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  • Writer's pictureAveril

The Beauty (and Terror) of Interdependence: Building Strong and Fulfilling Relationships

Updated: Jul 24, 2023



In our current times, we are often reminded of the importance of independence and self-reliance, especially in Western cultures. While these qualities are indeed valuable, the concept of interdependence emphasizes the strength and beauty that lies in our connections with others. Interdependence in romantic partnerships balances extremes of dependence or independence, recognising that we are individuals with unique strengths and needs, while acknowledging the beauty and growth that a supportive, connective partnership brings. In this post, we will explore the concept of interdependence and its significance in fostering strong, fulfilling relationships.


Understanding interdependence


Interdependence is the notion that individuals within a relationship can rely on each other while maintaining their independence and individuality. It recognises that while we have our own strengths, dreams, preferences, and personal growth journeys, we also benefit from the support, intimacy, and connection that relationships provide. Interdependent relationships are built on trust, respect, and mutual care, allowing each person to lean on the other while fostering individual growth as well as shared experiences.


Key apects of interdependence


Mutual support

Interdependent relationships are characterised by mutual support, where each partner contributes to the growth and wellbeing of the other. They cheer each other on, lend a helping hand, and offer emotional support during challenging times. We are the safe harbour for our partners that encourages them to venture out into the world. This allows personal development and strengthens the bond between partners.


Autonomy and individuality

Interdependence does not mean sacrificing one's individuality or personal growth. It recognises and celebrates each partner's uniqueness, strengths, and goals. In an interdependent relationship, both individuals maintain their autonomy and pursue their own interests, while actively supporting and involving each other in their respective journeys.


Emotional connection

Interdependence flourishes in relationships that prioritise emotional connection. It involves open, honest, and thoughtful communication, active listening, and empathetic understanding. Partners create a safe space for one another where they can express their thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities without fear of judgment. Emotional connection promotes trust, intimacy, and a deep sense of belonging. The connection in the relationship is equally valued to each individual’s goals and growth.


Why aim for interdependence?


Emotional wellbeing

Interdependent relationships promote emotional wellbeing by providing a sense of security, support, and belonging. The knowledge that there is someone who understands, supports, and encourages us contributes to our overall happiness and resilience, while fostering our sense of self as a strong, well-rounded individual.


Personal growth and fulfillment

Interdependence nurtures personal growth and fulfillment. Partners inspire and challenge each other to pursue their passions, dreams, and aspirations. Working for our goals takes courage and commitment, and an interdependent relationship can serve as a source of strength and motivation that allows each person to reach their full potential as both individuals and partners.


Stronger relationships

Interdependence strengthens the bond between partners. By actively supporting and engaging in each other's lives, a deep sense of trust, connection, and intimacy is fostered. The shared experiences, growth, and challenges that come with interdependence create a solid foundation for lasting and fulfilling relationships.


Building interdependence in relationships


The first step: Self awareness

Many of us tend to lean towards one or the other of the extremes of co-dependence or independence. When your partner wants to spend time on their own goals or projects, how do you tend to respond? If you notice feelings of abandonment, rejection, or insecurity that make you want to demand more time together (or give up entirely and pull away to protect yourself), you may tend more towards the co-dependent end of the spectrum.


How do you respond when your partner asks to spend time together that might occasionally encroach on one of your individual activities? If you feel very frustrated, panicky, or dismissive, you might lean towards a heightened level of independence.


A willingness to form an interdependent relationship requires a healthy sense of self-worth (I don’t need you in order to be ok, I trust that you love me even when we spend time on individual pursuits), and good boundaries (I trust you and myself to respect my need for my own time and goals, so I can be close to you without losing myself). Reflecting honestly on your strengths and weaknesses in these areas will give you a basis from which to move out of either extreme towards the balance of interdependence.


Communication and collaboration

Effective communication is the foundation of interdependence. Engage in open and honest conversations about your reasonable needs, desires, and boundaries. Share your challenges and successes. Together, define shared values and visions for the relationship, allowing for a sense of collective purpose and direction. Keep talking and keep tweaking plans as individual and shared demands on time and energy ebb and flow.


Mutual empathy and understanding

Practice empathy and understanding towards your partner's thoughts, emotions, and experiences. Listen attentively and validate their feelings – you don’t have to agree, but you can aim to understand. Allow for individual differences in preferences, priorities, and opinions. Be curious about your partner as a whole individual, rather than trying to drag them over to your way of seeing life. By acknowledging and truly empathising with each other's perspectives, you cultivate a partnership where both individuals feel accepted, seen, and heard.


Balancing dependence and independence

Strive for a healthy balance between dependence and independence, and embrace the interconnections and interdependencies that arise naturally in a committed relationship. Encourage self-reliance and personal growth, but also recognise when it is appropriate and beneficial to lean on each other for support. Recognise that there will be times that you each need more or less support, and that the nature of the support might change. Bonds are strengthened when we give each other the support that we need.


Interdependence in relationships embodies the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We can allow for two people to be their full, individual selves, while also creating a union that adds to our experience of life rather than taking it over. Interdependence recognises and celebrates the individuality and autonomy of each partner in an environment of support, collaboration, and growth. By embracing the beauty of interdependence, we create relationships that not only provide emotional nourishment and personal development but also serve as a source of strength, resilience, trust, and love.

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