I left off with my last vlog sharing about Patrick’s and my divorce and reconciliation. Today, I explore the question, “To love or to leave?”
Before I begin, here’s a little disclaimer. I am not a counselor or whomever society needs for credible advice. In fact, my words are not meant to counsel at all, but rather to contemplate a period in my life that was confusing to navigate and excruciating to say the least. And perhaps as I reenter this period through this post, you might find some nuggets for your own. Or maybe not. Regardless, here is my biggest takeaway: Identify your nonnegotiables and stand by them.
Nonnegotiables are those things that we absolutely need in an intimate relationship to grow and thrive. It’s those principles and characteristics that add joy and laughter during the good times; and carry couples through the trenches with meaning and grit during the heavy times.
I didn’t understand my nonnegotiables until after my divorce and remarriage, until after much self-reflection and hard work. Although discussed in premarital counseling, I truly did not understand the word interdependency, which is perhaps my biggest nonnegotiable. I bounced back and forth between dependency and independence and could never quite grasp what it meant to be in union with another through life’s ups and downs.
There were many reasons for my confusion that I won’t get into today. Just know that typically in a divide, both sides need to take responsibility for something. Even in an abusive situation for example, the victim can take ownership of why s/he remains in an unhealthy relationship. I believe there’s always opportunity for self-awareness and growth.
I mention interdependency in the Community chapter of my book on page 104, where I quote marriage and family therapist Darlene Lancer as defining it as follows:
“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 partners 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.”
By this definition, interdependency requires, to name a few things, effective communication, self-esteem, honesty, and mutual respect and support. Entire books have been written on the very words that make up interdependency. In fact, just this week, I listened to a podcast by Dr. Judy Ho on medcircle.com (I’ve mentioned this resource before) about self-esteem. Without getting too sidetracked here, she said self-esteem is one of three things that make up self-concept, the other two being self-image and ideal self. In other words, interdependency is no easy assignment, but it does seem to require that individuals stay grounded in themselves.
This is not to say that we need to be totally “put together” to be in relationship with others. Instead, how I interpret Interdependency is there needs to be room and support to stretch and grow into our best selves, as life has a way of continually challenging us to new levels.
Bottom line, interdependency requires teamwork.
To love or to leave?
So how about that question? To love or to leave?
From my experience, I think the answer depends. In an ideal world, divides would never happen. But alas, we do not live in Utopia and thus, we must manage through life’s hard knocks. Having said that, I think the answer is less complicated if you’re not yet in a marriage relationship, but if I were to dig into this further I’d be walking that fine line of giving counsel, which I said I wasn’t going to do.
So I’ll leave it at this, I think a meaningful follow-up question, if nonnegotiables aren’t being met, is: “Can expansion happen?”
Like how a baby grows in its womb, we too can expand. And I think a good place to start is with the word “interdependency.” I think this word is worth some time to explore and apply, as there’s so much there. Hopefully I’m not opening a can of worms with that suggestion, but rather offering a meaningful exercise. And hopefully, I haven’t given the impression that Patrick and I have it all figured out, because our weeks are full of opportunities for expansion, both as individuals and as a couple.
I’d love to hear your comments.