Emotional Fitness

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Independence and Interdependence—What's Best for Love?

Living in an interdependent relationship gives you both respect and nurturing

We all relate to one another in different ways. Some people are very independent in relationships, others are dependent, and a number of people are co-dependent (which means they put aside their own well-being to maintain a relationship with another).

The healthiest way we can interact with those close to us is by being truly interdependent. This is where two people, both strong individuals, are involved with each other, but without sacrificing themselves or compromising their values. What they have is a balanced relationship, and unfortunately it is not all that common. But it is attainable with just a little awareness and understanding.

First you need to assess where you are right now. If there is too much neediness (which can be a turn-off) or you feel that your partner is way too independent and doesn’t want to be with you, rebalancing how you relate is very important. Without it, both of you will always feel out of sync, and that isn’t a great formula for a harmonious adult connection.

Once you have established where you are, begin looking at how you got there. Ask each other some questions like “Did this start because of an argument?” or “Is this what you really want?” and “How can we make it better for both of us?”

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Getting clarity before embarking on a journey of change is imperative. Create some of your own questions that are specific to your relationship and lifestyle. If one of you travels, the two of you will have different issues from couples who are around each other 24/7. Every relationship is different, and there are a myriad of things couples can do to make things better if they both want to. And therein lies the rub.

Sometimes, when the person we are with has displayed behaviors that make us uncomfortable or cause us pain, we think that we really don’t want things to be different; we just want them to be over. And that can be a huge, painful and life-altering decision.

What couples need to learn to do is talk about what they are feeling and make the necessary adjustments so that both people can feel better. First, though, you have to step out of your stubbornness and let the healing happen.

The best motivation for this is to realize that when your other-half feels good about your relationship, so will you. Realize that the changes you are contemplating are not just for another person or even your relationship; you are also making them for yourself. That isn’t selfish, it’s appropriate. It is also part of what makes interdependence a laudable goal for your relationship.

People can live in unbalanced relationships for a lifetime. What they don’t see is that by making some simple realizations and changes about the way you relate to your partner, you can change your entire life for the better.

Living in an interdependent relationship gives you both respect and nurturing. What a nice way to go through life.

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Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist, columnist, and radio host. His latest book is The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.

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