By Steve Horsman
Have you ever read something that felt powerfully true and powerfully disturbing at the same time?
I’ve been studying a book called “Beyond Success and Failure – Ways to Self-Reliance and Maturity”. In this book, William and Marguerite Beecher are unmerciful in telling the truth about personal happiness.
The book was originally published in the 1960’s and has an abrupt style of writing reminiscent of Sargent Joe Friday from the TV Show Dragnet. (if you’re under 50, think Detective Cho from the Mentalist)
I think that’s why I like this book so much. It makes no apologies for being clear and direct.
Here’s a quote from the book:
“Dependency always degrades. It degrades by mutual enslavement of both the dependent and the one on whom he leans. Both are equally guilty of dependence. The individual who is physically and psychologically self-reliant will not allow anyone to lean on him, as it would result in his enslavement if he permitted it. It becomes evident, then, that the one who leans and the one who allows himself to be leaned on are equally lacking in self-sufficiency. They are in a kind of mutual admiration society, which amounts to a conspiracy to exploit each other. Both are in a condition of second-class citizenship, although one may imagine himself mistakenly as the strong one in the relationship. The fact remains that they degrade, inhibit and enslave each other and that, in such cases, two is less than one.”
They don’t pull any punches, do they?
Feeling like a second-class citizen in your marriage is usually accompanied by feelings of being under-valued. You feel subordinate to your partner and you feel your needs are less important than their needs.
There is a chilly awareness of feeling deprived, empty, lonely, weak, defenseless, inadequate, minimized or frightened.
These feelings make you sad and desperate. You may continuously pursue your partner to fix these feelings or you may withdraw yourself from the relationship and seek solace elsewhere.
This is second-class citizenship.
And the only way it can happen is if you allow it to happen.
A truly self-reliant person is not looking to be completed or filled up by another. He knows that the cold feelings of rejection and emotional betrayal are not caused by another person. Those feelings are the result of lacking reliance in himself for truly knowing his own value and true source of well-being.
This kinds of stirs you up, doesn’t it?
You may be thinking, “Yeah, you’re talking about unhealthy co-dependence. But what about the interdependent nature of a relationship?”
You may believe that a “healthy relationship” is one where you can count on each other to meet your unmet childhood needs. That a “good spouse” will learn how to avoid your emotional land mines and do whatever it takes to not piss you off.
You may believe it’s the right of each person to depend on the other to fulfill their need for self-esteem, significance, personal value and sense of well-being.
That doesn’t sound like interdependence to me. It sounds like a prison.
I believe that interdependence applies to the responsibility for BOTH partners to “mind the store”.
Both must be conscious, committed and proactive in protecting the agreed values of the relationship – not the egos within the relationship. Your ego is your job.
Interdependence means choosing each day to take action in protecting the environment in which both people can learn, grow and thrive as individuals and partners.
If you have agreed that your relationship values include an environment of acceptance, affection, warmth, support, honesty, appreciation, adoration, emotional safety and vulnerability…then those are where your interdependence lies.
Both partners must commit to preserving those values through intentional and unconditional action. Without an interdependent joint-effort, the environment will crumble and turn toxic. And you already know what happens when that happens.
The importance of self-reliance cannot be understated.
It is only the truly self-reliant person who can prioritize his accountability and commitment to his relationship values over his expectations from his relationship.
It is only the truly self-reliant person who has the clarity and courage to take the loving actions necessary to possibly repair a crumbling environment.
And it is only the truly self-reliant person who can confidently make the correct decisions if he determines his partner is unwilling or incapable of creating that environment with him.
The road to self-reliance is an amazing and fulfilling trip. The journey should be a key part of your mission in life and love. I wrote this free ebook for men who want to change their relationship environment and create the life they want. Download “The Hard-to-Swallow Secret to Saving Your Marriage.”
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Originally published on The Good Men Project.