No, that’s not a typo in the title!
In the U.S., we’re about to observe Independence Day. Maybe it’s the story of our nation’s founding that makes independence such a cherished part of our identity. Think about all the ways we idealize it in our culture: Success stories about people who pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. Movie heroes who never “play by the rules.” Songs about women who don’t depend on a man.
Of course, it’s great to be strong and capable. But if we concentrate only on independence, we’re overlooking a vital truth about ourselves: Human beings are actually hardwired for interdependence. We need connection with others. Studies have even found that when children don’t receive connection and nurturing, “the wiring of the brain goes awry.”
Even as science affirms that we are meant to rely on each other, the value we place on independence is so strong that we might feel shame when we can’t do everything on our own. For example, it’s not uncommon for first-year college students to feel like failures because being on their own is much harder than they ever imagined.
It’s OK to Need Each Other
Our ideals about independence also affect our marriages. Admitting that you need the other person can be scary! Marriage is a dance of closeness and separation. Either extreme hurts your relationship. Clinging to your husband or constantly needing his validation approval isn’t healthy. But neither is constantly doing your own thing or never working as a team with your husband.
The balance of dependence and independence changes throughout your relationship. There will be times when you lean heavily on him, and times when he leans heavily on you. And there will also be times when both of you are so focused on other demands or interests (going back to school, caring for a parent, etc.) that you’ll have to make extra efforts to stay connected.
Being flexible enough to move from independence to dependence based on your needs is what strengthens your true partnership in life. So, as July Fourth rolls around, celebrate our country’s independence and celebrate your own. But don’t forget to also celebrate the strength we show when we need each other — the strength of closeness, commitment and true connection.