Jane is a smart, creative 50+ woman who thinks of herself as exceptionally independent. She lives alone, makes her own financial choices, and is particularly self-reliant. Sometimes she recognizes that she is also quite dependant, it just isn’t on other people. She depends on food and sleep, books and entertainment to give her the pleasure that could come from contact and relationship if she felt up to the risks of relationship.
“Being relational is risky business,” she remarks, “I might be rejected, judged, or hurt.”
True, books don’t shame you or make you wrong. And although food sometimes talks back to you in indigestion and health issues, food doesn’t reject you.
How are you avoiding healthy dependency?
Sarah is a dynamic, successful businesswoman who feels like it is a greater risk to be alone than to be with someone whom she cares about but whose attention she depends heavily upon for her sense of wellbeing. Woeful are the days when she has to be with herself.
How are you avoiding healthy independence?
I know women who are willing to take relational risks but who are in marriages or situations that don’t offer opportunities for interdependence, that relational dance that provides mutual satisfaction. So many things can disrupt or block our relational dreams, leaving us depleted, angry, disillusioned, or hurt.
Where do you turn when the one with whom you hope to have a satisfying partnership can’t or won’t meet you in the middle?
Some of us avoid dependence and some of us avoid independence, but in our heart of hearts we are all relational beings, at our best when we are interdependently connected.
The truth about interdependence is that it’s not a final destination but an ever-shifting center point where energy is generated, not unlike two pieces of wood rubbing together and creating fire. How do we stay open to the warmth of intimacy without burning up?
Dealing with our need for independence and our dependency needs:
It helps to occasionally step back and assess where you are in your relationships, knowing that a few small shifts between dependence and independence can make a big difference. Ask yourself:
Is what I’m depending upon actually dependable?
Karen, a mom who put aside her career to be at home when her children were young, has always wanted to feel cared for and protected. Her greatest relational issues have come from the stress of her husband’s lack of realistic financial choices. He’s a great dad and a good partner but she really can’t afford to pretend that he is dependable financially. Rather than putting her focus on changing him, Karen needs to become more independent.
Is my independence serving as a barrier to creating closeness and intimacy?
Since the breakup of her first marriage in which her spouse’s infidelity deeply wounded her, Louisa has focused all of her energy on her career, spending long hours at the office and most weekends on the computer. Though the pain of betrayal may never go away, Louisa is limiting herself by leaning so heavily into her independence.
If growth rather than comfort is the path to greater wellbeing, what are some worthwhile risks I’m willing to take?
You know the behaviors you could adopt that are “just uncomfortable enough to be a good stretch,” things like:
· Starting a conversation with someone you don’t know at a social gathering when it would be easier to retreat or withdraw.
· Learning a new skill, not because you “have to” but because it creates self reliance and confidence: things like checking the air in your tires, learning how to make a trade in an investment account, or watching a YouTube video on how to get the disposal working after it’s jammed.
· Asking for help when you are sick, alone, or in need.
· Choosing to live the mantra “I’ll give it a try” rather than “Never again”
We all have areas where it’s easier to avoid the discomfort of growth, whether it’s growth toward greater independence or reliance on others.
One of the biggest risks we encounter as we age is the temptation to choose safety and comfort at the expense of fully realizing our potential.
Let your self be worked by the tension between dependence and independence. That kind of rub can definitely ignite some sparks, both in you and in your relationships. Getting fully lit up is worth the risk!