“Love comes quietly; finally, drops around me, on me, in the old way. What did I know, thinking myself able to go alone all the way.” ~ Robert Creeley

Linda: In the early years of my relationship with Charlie, I was plagued with a constant nagging voice inside my mind that said. “Why do you need him so much? You ought to be able to fill your needs by yourself. You are so hungry for love; you should be content with yourself. You should be more self-sufficient. What is wrong with you?!!”

Inside of my mind was not a safe place to reside. It was inhabited by the voice of my inner critic who believed that my dependence meant that I was childish, neurotic, weak, and needy. I did eventually manage to recover from those critic attacks, but even today, he can show up unexpectedly. The difference is that nowadays I can fight back. The most effective weapon that I have in my arsenal is my recognition that there is a healthy amount of dependence as well as hyper-independence, which isn’t healthy.

Our culture worships independence and denigrates dependence. 

Because we live in a culture that worships independence, many of us tend to demonize any degree of dependence, seeing it as a weakness. In order to avoid the judgments of others, many of us try to conceal the dependence that is intrinsic to our nature. We are all interdependent, social beings that require involvement with others to meet our intrinsic physical and emotional needs, to grow, and thrive. The definition of dependence is “a reliance on something or someone”. The definition is neutral; but for so many, the word “dependency” is a dirty word. In our “me” centered, society, it is a popular belief that to achieve maturity, we must become absolutely autonomous, and self-sufficient. If we allow others to become dependent on us, or we are dependent on them, it is viewed as negative or even pathological.

We all need others

We enter into relationships with others because relating to them enhances our life. None of us is independent of the need for others; we are dependent on others to survive and to grow into our full potential. Healthy dependency or interdependency characterizes every loving relationship. We find ourselves drawn to others who have complementary strengths that enable us to rely upon and learn from each other. There are areas where no matter how much we learn from our partner they will continue to be more fully developed than ourselves. To lean on the other’s strengths is a sign of intelligence rather than weakness.

From time to time in everyone’s life, we all depend upon the help of others. Our friend Seymour Boorstein says, “Sometimes we push their wheelchair and sometimes they push ours.” It is a strong visual image that reminds us of the reciprocal nature of relationships. When we fail to acknowledge how much we depend upon others, we make our life more difficult. When we hold back due to fear, or too old habituated patterns, from leaning on another, we rob ourselves of an opportunity for more pleasure. Denying our dependence is just as debilitating as excessive dependence on another where we don’t develop our own attributes. Both extremes weaken us.

Contemplate the rewards that come from healthy dependency

A mutually healthy dependency promotes self-esteem, self-confidence, and ease in life. In making an agreement to create an interdependent relationship, we can heal old wounds, heal dysfunctional family patterns, model a successful partnership for our children, and become the best that we can each become.

When I look back now on the suffering that I experienced out of my belief that I was weak, I feel sad that I was so ignorant for so long. I bought into the myth of self-sufficiency that is prevalent in our culture. We all need to hear positive messages about our abilities and accomplishments. We need “believing eyes” around us to reflect back to us our talents and unique gifts to give the world. We need to be seen, heard, touched, accepted, affirmed, understood, respected, included, welcomed, validated, known, and cared for in a myriad of ways. It is a lifelong need that is as basic as the need for food, water, and oxygen.

The myth of independence promotes isolation and results in a growing number of lonely people. The feeling of being worthy begins with relationships with others.  When we feel that we feel thrive in life, it is because our feelings of security and well-being are built on a solid network of interdependent relationships.

It is a gift to our partner to acknowledge our reliance upon them and our gratitude for their talents, passions, gifts, good sense, and competencies. These are the ways that we honor their strengths. One of the greatest gifts available among the many that great relationships offer, is the assistance that our partner provides in the face of the challenges that life inevitably serves up. We can meet those challenges with confidence. Then we and can afford to take on those that are bigger, grander, and more exciting, resting into the assurance that we are fully supported. As Robert Creeley reminds us, none of us can go it alone. And as it turns out, that’s a good thing.

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Comment by Linda Bloom on June 5, 2020 at 3:22am

Abstract: The wider culture applauds independence and does not give enough respect to healthy dependence and interdependence. Fighting off the influence of hyper independence is required for the emotional intimacy of a successful partnership.

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