Dependency is Not a Dirty Word

Linda: For many people, the word “dependent” conjures up negative associations with being helpless, powerless, and out of control. Our hyper-independent culture influences many to fear and dread relying on another person. However, the dictionary definition is a neutral one. The word “dependent” is defined as relying on someone or something else for support. The definition has no inference of negativity and is consistent with the idea that every healthy loving relationship has dependency as an essential component.

Being dependent does not preclude being independent as well.

· There are times to have independent thoughts, opinions, and activities. There are times that we affect others and times that we are affected by them.

· There are times when we influence others and times when we are influenced by others.

· There are times when we respond to other’s requests of us and times when they respond to our requests.

· There are times when we give support to others and when we receive support from others.

· There are times when we need someone to confide in and times when we can be the empathic listener to hear another’s concerns.

All of these behaviors are reciprocal and keep the relationship in balance. There is cause for concern should the relationship become lopsided, where only one of the pair is holding the position of the strong and capable one. It can become a problem when only one gives support and the other receives it. And it’s asking for trouble when only one in the pair is vulnerable and the other stands behind the image of having it all together. In all these instances, an adjustment is required to put balance back into the relationship.

Fearing being dependent on another can damage a relationship because that fear prompts people to hold up a false image of “I can do it myself.” Being busy holding up the image keeps us from enjoying the peace of mind and security of knowing that there are special people in our life who care for us, who will assist us through the challenging parts of life, and who amplify the joy and celebration of our successes.

It is in our own self-interest to examine our beliefs about dependency to see if we have picked up the prevailing views of our culture. We can examine the notion that only independence is honorable and that there is some suspect or weakness about dependency.

We are each in charge of creating a relationship that works for both of us. We are dependent upon each other to co-create a relationship that is interdependent, where we both admit to having needs that we desire to have met by the other, to feel securely bonded, valued, respected, trusted, supported, and loved. To tell the truth about the normal basic human needs and to work out our system of meeting each other’s needs whenever possible is what awake and aware couples do.

What would be required to move away from our fear of dependency is to see how much we have to gain. We can adopt a new understanding of the beauty of dependence:

· Elevating connection over freedom and self-reliance

· Prioritizing the well-being of the romantic pair as being of greater importance than the individual

· Moving from less aggression and competition toward sharing

· Letting go of image presentation to be replaced by intimate, authentic relating

· Defining success as the depth and breadth of our relationships rather than money, power, and influence

· Striving toward a relationship in which reciprocity, vulnerability, empathy, sensitivity, nurturance, and compassion are all honored

Becoming comfortable with our dependent needs is part of our personal work. Knowing what those needs are, having the courage to announce them, and to become graceful over time in the art of balancing our own needs with our partner’s. We can learn to make the needs of our partner as important as our own; not more important, but no less important. Finding the balance is an intelligent step toward a delightful partnership, one that includes both independence and dependence. In this way, we have the best of both worlds.

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Linda & Charlie Bloom

Linda & Charlie Bloom

Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW, married since 1972, are experts in the field of relationships and have published four successful books.