Being independent in America is one of the most prized attributes. Even when seeking a partner, a common prerequisite is that they can take care of themselves.
Conversely, once in a relationship, many partners expect a sort of obsessive, undying, and sometimes possessive kind of love. With qualifiers like that, how does anyone expect to find happiness in relationships?
(Image source PALOMA Aviles on Pexels)
Semantics Of Terms
Three states exist in relationships: dependence, independence and interdependence. 'Pendence' is the common thread, which is actually related to the word 'pendent,' meaning to hang. So to be dependent means to hang on another. Independent, however, means to not hang on another. From this, it can be assumed Interdependence means to hang between each other, conjuring the concept of both parties dangling equally in harmony.
While the terms may seem to favor no hanging at all (because the idea of hanging doesn't seem very pleasant), the purpose of a relationship is to have a connection with another. No 'hanging' would essentially mean there's no link connecting the two people, which makes for a lonely and disappointing union indeed.
Levels Of Connection
Think of these terms as graduating levels of connection with your partner (and really anyone). However, in this scale you don't start at zero 'hanging' like you may expect. Instead, we all begin dependent upon others to fulfill our needs and must piece by piece learn to take care of ourselves and function in a societal and family unit.
Most people learn the basics of independence and have a cursory brush with interdependence without much effort. Learning how to clothe, bathe, and feed yourself is a fundamental part of life. Learning how to function in a cooperative group, such as a work environment, is a societal expectation. When it comes to relationships (romantic or otherwise), the learning curve isn't so uniform. Many people follow the misguided examples of their parents, which can lead to confusion and even despair in matters of love.
Click here for the Updates blog!
There are many reasons for relationship struggles, but more are related to this 'pendence' issue than you might think. Problems arise both from relying too much and too little on the other. It is a balance of the two that safeguards a relationship from many common causes of heartache.
One area to be especially mindful is both people's needs. To focus solely on your partners is unnecessary sacrifice; focusing only on yourself leads to greed and vanity.
When interdependence is placed as a focus in a relationship, the needs of both yourself and your partner are equally important.
You may be wondering how to tell what stage of 'hanging' you are currently in, or how to advance from where you are. Let's explore the levels now, then.
Actually, dependence isn't quite the right term here. Codependence is the proper word for it, as being dependent on others to some degree is normal. Additionally, those with disabilities are sometimes dependent on others despite their desire not to be. The specific type of dependence we're discussing here is when a person is depending mainly on one person being dependent on them to continue the relationship. This can take many forms, some of which may be unexpected.
The most obvious is the dependent codependent. They seem to thrive on being inept or incapable of things, requiring their partner to step in. Their emotions tend to hang (there's that word again) on the other showering them with attention or participating in activities related to them (and only them). They can be whiny, possessive, pitiable, and usually lack the confidence to be more independent in the relationship, though they may not realize this for themselves.
Surprisingly, the typical partner is often an independent codependent. They seem to rely on no one, taking care of everything themselves and sacrificing their needs for their dependent counterpart. However, underneath the surface is a dependence on being needed. This type of partner will unknowingly enable the other, believing it to be helpful in some way.
How To Grow
Both stand to gain from focusing on becoming more confident and worthy of a mutually beneficial relationship. If you are codependent, chances are you aren't taking care of your needs either. Take time for yourself to improve where you're lacking: by either taking charge of your responsibilities (versus pushing them off on your partner), or to relax and enjoy life on your own sometimes while your partner learns to take care of themselves.
Both sides may encounter opposition from their partner when trying to grow. Your partner may not want to advance, and you can't make them. Remember, though, that their reluctance doesn't mean you're making a mistake. Codependence is often a major factor in abusive relationships, though often it can be difficult to judge for sure. If they truly love you and not their own codependence, they will eventually join you. You both deserve a healthy and satisfying relationship, after all.
The independent person is considerably less confusing, having detached themselves from being dependent on others in any meaningful way. Being independent is a step in the right direction, but brings challenges of its own to overcome.
Since the whole point to a relationship is connecting with others, that detachment easily gets in the way of developing intimacy and trust.
Taking care of yourself to a fault can cause you to push away others as they get closer, and a reluctance to be vulnerable. Independence can be a sort of protection for those that have been emotionally scarred, damaging our ability to share emotions or indulge in empathy for others. Yet this leaves them disconnected, outside looking in. Independence is a lonely place to stay.
How To Grow
The first step is to develop trust, which isn't easy if you're suspicious of everyone. Start small by allowing your partner to do small tasks for you and slowly graduate to more important activities as you feel comfortable. Of course, be careful not to slide into codependence during this phase; work to empathize with your partner along the way. If they seem overwhelmed (despite their willingness), the best option may be to do it yourself.
After awhile, your partner (hopefully) will prove they are dependable. At this point, you can begin the hard part (wait, what?) of revealing your desires, hopes and fears. This can be terrifying for some, as exposing deep emotions requires purposefully letting your guard down. However, the reward is always worth the effort and the risk is part of the cost. Take your time, and do your best to explain your reluctance to your partner. If they are worth the risk, they will be patient and understanding through this process.
To be truly interdependent is to want but not need, give and receive, and to focus on accountability while avoiding blame. Achieving harmony allows two people the ideal environment to grow together as two distinct individuals united. There is no battle for power, no fear of being neglected, attacked, or getting so 'lost' in the other you (or they) cease to truly exist. The sum of the whole becomes greater than its parts, yet each part remains completely intact.
In a way, the commitment in an interdependent relationship is less about the other person and more about honoring the relationship itself. Each union has its own understandings, strengths and methods; it's as if the relationship itself is its own entity sustained by both partners. When tended to, that "entity" can become a source of great happiness and strength lasting a lifetime.
Whew, this was long! What are your thoughts? Have you experienced a relationship like this? Comment below or join the discussion on Patreon!