You’re afraid you’ll lose your self in your relationship. Today is Independence Day for the United States. It occurred to me that independence has played a role in Greg’s and my marriage as well – and not for the better. Let’s take a look at independence vs interdependence in relationships.
I know something about independence. Growing up on a Texas ranch, I dealt with 3 older brothers. As the only girl in the family, I can declare “I’m a survivor!” One reason I am is that I got really good at practicing independence. I learned to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, and autonomous. Left to my own devices, I roamed 1,500 acres, developed my own thoughts, opinions, and interests and entertained myself. I depended on myself because I knew I was trustworthy. My unofficial theme was from a Simon and Garfunkel song: “I am a rock; I am an island.” Nobody mattered but me. As a result, looking out for my own interests became as natural as breathing. After all, if I didn’t, who would?
According to the Enneagram, which I learned about years later, my Basic Desire is to “protect myself and to determine my own course in life.” Sounds about right. . .
As a school girl, I was clear about what I wanted, advocated for it and, frankly, claimed it. I’m not proud of it, but a lot of my schoolmates feared me . . .
Enter Greg, the love of my life. A strong sense of independence and autonomy served me well when I was developing strategies to survive a less-than-sunny childhood. But it proved problematic when Greg and I sought together to create a happy relationship and a happy home.
Quickly, I realized that he also had opinions, ideas, and preferences. W-H-A-T?! We quickly recognized that the way I expressed my independence was a roadblock to our ability to emotionally connect as a team of equals.
One meaning of independence is to be free of the rule or control of another. Free (as in “I’m free to do whatever the heck I want”) denotes the full right to make all of one’s own decisions. So, can you see how my independence might be problematic in developing intimacy and closeness in our marriage and becoming close companions?
Let’s fast-forward 46 years – yes, that’s how long Greg and I have been together! Here are a few insights I’ve gained:
You don’t want to lose your self in your relationship. Enter the idea of “interdependence”. Interdependence is defined as “the state of being dependent upon one another; mutual dependence while maintaining a solid sense of self within the relationship”. When I stopped digging in my heels and declaring my independence as an individual, I was able to embrace what it means to be in relationship – to support each other and to be able to count on each other. Interdependence is not the same as dependence or co-dependence.
Interdependence doesn’t mean that I give up myself – that I sacrifice my personal interests and desires. It simply means that, while I’m expressing my “me-ness”, it’s important to nurture our “we-ness”.
So, what does this look like in real life? Here’s an example from a day just last week.
There are lots of examples of how this plays out in our day-to-day life. We accept each other, affirm each other’s uniqueness, and free each other to express the individuals we are. This acceptance, affirmation, and free-ing gives us the space we need as individuals and also allows us to connect in a loving, intimate way. We bring the best of who we are as individuals into the relationship. You don’t have to lose your self in your relationship.
I’m thankful that it’s Independence Day for our country. And I’m especially thankful that every day is “Interdependence Day” in Greg’s and my relationship.