Has anyone ever told you that you’re too independent for a relationship? No matter where you are right now in your dating life, take the time to think about this. It’s a very relevant topic in our culture. After all, American society is built on self-reliance and independence.
Our cultural values of self-sufficiency may look different than they did a century or two ago, but they’re still there. We are a people who like to do things ourselves, prove our individual ability and build ourselves up from small beginnings into large ones.
On top of these cultural norms, there can be complicated layers of emotional history, as well. Family of origin, friendships, romances, and other experiences can shape us into very independent creatures. Personality, too, can be a factor. And independence is certainly not bad thing — unless we let it get into the way of wanted relationships and even friendships.
1. Am I an Independent Person?
What does personal independence mean to you? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Along the same lines, do you attribute your successes and accomplishments to your hard work alone? Or can you see how the work and support of others helped you along the way?
Now, consider your friendships and dating relationships. Do you often find yourself feeling impatient and irritated when your plans have to change to fit theirs? Maybe you resent spending a Saturday watching sports when you could be pursuing your own interests.
Furthermore, does the level of your inconvenience consistently outweigh the fulfillment you find in the relationship? This feeling could signal that you value your independence a little too much (assuming there’s an equal give and take in the relationship and the friend/date doesn’t control everything).
2. What Am I Afraid I Will Lose?
Our emotional histories can lead us to be independent, both as a fact of necessity and as a form of emotional protection. If you were a latchkey kid or grew up with a single parent, extra responsibility and self-sufficiency were necessary.
Maybe your parents didn’t give you the attention you craved, or you were bullied at school. Factors like these can also lead to independence. After all, if you don’t show that you’re hurt or sad, no one can hurt you. Perhaps a romantic partner in the past cheated on you or belittled your worth.
If you recognize yourself in these descriptions, know that it’s not your fault. Being independent isn’t bad. But as an adult, if you still live with the fear of being made fun of, belittled, or rejected, it might be time to address it. You don’t want to remain trapped behind the wall of independence.
You may fear that you’ll lose your veneer of emotional strength. But this is something that it’s okay to lose.
3. What Could I Gain?
Perhaps you think that the opposite of independence is dependence. But instead, think about the concept of interdependence. In this dynamic, both people rely on each other and contribute. There is a mutual give and take that allows for the needs of both partners. This dynamic is what romantic relationships are like at their best.
You may or may not want to adapt to the interdependence of a committed romantic relationship. But even if you don’t, everyone needs human connection. We are social creatures who thrive when we’re in close relationships with others. Our very bodies prove this fact by releasing mood-boosting hormones such as oxytocin when we spend positive time around others.
Because our brains are flexible and able to adapt, you can learn how to be more interdependent. If you’re ready to loosen up a few chinks in your wall of dependence, please know that therapy is an excellent place to start. Therapists can help you uncover emotional sources of pain and work with you to identify issues that might be hindering romantic relationships.
Feel free to call contact one of our therapists by calling 623-680-3486, texting 623-688-5115, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer a 20 minute complementary phone call. You can ask all your questions to find the right therapist for you.
By the way, if you want to explore this topic further click here for a helpful quiz to help you identify your specific attachment style.