Singletude, Interdependence & Independence

Apr 5, 2020 | featured

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Author, Attorney, Podcaster, Media Commentator, Motivational Speaker, Blogger, and Creator of the World's Most Successful Breakup Program. For more information about becoming happy, healthy and whole after a breakup, visit Program Resources and join us on the PRIVATE Facebook Group, 

  • Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (Hachette Book Group 2009)
  • Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup (Hachette Book Group 2015)
  • Getting Past Your Past Workbook: The Definitive Workbook to Emotional Healing, Health and Happiness (La Bella Vita Publishing 2012)
  • GPYP Power! Affirmations (La Bella Vita Publishing 2019) 

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Backstory to this post: This has been posted a few times over the years on the blog and ran as an article for Psychology Today. 

I reposted it when I was asked to review the WONDERFUL book Happy Singlehood by Elyakim Kislev.  Great book. If you don’t have it, get it.

I am posting this again as unhealthy couples are climbing the walls in isolation during the COVID19 lockdown.  An unhealthy couple has not had the benefit of the healthy couple relating where “come here/go away” is a natural rhythm that works for everyone. 

My late husband and I had large swaths of time together and large swaths of time alone and we could be in the same house and not be breathing down each other’s neck or we could be sitting in the same office playing games against each other.  There was a natural rhythm to our comings and goings – and our “we” time and our “me” time and no one had to guess what the other was wanting or needing. We said it and it was fine. We didn’t have to intepret what that look meant or that sigh…do you need time alone, dear?  We never had to ask that.  Am I not paying enough attention to you?  We never had to ask that. Are you mad at me?  We never had to ask that. 

Communication, as I detail in Getting Back Out There, is a KEY to healthy, loving relationships.  That is one reason I say that GBOT is NOT a dating book. Some of the keys to loving, healthy relationships are concepts and ideals you have to start to wrap your head around LONG before you get to date one. 

In my marriage, communication was open and honest. Sometimes things collided and we would compromise, “Give me one minute more with this and we’ll watch a movie together.”  Reasonable requests and reasonable accommodations.  That is how healthy couples behave. There is NO payoff for being unreasonable. You’re going to LOSE your relationship if you do that.  No one here is going to run around the bases with you. I liked my quiet, happy life before you and if life is not quiet and happy now, I will jump right out that window.  No one took “me” time personally. (“I KNEW you did not love me!”) And each of us needed it. 

Unless and until you’re able to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy relating, STAY OUT OF RELATIONSHIPS.  Here is a repost as to what comes first: Happy Singletude

It is not difficult to define healthy relationships. In healthy relationships, love is an action. In healthy relationships there is no abuse, no manipulation, no control and no criticism (constructive feedback, yes, but not criticism). It’s balanced and back and forth and give and take. Sometimes you give 99 percent and your partner gives 1 percent. Other times it’s your partner giving 99 percent and you are giving 1 percent. It’s about supporting each other through life’s adversities…you are a team…an unwavering partnership that works when things are good and when times are hard. No matter what.

If you look at a relationship and can say “I love my partner, I am loved by my partner, I care for my partner, I am cared for, our reasonable needs are met, compromises are made and our relationship enhances our lives. We are fulfilled, well rounded people who care for each other. Our relationship is a priority but we each have our own interests and friends and time to ourselves.” then you are in a healthy relationship. It’s not that there are never issues or there are never arguments, but that the issues are worked out in a spirit of cooperation and not competition.

And what we are talking about with love and caring and compromise and caring for ourselves as individuals is what interdependence looks like. There are 4 states that come into play when we’re talking about this: codependence, dependence, independence and interdependence.

Short and sweet:

Codependence is a pattern of learned, maladaptive behaviors. Codependents tend to be involved with people who may be self-destructive, unreliable, emotionally unavailable, abusive or needy. The codependent tries to control everything without acknowledging their own needs and this leads to a circular pattern of unmet needs. Codependents lack healthy boundaries and the ability to be truly intimate with others.

Dependency is usually not a balanced state. Usually one person is more dependent on the other, on the relationship. And this dependency leads to a very very negative experience within the relationship. And it’s very hard to see if you’re in the throes of it. You think you are forgiving and forgetting and being the understanding partner while the other walks all over you. But you are dependent and that’s a very unhealthy state to be in.

Independence is exactly what you would think it is. It’s the ability to be alone and be okay with it. To live life without the pressing need for a partner. But it is ALSO (most importantly) the ability to be self-sufficient IN a relationship. Many people “act” independent without a relationship but then collapse into codependency or dependency in a relationship. A TRUE independent person doesn’t do that.

Interdependence is all that is stated above. It is about different areas of needs being met by both partners and for both partners. There is intimacy, communication, caring and support. It’s a team and a partnership. It’s being together and appreciating each other in good times and bad. It’s about you are my partner and I appreciate you and I support you in becoming the very best person you can be and you do the same for me. When times are good or bad.

