Photo by my good friend Vern Seward, who’s on his way to Namibia to fulfill a two-year commitment with the Peace Corps.
I’ve been pondering a couple words from my Momentous Living book chapter, “Village: doing life with others.” These two words––respect and interdependency––encompass important stuff that has to do with relationships and community.
Respect was in my marriage vows, but it wasn’t until after I experienced the hardship of divorce that I dug into this word and asked: What does respect really mean? Really, what does it really mean? Can you put words to it? And do your words match those of other’s? Do we have a standardized definition for respect? One that we all agree upon and happily follow?
And how about “interdependency”? Try to define that word.
See what I mean?
It’s not so black and white.
This word, interdependency was part of my pre-marital counseling so many years ago. I still remember it because I didn’t have a clue what it meant. I thought people were either dependent or independent. Who knew there was a middle ground?
Anthony deMello, Jesuit priest and author of Awareness, says “free people form community, not slaves.” In other words, freedom allows free thinking. When this freedom exists, so does honest and authentic interaction, fostering interdependent relationships––whether professionally or personally––that thrive through good and difficult times.
Marriage and family therapist, Darlene Lancer, says that these types of relationships respect each other’s separateness and individuality. Unlike with codependency, interdependent relationships don’t need someone to care for or receive from in order to feel valued.
Interdependency requires two people capable of autonomy (the ability to function independently). When couples love each other, it’s normal to feel attached, to desire closeness, to be concerned for each other, and to depend upon each other. Their lives are intertwined, and they’re affected by and need each other. However, they share power equally and take responsibility for their own feelings, actions, and contributions to the relationship. Because they have self-esteem, they can manage their thoughts and feelings on their own and don’t have to control someone else to feel okay. They can allow for each other’s differences and honor each other’s separateness. Thus, they’re not afraid to be honest. They can listen to their partner’s feelings and needs without feeling guilty or becoming defensive. Since their self-esteem doesn’t depend upon their partner, they don’t fear intimacy, and independence doesn’t threaten the relationship. In fact, the relationship gives them each more freedom. There’s mutual respect and support for each other’s personal goals, but both are committed to the relationship. 
I love this poem by Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts. It speaks to my featured words.
it is my desire to learn to
open my heart, listen to it,
and offer it to the world.
if you’d like to care to join me
on the journey,
i would be honored to
travel side by side––
steadying each other as
rejoicing with each other
as we progress,
and reminding each other
as we go that each
moment is sacred.
What do you think?
Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
 Lancer, Darlene, “Codependency vs. Interdependency,” Psychocentral.com.