A long-lasting healthy relationship doesn’t hinge on where your lives intersect. Discover why co-independence is essential to making romance work.
It’s important to let you know as I write and you read, that I am not a therapist, a life coach, a relationship expert. I am not a voice of authority. I’m 54 years old, woman, fine artist, holistic interior designer, native New Yorker, Bed-Sty Brooklyner, raised in an insular Orthodox Jewish community, long time spiritual without affiliation.
For five years now, since my long term partnership came to its sudden end, I’ve been prying apart to the cellular level every belief I hold about relationships—searching, learning, rewiring, re-fitting, re-coding my DNA, in the effort to bring into my life a different way of partnering. I’m doing this because I’m intent on not repeating the pattern of what ailed my previous partnership. I’ve come to further levels of self-awareness in the time that has lapsed and I am seeking a different type of connection with my next long-term companion. I’m intent on happiness with my future partner. I know I have the capacity to create it. I’m thinking that since you are reading this on MeetMindful, there’s a high likelihood you want this too.
So here’s where I’ve gotten thus far, and it’s good. I’ve found a new relationship model to follow: Committed Co-Independent Relationship*—it’s what I’ve been searching for.
But to enact this, I’ve got to really understand what this is beyond my first take-away, because I’m immediately clear about what it’s not. It’s not co-dependency, where I expect my partner and where my partner expects me to fill each other’s needs, even throwing our most authentic selves on the sword to do so. This has been the makeup of every relationship I’ve been exposed to in my childhood and what I’ve co-created in all my partnerships to date.
So what is it? Pretty much 24/7, during my work and play while I eat, breathe, sleep, my brain and heart have been feverishly figuring out what a Committed Co-Independent Relationship means for me. Here’s what floated up into my consciousness this Saturday morning at 5:00 a.m.
This one thought quickly expands to this—that beginning, to middle to end, the essence and the totality of a Committed Co-Independent relationship is the full acceptance that whomever my partner shall be and I, are separate. He and I are both here to live out our individual destinies and this relationship provides and honors the space for each of us to do so.
This relationship comes with the understanding that my future partner and I will each have been forged by childhood circumstances that are different, therefore, our world views, our needs, our wants, our perceptions, the meaning behind the words we use are different. How we act, respond, react to life stimuli is not right or wrong. It is the manifestation of who we each are and the place we are in our awareness. We learn about each other and check what we may intuit by asking, an alternative to assuming, acknowledging that we each have our own voice.
We delight in each other’s individuality. This opens new vistas, different ways of seeing the world.
We understand our own needs and take responsibility for fulfilling them.
This is freedom and in order to reach this freedom we need to know ourselves, all of our selves.
This is what I’ve come to so far.
I’ve been trying to live this. I”m trying this with my friends, my clients, my work colleagues, my sister, my father, my Mom, my life coach and with a man I’ve recently met, because I don’t expect to suddenly find myself in a committed co-independent relationship. I expect to bring it to myself by practicing, lots. From this viewpoint, every encounter is an opportunity for a deepened connection—both with the person I am relating to and, by watching what occurs for me in the dynamic, with myself.
I do need practice because living this can get really hard. It’s easy when you are sailing along blissfully with whomever you are relating to, to have grace. But what happens when needs collide or when an aspect of who your partner is, brings to the fore every unresolved issue in your psyche? What happens when mindfulness takes sudden flight and anxiety and insecurity swoop right in? What happens when from inside the fear and pain, you want to to judge your partner wrong for being who she/he is because that way you don’t have to feel/see/know your own fear, pain, your unfulfilled desires?
This is what I’m working through right now. This man that I’ve met, I think he’s great, but we each have a totally different framework for being in the world, and how he shows he likes me does not follow my long-held script (remember orthodox Jewish childhood) of how he’s supposed to show he likes me. Between us it’s been more missed connections than not. Each time this happens my brain immediately screams rejection and my knee-jerk reaction is to reject him to circumvent the pain of his first rejecting me. And I have done this, rejected this man with whom I feel kinship intellectually, artistically, emotionally, who I am attracted to, out of great fear.
It’s taking all of my tenacity to peer into my cauldron of insecurities, flaming since childhood, to look into my fear, to separate out, that he is not “doing this to me,” it’s that his ways are different, to let expectations from the past be the past, not come to be present and future.
It’s disheartening in the moment, heartening long-term, to find, that when I start getting clear on this, immediately up from below arises more to scrutinize. Jealousy, envy, they are in this stew too. I have more to work through and write about.
I”m doing this tense work of pulling scales from my eyes, because I am committed to living my full potential. I am in the process of moving outside this self-limiting imprisonment. I am showing up for myself by acknowledging that I am intrigued by this man. I do not know if he is the partner for my committed co-independent relationship. I need to have further connection with him to determine this and to achieve connection, I need to understand how I am getting in my own way, making this not happen.
I know, in this early morning hour when my thoughts are crystal, that much of this is not about him, rather, he is the catalyst. This is about me, my own development. In writing this for you I have come to see that the next step to being in a successful committed co-independent relationship is to continue my full commitment to being my own co-independent partner.
For helping me to arrive at this insight, mindful friends, I thank you.
*My brilliant Life Coach Lisa Brick, (Power & Purpose: Coaching For A Deeply Rewarding Life, and Journey Beyond Divorce), coined the term “Co-Independent Relationship” and introduced me to this new relationship model.[images: via Ed Ivanushkin and Sean McGrath on flickr]