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Independence and your relationship


Independence and your relationship

Today we’ll be discussing independence and your relationship, and how the 4th of July and what it represents probably has a greater influence on your relationship than you may realize.

First off, Happy 4th of July.  It’s officially summer and this year it’s an extra long weekend for many of us (a whole week off for me).  I’m delighted.

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I love this holiday.

I love the summer, fireworks are awesome, I’m glad to be in this country, and it’s generally a great day.

In the U.S., we are celebrating our independence from Great Britain.  The brave few broke away from the Brits and claimed their independence, paving the way for so many others behind them.

These values of independence and autonomy are closely held by most folks here in the U.S.  After all, we even have a holiday for it.

What does this have to do with your relationship?

Quite possibly, everything.

If you are in the same kind of funk in your relationship that so many other couples find themselves in, unable to connect with each other, it may be because on some level you’ve grown up with strong values of independence and autonomy.

You, like many of us, may have explicitly or implicitly learned that you should be able to take care of yourself, “stand on your own two feet,” and be self-reliant.  This could be a result of your culture or family of origin, or both.

Certainly those values are in the firework spackled air we breathe in the United States.

By privileging self-reliance, however, on some level you may be divorcing yourself from your basic needs.

You may have swallowed the idea that you shouldn’t be too “needy,” and shouldn’t really depend on others. Perhaps you were taught that you shouldn’t have to depend on others and that you should take care of yourself.

These values are being celebrated across the country today.

I love many things about the U.S. and am grateful to have been born here.  I choose to live here.  That being said, this American ideology around the glories of autonomy is where many couples get into trouble.

A common thread throughout my posts and my work is the all important message:

We are wired to connect.

Isolation is as traumatizing to us as a species.

Loneliness has been shown to be as physically dangerous as smoking or obesity!  (Check out the book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John Cacioppo and William Patrick for more on that.)

It’s been accepted for awhile that we need emotional connection as infants in order to do okay in the world, and finally the idea that we also need this as adults is realized in the fields of psychology and neuroscience.

Essentially, breaking free and being your own person is best achieved by safely and securely connecting with another.

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For us to be successfully independent, we must be effectively dependent on each other.

So when we tell ourselves that we should be self-sufficient, or when we don’t call into question swallowed values of autonomy and independence, we are denying our own needs.

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