A few days ago, my husband and I had a conversation about independence within our marriage. We mutually agreed that we dropped the I(ndependence) for the we(dependence). We like to think that we have coined the term (we)dependent, which has the same definition as the paradoxical term interdependence. Interdependence can be defined as the mutual dependence between things or mutual reliant on each other, such as the relationship between plants and animals. On the other end of the spectrum is being too independent in the relationship or being co-dependent in the relationship.
“All the women who are independent, throw your hands up at me” ecstatically song by Beyonce, Kelly, and Michelle, who are members of Destiny’s Child on the Charlie’s Angels’ soundtrack in the 2000’s. As I reflect back, I can’t even imagine a time when that song played on the radio, and I did not wave my hands in the air and sing along. We live in a world that praises independence. Have you own money, buy your own things, be strong and do not show anyone your weakness is the name of the game. Have we created a culture where we have a hard time adjusting to finding a medium between independence and dependence? Have we become too independent? Training yourself to be extremely independent can be a disservice because when placed in situations where dependence is required, such as a relationship, we will have no idea how to navigate in these foreign waters according to Erica Djossa in her article on The Interdependent Relationship (2012).
On the other end of the spectrum is dependence. Dependence is the core component in building a secure and lasting relationship, yet we cringe at the thought of being dependent in a relationship. A healthy level of dependency allows us to depend on another person for support. Ideally, we are able to trust other people enough to open up and feel vulnerable yet remain self-confident enough to survive conflict and rejection. In intimate relationships, healthy dependency allows us to blend closeness, passion, and commitment. When this occurs, we experience a sustaining intimacy that doesn’t threaten our sense of self. Within a healthy level of dependence, we also know that asking for help doesn’t mean we’re helpless. We are aware that it can be an empowering opportunity to grow and learn and become stronger.
An unhealthy level of dependence is label as, Codependent. Codependence is an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, you lose yourself in another person, not knowing where you end, and they begin. This type of relationship can cause problems because you start to look at the other person to complete you. Understanding your worth as an individual rather than depending on your partner would be ideal and healthy in the relationship. Darlene Lancer, LMFT described Codependent couples as out of balance and often struggle for power and control. The codependent couple displays an imbalance of power, possibly where one partner may have taken on responsibility for the other. They are often anxious, resentful, guilty and responsible for their partner’s feelings and moods. People who are involved in a co-dependent relationship try to control each another to feel okay and get their needs met rather than respect for each other’s separateness and individuality. The partners in these type of relationships often can’t tolerate disagreement and blame one another for causing their problems without taking responsibility for themselves.
We can see that being on one extreme or the other is not going to work best. Try to visualize a scale with dependence with one side of extreme independence and co-dependence on the other end. Ideally, we want to move away from the other edges towards the middle to create interdependence. Check these five quick ways to develop and maintain balance in your relationship.
1) Work on improving yourself
2) Maintaining an individual identity
4) Established Boundaries
5) Use of Effective Communication
The goal is to create balance in your relationship.
By Shayla Peterson, LCSW