The Balance between Independence and Dependence by Mack Garland, LCSW

codependencyWestern culture values independence almost above all else. We are taught from an early age to be strong individuals, able to take care of ourselves. Most of us leave home around the age of 18 to start our independent and individual lives. At the same time, we are hard wired to be a social creature and create bonds with others. We crave to be in relationship with other people and feel lonely when isolated. So, how do we balance our cultural value of independence with our need to have others in our life, to be connected and dependent on others.

The key is to build interdepend relationships, where we balance our need to be an individual with our need to be in relationship, dependent on others to make our life full and meaningful. An independent relationship is were two people strive to be equally independent and dependent on each other. The relationship becomes a safe place to rely on another, while at the same time, have individual identity. This actually takes a lot of work.

To start we need to know what our needs are. Do we tend to be more detached in relationship, pushing people a way, or do we fall on the more depend side, always seeking others to make decisions for us? We need to know if we depend on others for our self-worth. Therapy can be a good place to explore where we fall on the dependence/independence scale.

Next we need to develop self awareness, by working on ourselves. We need an understanding of our needs and wants in a relationship and have someone who can be impartial, giving us feedback. We often need assistance in discovering our nature, what we are comfortable with, more dependent or more independent.

If we tend to be more independent, we need to learn how to tolerate closeness, how to trust another person. Trusting and being tolerant does not mean we lose ourselves, it means we enter into a relationship thinking about someone besides ourself. We do not have to do everything, we can ask for help. Being open and a little vulnerable can make your relationship more solid and long lasting.

The more dependent person is always seeking others to make decisions and feels anxious in the role of decision maker. We tend to draw others to us and then smother them with our seemingly endless needs. We are like a child without experience to navigate the world. The dependent person can learn to individuate, be more confident and make independent decisions. We really do not need someone else to run every aspect of our life for us.

Seek some assistance in developing your interdependence. Having a health balance between dependence and independence in a relationship is the recipe for a long and happy partnership.

Elana Clark-Faler
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