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A popular company uses the slogan, “Be together, not the same.” I like that. It caught my eye as an effective formula for creating a balanced, supportive relationship whose foundation is based on inter-dependence. To achieve this, we must pay equal attention to fostering the balance between individuality and togetherness in all the relationships in our lives.

True intimacy does not insist on mirror-image compliance.

We all long for the opportunity to be loved, while maintaining a healthy sense of self. But emotional intimacy in relationships is often limited by an insistence on conformity. In order to feel close, we insist that others see it our way, do it our way, and respond as we would respond. When these unrealistic expectations cannot be met, we often feel disappointment and rejected. To relieve the anxiety of these disruptive feelings, we try in vain to pull each other back into an unhealthy symbiosis in order to regain a semblance of closeness.

True intimacy, however, does not insist on mirror-image compliance. To the contrary, it provides ample, emotional leg room for stretching and growing, for saying “yes” when inspired to join, and “no” when it is necessary to follow one’s heart to a different choice.

In order to foster this healthy intimacy, we must learn to tolerate and manage the anxiety that can result from disagreeing. Often, when our needs and opinions clash, we will reflexively impose guilt and shame on one another because of our differences. This is a misguided attempt to exert control over the other in the hopes of reestablishing closeness. Unfortunately, this defense achieves just the opposite—an equally defensive, self-protective reaction that increases emotional distance and isolation.

It certainly feels cozy when we see eye-to-eye, but when we do not agree with each other, we need not feel attacked or abandoned. Intimacy is fostered through mutual exchange of respect, patience, compassion and vulnerability. This involves an ongoing commitment to wrestle fairly with all of the ups and downs that we will inevitably encounter in our mutual quest to value and be valued, to know and be known.

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Over and over in relationships, we make the effort to reach out past differing opinions, to accept and to join. This is interdependence. It occurs when we increase our awareness and compassion for the detours of divergence that can occur between two autonomous human beings. It happens when what we want for ourselves, we also want for others–a life of love and connection. We continue to share our joys and concerns, but also provide the person with whom we’re in a relationship the wiggle room for individual growth and disparate points of view. We accept the premise that ‘togetherness never requires sameness.’ This state of interdependence can then promote equality, generosity, warmth and affection, and an ever-increasing confidence in the health-enhancing gift of intimacy.

Interdependence starts within. Settle back and promote some inner balance as you enjoy this video, “Feeling Compassion.”

How have you struck this balance in your relationships, between autonomy and togetherness?

Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

Hearts linked, together we heal…

Better Health Begins With You...

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