The mutual reliance between two or more groups. In relationships, interdependence is the degree to which members of the group are mutually dependent on the others.
Interdependence is the healthy balance (in adult-adult relationships) between being too needy on one extreme, or an island—anti-dependent or needless/wantless—on the other end of the continuum.
In early discovery and disclosure, you may have felt needy in your relationship, even if you were a very self-reliant person prior to discovery. You may still feel more needy and vulnerable than you would like to feel.
You likely felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under you. The search for information, answers—the truth—is how partners seek and find safety. It’s perfectly normal that you would feel more vulnerable . . . . and even needy for a time.
Generally speaking, when a person is too needy in their primary, intimate relationship they rely too much on their partner to meet basic emotional, physical, or sexual needs.
They may rely almost exclusively on their partner for feeling good about who they are, for affirmation, or approval. While it’s completely human—and natural—to want affirmation and approval from your partner, if you can’t feel good about yourself without it, you are on the extreme of the too dependent/needy continuum.
On the other end of the spectrum, the person is anti-dependent or needless and wantless.
While anti-dependent and needless/wantless are on the same end of the continuum, they’re different in the way they’re experienced. The person who is anti-dependent knows what they need or want, they know how to get it, and they don’t ask for help. In fact, they usually don’t think to ask. They just do whatever needs to be done to get what they want. The needless/wantless person actually doesn’t have a clue as to what they need or want, and therefore doesn’t think to ask.
During the first one to three years post-discovery, relationships impacted by sex addiction and intimate partner betrayal must cultivate a high level of interdependence in order to survive.
During this sensitive period, interdependence is different than it is in relationships not impacted by betrayal.
Here are 4 ways interdependence looks different during the repair phase of intimate partner betrayal:
- The betrayed partner may reasonably expect (and request) that her partner be highly transparent, reliable, and forthcoming about all facets of his life—including the minutiae of day-to-day living (for example, what time he left the office to come home or where he stopped to fill up his car with gas).
- The sex addict/person who breached trust in the relationship should not expect his/her partner to affirm, applaud, or otherwise express appreciation for his efforts or success in recovery. While this is a real need of the addict, it is a need that is better met by his support system—12-step fellowship, sponsor, therapist, clergy, etc. The betrayed partner may express her gratitude and appreciation, but it should not be expected or requested, especially in the first year after discovery.
- The betrayed partner will need assurances of care, love, her value, and her partner’s loyalty for an extended period of time post-discovery and disclosure. Ongoing assurances like these usually indicate a problem with taking care of basic needs in a healthy, interdependent relationship. However, in relationships impacted by intimate partner betrayal, they are vital to the restoration of mutuality, safety, and trust.
- A betrayed partner’s requests for information, accountability, reliability, and transparency in the first one to three years post-discovery should be considered safety-seeking behaviors, rather than a sign of neediness.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
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