The Inter-Dependent Relationship Model

blue and brown yin yang illustration
Photo by Fancycrave on Pexels.com

You’ve heard of independence, right? Dependence? And co-dependence?  But how often do you hear of interdependence? This is not surprising in a society that uses fear as a tactic to motivate us.

Imagine making a journey across the country, before the industrial age, in a horse drawn wagon traveling dirt roads.  You are driving your horse to pull your wagon full of precious cargo through undiscovered terrain to an uncertain destination.  Upon this journey you meet with another and decide to travel together.  But how do you proceed?

To travel independently, in your respective wagons side-by-side, each wagon retains autonomy in decision-making, planning and action.  Individually each wagon will experience a different journey because though they are next to each other they are not traveling the exact terrain.  One may hit more bumps, ruts or rocks. Another may get stuck in muddy ground.  Pieces of cargo may fall off a wagon unnoticed. With two wagons to maneuver side-by-side going through narrow passages proves impossible so one must take the lead.  Who goes first?  Keeping exact pace may also be difficult when one tires quicker than another, or one may have a quicker horse or lighter cargo.  Coming to a fork in the road they may each feel a different direction would be best.  If one does not acquiesce to the other, then time and energy will be wasted in arguing may which could lead to separation.  At one time or another one will feel disadvantaged while the other will feel impeded.

To travel dependently, the respective separate wagons are positioned one behind the other.  While each retains control of their reins, one wagon is in the lead and the driver of that wagon has the decision-making and planning authority, directing the action of the other.  Although they travel the exact same terrain they are not experiencing it together.  Pieces of cargo from the first wagon may fall off and be trampled underfoot of the following horses, while pieces of cargo from the second wagon may fall off unnoticed.  In time both will feel resentful; the lead driver being overly responsible and the following driver being under valued.

To travel interdependently, resources are combined in an organized collaborative measure.  The horses are joined under one rein, to one wagon where the precious cargo has been combined orderly and secured. Together the individual drivers discuss their vision for the journey and their destination.  They agree upon the division of roles and responsibilities each will execute. One person is the designated driver and is responsible for the direction the wagon will go based upon the mutually agreed upon destination.  The driver directs the horses and judges how best for them both to arrive safely and accomplish the mission they’ve outlined together. The other person is the designated shotgun and is responsible for keeping an eye open to dangers that may not be visible to the driver. The shotgun is also charged with managing the precious cargo, making sure items are secure and do not fall of the wagon unnoticed and left behind.  Whereas the driver is responsible for the maintenance of the wagon ensuring its continued function,   the shotgun is responsible for managing the precious cargo to ensure that they have enough resources for the journey. Though they play different roles, each is valued and honored for their contributions as they share equal responsibility for the journey.

Each of the above scenarios represents different models of relationships and could respectively be characterized like this:

  • Independent = “I need to take care of me. You need to take care of you.”

  • Codependent = One says, “You need to take care of me.” And the other agrees, “You need me to take care of you.”

  • Interdependent = Each says, “I want us to take care of us.”

The interdependent relationship dynamic offers a collaborative approach with collective responsibility, creating a vehicle for individual growth as well as growth as a couple. People in interdependent relationships do that which is best for both partners by making sincere, reliable agreements with each other based upon their individual wants and needs.  They agree upon and establish solid boundaries and limits within the relationship. Then they honor those agreements. Those agreements should be as unique to the couple as fingerprints to an individual.  However, in every relationship, no matter how different the agreements, each person holds themselves accountable for their part in the relationship and absolute loyalty to the relationship is expected.

Each one charged with giving themselves wholly to the success of the relationship over the success of the individual and developing an intense level of trust, integrity and respect.

The symbol for this model is the Chinese symbol, yin yang, that represents the interaction of two energies, “yin” (black) and “yang” (white), which cause everything to happen. They are not completely black or white, just as things in life are not completely black or white, and they cannot exist without each other.  The two energies are often referred to as male energy (yang) and female energy (yin).  In this symbol the two are recognized as indivisible as they swirl to compliment each other and each holds a part of the other. Each partner has a different skill set that is valued and cherished by the other.  They do not oppose each other or compete, they are complementary.

In the wagon metaphor above, the driver’s role would be seen as the yang (male) and the shotgun’s role would be seen as the yin (female).

In the fight for women to be treated as equals, male dominance has taken on a negative connotation, rightfully so. Yet women across the globe swoon for the likes of Rhett Butler and dream of being bent over in a possessive kiss like the one he planted on Scarlet. There is a natural inclination for women to want men to display dominance. But the character trait of dominance is not the same as being domineering.

Like the yin to the yang there has to be a balance of energy in the relationship. So the counterpart to the active yang male is the passive yin female. However, being passive is far from being subjugated and it is definitely not a meek role. It is a consent to ride shotgun in the partnership. It is understanding that she is an interrelated partner to him. She is the defense to his offense, working on the same team to achieve the same goal, just with different roles. It is this dynamic that Kings with their Queens and Lords with their Ladies employ.

A dominant male is not an oppressor of women, nor is he in any way domineering. On the contrary, a dominant male recognizes that females are the source of life providing a feeling of strength and consistency to his life. A dominant male honors the passive energy of the female. While to the untrained eye the dominant male role may seem more dictatorial and active and the passive female role as submissive and meek, this could not be further from the truth.

Likewise, a passive woman allows the male to provide for her, just as readily as she provides for him. She does not view herself as weak in receiving, merely because she is yin. Yin is as powerful as yang. It is not a power struggle, but an allocation of power. “Here’s the whole pie of power. Yang, you are responsible for this half and Yin, you are responsible for this half.” The collaboration of the yang and yin roles in the interdependent dynamic, perfectly fuses maintained individuality with selflessness to create a passion-fueled relationship.

The feminist movement, though well intended, actually sabotaged itself by inadvertently devaluing the woman’s supportive passive role. The insistence that “equal” means the “same,” (ie: men and women doing the “same” job to be considered equal) rather than “equal” meaning “of equal value,” (ie: men and women doing different jobs that are held at the same value). Our modern movements for gender equality are fought by opening up jobs, traditionally populated by men, to women instead of also assigning due respect and equal value to traditional women’s roles. This is because our society is built upon patriarchal hierarchy where something has to better than another thing and if that something is male it is automatically worth more. As it is, our societal system has no ability to measure value independently of comparison.

Just to prevent any misunderstanding, let me emphasize that I am not saying women shouldn’t take jobs traditionally populated by men. Not at all. The feminist movement rightly opened up the opportunity for women to have free choice in the matter. I am merely saying that those women who choose to work in traditionally female populated positions need to be valued equally.

Author’s note: There is nothing to say that a female cannot or should not be in the yang role (or both roles), however for fluidity I chose not to use the PC he/she. There only must be yin and yang energy for it to work. It matters not, which gender fills which role.

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