Popular self-help books, articles, and TV shows tell us over and over that dependency in relationships is a bad thing. You should aim to be self-sufficient and maintain clear boundaries between yourself and your partner, they teach. You should never become too involved with a person to the extent that you need them. That would make you codependent and deficient in some way — work on gaining a “better sense of self”.
That idea is all wrong. As outlined in the book Attached, adult attachment science explains that it is not only normal, but inevitable to be dependent on a partner.
Dependency Is Not a Choice
Studies show that when two people form an intimate relationship they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional health. You and your partner become one unit. Our partners help control our blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and even our hormone levels. How can you keep clear-cut boundaries between yourself and your partner if you affect each other on such an internal level?
A True Partnership Involves Two
A partnership involves two or more people working together towards a common goal. In a true partnership both partners have a responsibility to each other. Neither partner can sustain the partnership alone or it would not be a partnership. In a romantic partnership each partner is responsible for the others comfort and well-being in the relationship.
The Dependency Paradox
Regardless of how independent we believe we are, and no matter how we consciously try to be self-sufficient, we are all dependent. Feelings of vulnerability, attachment, and fear of loss are a part of any relationship. But this does not mean we need to be with our partner at all times or ignore other aspects of life. Quite the opposite: the more thoroughly dependent we are on our partners, the more independent we come. This is known as the dependency paradox.
Our ability to independently step out into the world depends on the knowledge that we have someone to support us in this — a secure base. If we feel secure we can take risks and become more self-sufficient.