same thoughts and opinions - but in practice, it really isn't that great. I had sacrificed my own happiness to make him happy, and in the end... neither of us were.
One day, he left. To say I was terrified is to put it lightly. I was, for the first time in my 24 years, truly alone and I didn't know what to do. I didn't even know who I was anymore. I had pushed all my friends away, most of my family was gone, and the man I depended on so immensely was gone, too.
It took a while to find myself again. Slowly, I peeled myself off the couch, wiped away the tear stains, and piece by piece, put myself back together. I reconnected with old friends who I had unfairly pushed away, and I pursued old interests. I folded clothes however I damn well pleased (or, in reality, left them on the dryer because he hated that!). It was empowering to find myself again... to be me. As time went on, more little parts of me resurfaced. I then had an epiphany; my relationship fell apart because of everything I did. He didn't fall in love with meek, agreeable shell of a person. He fell in love with a strong, independent woman who needed no one but herself -- someone who spoke her mind, passionately supported her beliefs. The woman I was when we first met.
We had been in contact in some form or another through this entire time, and slowly as I came back to myself, so did he. This time around, things have been so incredibly different. I know I will be okay without him and that has allowed me to hang onto myself. We disagree, and he folds his own laundry (usually after shoveling my dryer pile on to the bed). I occasionally cook food that I know he wont eat, because I like it. We both have our own separate interests and groups of friends. It was a hard lesson learned, but I strongly stand by who I am and what I stand for. I do still depend on him, but it's in a healthy normal way now. I do need him, but I need me too.
I do think independence is a necessary step to happiness either alone, or in a relationship. It's healthy and functional to be ones own person. I likely could clawed my way through life without reclaiming my independence, but it wouldn't have been pretty, or fulfilling.