5 Steps to Becoming More Interdependent
Clinical Psychologist and Entrepreneur in Residence Dr. Lauren Hazzouri is celebrating Interdependence Day this summer.
As we prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July, I thought it appropriate to address the continuum of dependence to interdependence. Celebrating the independence of our country from the British Empire is one thing, but when we are involved in romantic relationships—interdependence is the goal. An interdependent relationship involves two people, who are capable of autonomy yet depend on each other. For many of us #WomenWhoWork, being interdependent is much more difficult than it sounds. We’ve come so far from the days of dependency on our male counterparts that it’s often hard for us to let down our guard and rely on someone else. It seems that many of us lean toward self-reliance in fear of being sidetracked by love and life—ultimately never meeting our goals and dying a bundle of potential with an abundance of fought-for opportunity. I have good news! It’s common to overcompensate for past dependencies with staunch independence, but these fears are irrational and born out of ignorance. It’s important to pass through independence (going it alone to be sure we can) on the path from dependence—on our parents—to interdependence (the ability to care for oneself and take the risk of relying on another, simultaneously).
There’s no rush to be in a committed relationship. Taking the time to get comfortably independent before joining another is valuable long-term. What you’ll find attractive and will decide to endure for the sake of the relationship will look much different once you know, without a doubt, that you can take care of yourself, and aren’t reliant on your partner to meet your needs. While it can be a scary concept, we practice interdependence in our daily lives. In fact, our society is built on interdependence. Think about it—we all rely on each other. None of us could survive without grocery stores, physicians, plumbers, running water, electricity. We depend on others, who are specialized in different areas, to make our lives work. Being independent and learning all of the skills necessary to make our lives flow seamlessly would not only be impossible, it would be pointless; we’d be Jill of all trades, master of none! Conversely, being dependent and not developing any skills of our own to contribute to the greater good would be a complete bore and depressing, too. The same holds true in relationships! The most satisfying and enduring relationships are those that involve two strong individuals who are involved with each other but stay true to their own values and beliefs. Check out these tips on how to relate to your significant other—or, potential significant other— in a healthy way. Bonus: You can practice on your friends and family, too!
1. Check your motivation
In your interactions with your partner, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. When you remain aware of the reasons behind your actions, you’re more likely to be an actor in the relationship than a reactor. Remember, you are only responsible for what you say and what you do. It’s your job to keep your side of the street clean.
2. Don’t take it personally
Ninety-nine percent of what people do or don’t do has nothing to do with you. Taking your partner’s decisions, time-management skills, even oversight on the anniversary date personally leads to resentment. Your duty to self is to express yourself clearly—say what you mean, mean what you say, don’t say it mean. And, keep in mind that everyday comes with new choices!
3. Identify your hotspots
It’s important to be aware of triggers from past experiences that have the potential to hurt your feelings, set you off and toss you into a never-ending battle from yesterday in the midst of your current relationship. There is no beginning, middle or end to an argument that has no place in your present.
4. Don’t do for others what they can do for themselves (and vice versa!)
Be sure to take responsibility for your piece of the puzzle, and allow your partner to do the same. Doing for another what he can do for himself steals his opportunities for growth and efficacy. To do this effortlessly throughout your relationship, it’s beneficial to have a conversation at the outset about both of your expectations.
5. Love and accept love in return
This is the biggie! Love is a pouring out, a giving without expectation of anything in return. The goal is to be pure value added. The flip side is that you only accept the same in return. The goal is for the two of you to foster an environment where each of you can meet your potential as individuals and have access to more love, success and happiness than you could have achieved alone. Following these tips will guide you toward healthier romantic relationships, friendships and interactions, in general. So, while we celebrate the independence of our country, let’s celebrate the interdependence of ourselves, too! Happy Fourth of July!