What’s Killing Our Relationships? Fear of Dependancy.

Everyone seems obsessed with relationships these days. When men and women share their relationship stories with me I see one big epidemic in our culture — fear of dependancy.

For instance, last night I was at a dinner party and when word got around that I am the Ph.D. who studies relationships, an inevitable mini group-therapy session broke out. The stories abounded about our curious relationship landscape. And alcohol-fueled questions popped out that amounted to “why am I like this?”

With few social rules forcing people into traditional relationships, many people are beginning to understand that their relationship style whether it be dominated by promiscuity, serial monogamy, an emotionally avoidant marriage, or preference for solitude, lies on them. With few family and friends forcing us into a legal, heterosexual, monogamous union, we are free to live out who we are. And that’s the problem. Many of us do not want to live out our “natural” attachment style and actually long for a closeness that will help us feel secure. Or we long for a relationship that will help us procreate and create healthy offspring.

Time and time again at these ad hoc therapy sessions, I find myself explaining “fear of dependancy.” Because, in my opinion, that’s what most relationship strife boils down to. In order to have a healthy relationship, we have to trust someone, we have to trust love and believe it will be consistent. And partners have to learn to depend on each other. All these beliefs about love are programmed in infancy and early life.

So when pop-psyche writers like myself identify someone as being comittment-phobic or a bad-boy or a cougar, we are actually looking at a behavior that is the outcome of a mistrust of love. A fear of being dependent on another.

For some reason, our culture places great value on independence. It’s one unfortunate downside of capitalism. My suspicion is that large, intertwined family systems are a threat to commerce and politics. But too much independence is a killer of romantic relationships. A healthy relationship is also not a kind of co-dependence where no one can remember who’s problem is whose. Instead, a mutually supportive relationship involves interdependence, where partners takes turns leaning on each other. And like that game of trust where one closes his eyes and falls back into the arms of a trusted friend, are you really convinced that you will always be caught? Because that’s exactly what’s keeping you single or disconnected in your marriage.

5 thoughts on “What’s Killing Our Relationships? Fear of Dependancy.

  1. Great insight. I wonder where it all started? Symptoms are seen from the workplace, once employers started laying off people at a whim, people lost the security of employment. Once society became highly mobile, we lost the extended nature of family. Government tries to step in, but few trust the Government. Banks used to be trustworthy, but became profit driven and after the Depression, it took many years for people to trust the market (except for the inherent gamblers) and it has once again proven itself untrustworthy. Church used to be the hallmark of trust, but scandals in the church from Jimmy Swiegart to Catholic Priests have eroded the trustworthyness of religion. Its very nature of fragmenting and forming so many different branches leads to higher and higher levels of confusion and mistrust. What is the root cause? Could it be a global media? Knowing what is going on around the world is a double edge sword. Before 24 hour news, news events were distant, not affecting your community. Now the smallest scandal is blown out of proportion, made into a major event to sell news and people lose trust in the same institutions in their community. The news, as far as I know is one institution yet to be hammered with a major scandal so people still tend to trust the news.

  2. Tim – I think the root cause is our western belief in the primacy of romantic love. Expecting something that is so seductive and intoxicating to be functional is unrealistic. Perhaps Dr. Walsh will not be happy with that statement, perhaps I’m cynical – I prefer to think it’s rational.

  3. I agree with you Jody. And, Tim the biggest roots of “fear of dependency” are parenting practices that do not promote healthy attachment.

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