As I say in GBOT, it’s about, “The sun does not have to be shining for me to shine my love on you.” Only happy, whole people can contribute to a relationship like that. You have to be happy and whole when alone and you have to remain a happy, whole person with your own friends, interests and outside life when in a relationship. There has to be love and trust for that kind of balanced “go away and come back together” to exist.

Now about SINGLETUDE. Singletude is what I call your attitude toward being single. It can either be negative or positive.

Many people (most?) see being single as second, a very distant second, to being in a relationship. Not just a healthy relationship but ANY relationship. Most people see being in a bad relationship as better than being single. This is a bad singletude.

And there’s a problem with it. The problem is that if you are not okay with being alone. If you don’t know how to fulfill your life and know who you are, you will NEVER EVER EVER be able to build an interdependent relationship. In other words, only codependent or dependent relationships await you.

Two empty people cannot make a whole relationship. Two halves do NOT make a whole where healthy relationships are concerned. You must must must be a whole and happy person who practices self-care and is TRULY independent before you are capable of an interdependent relationship.

If you have a negative singletude, if you don’t think you can be good at being alone, then you are doomed. Truly doomed. If you sigh and daydream and just wait until the time when Prince or Princess Charming comes coursing through your life…it’s never going to happen. The prince or princess will turn into a frog as soon as they have your codependent ass nailed to a chair in their dysfunctional life.

There ARE nice things to being in a relationship and every relationship, no matter how bad, has good moments and moments that almost match your idealized notion of relationships and happily ever after. There are things that ONLY a relationship can give you…but it’s not worth it if it brings more heartache and sorrow than moments of joy or idealized romance.

And before you can get into a relationship where misery is not the end result, you have to have a positive singletude. You have to recognize the importance of living a fulfilled life and the part it plays in a healthy happy life whether that life is coupled or not.  You also have to bask in the peace and the quiet that solitude and happy singletude brings. You must look at your life and hear the quiet and vow, “I will not give this up for anyone ever.”   If a relationship turns rocky, you think back on the vow you made to yourself and you are OUT. OF. THERE.  If you are not out of there, then your vow to yourself means nothing and the drive to play in the sand with unhappy, unloving others is what is taking priority.  It means, sorry to say – you’re still broken.

Once you go zooming past the red flags and the glaring neon signs saying “GO BACK!” you are doomed. You’re playing in the mud because there is a payoff. The payoff is you don’t have to REALLY be alone with yourself. If your alone time is truly wonderful and soul-fulfilling and worth its weight in gold, then why aren’t you running back there when the new relationship turns into hell? What is wrong with that picture?  Who is fooling who?  I have know MANY people who SWEAR they know how to be alone and love it, but if that were true, they would be skedaddling right back there the minute the new relationship gets ugly. There’s an untruth somewhere.  Where? 

If you have not yet done so, you have to figure out how to make your life matter. How to make your life mean something. Not just in conjunction to another but to the world. How does your life matter to the world? If it doesn’t, it should. If you can’t see your intrinsic value, you can’t sell it to someone else. No one worth anything is going to be attracted to someone who has no clue what their life is worth outside of a relationship.  No one wants to be with someone who can’t or won’t be alone because their life is too horrible when alone.

You have to be okay enough with yourself to be yourself with the world. Who you are has ONE mode: who you are. There is no false front, no put ons, no false advertising, no bait and switch.  You are who you say you are and if others don’t like you, that’s fine. You don’t have to be liked by everyone (in fact, there is most likely a problem if you are).  People who have NO true sense of self get into relationships with others with no true sense of self.  Two half people do not a whole person make.  Instead, they tend to make a mess.  A very loud, chaotic mess. 

Single is not a step down and dating is not something you have to go through to get to happily ever after. You have to look positively at being single and dating in order to do coupling, healthy interdependent coupling, successfully. You also need to look at being single positively so that it’s not “OH NOT NOT THAT!” when you’re in a relationship on the rocks or going nowhere. It HAS TO BE a positive alternative to being in a suck ass relationship. If it’s not…guess what?…only suck ass relationships await you. Being single has GOT TO BE better than being in a bad relationship and the ONLY WAY to make it that way is to make it the best thing when you’re single. Otherwise you will avoid the dreaded singleness by being in dreadful relationships. Not a good choice!

And sometimes singledom is thrust upon you even if you do find your true love in a wonderful interdependent relationship. And the grief you feel over losing this person to death or illness will be easier to deal with if you have faith in yourself to be okay alone. It’s just the way it is. That is life. Life renders you alone a lot of times for a variety of reasons. You have to learn that it’s okay.  In fact, sometimes it’s brilliant. There are so many things you can do single that you can’t do at any other time.

Bask in it, enjoy it, see the pluses and make that vow that you will NEVER again choose misery over the quiet sound of your life working. 

Check your singletude. Figure out if it’s positive or negative and how to change it so that you can turn into a happy, healthy independent person who will be attracted to happy and healthy independent person who will be capable of an interdependent relationship.

See also: GPYB Video: Is It Bad To Not Want To Be Alone? 

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