Like most folks, you probably thought having a safe, secure base and being dependent on another human being should be limited to parents and children.
Growing up, you were probably taught, explicitly or implicitly, that the most desirable option for any self-respecting adult was independence; that needing someone… relying on someone… and needing reassurance was a sure sign of weakness.
Fortunately, there’s a new paradigm emerging and the science is clear.
- Effective dependence is optimal and loneliness is a greater risk to your health than smoking.
- Having a close, loving relationship and a partner who provides a safe-haven and secure base – especially in difficult times – calms the central nervous system and soothes the brain.
- Emotional closeness enables you to do more, be more; live more fully and take more risks.
It turns out, effective, healthy and mutual dependence is an extraordinary advantage in life.
Intense distress is the normal human reaction when that one special person isn’t there or disappears — whether real OR imagined. You can learn to suppress your innate need for closeness and decide to go it alone for a while but, eventually, it becomes a soul-crushing way to live. John Bowlby called it ‘compulsive self-reliance’.
When partners are available, engaged and responsive the world seems like a safer place. It’s comforting and creates a sense of security that makes curiosity and exploration possible. Without those qualities partners experience each other as unavailable resulting in some form of protest, attack or withdrawal.
We are hard wired to connect and rely on others; to seek eye contact, touch and approval.
Without them discomfort sets in and sadness, anger, anxiety and loneliness follow. Sooner or later, you build walls around your heart. They’re built for protection at first… then you’re trapped by them.
The good news is… the walls are imaginary because the organizing principle of the Universe is relatedness and connection.
That’s why a simple little question like, ‘Are you there for me?‘ can unleash so much emotional power and cut to the core of the matter.
Think about how you and your partner might talk about your mutual need for each other. Then consider embracing closeness as an alternative to striving for independence.
It takes a lot of courage to explore this new terrain and change isn’t always easy. But you can start the conversation.
Be patient. Be gentle. Connection makes the effort worthwhile.