As relationships form and grow, various kinds of relational dependencies develop. These could be emotional, financial, social, and sexual amongst many others. How partners respond and react to such dependencies and the balance they are able to create, are predictors of how mutually satisfying their relationship will be.
In emotional terms, sometimes, it’s simply the knowledge that someone is there for you or the belief that your partner will stand by you, always and forever, no matter the situation. When you’re in need, your partner might lend support while at other times, you might be the strength for your partner to lean on. Or it could also mean that you’re depending solely on your partner for your own happiness and fulfilment of your needs. Therefore, trouble arises whenever there is a mismatch in this underlying belief or expectation between partners.
Leena grew up in a nuclear family – happy but a lonely child. Her hard working parents were mostly busy and with no extended family or siblings for company and support, she always had to depend on herself for most of her needs. She made friends in school and later on had a group of close girlfriends with whom she had fun, shared her life and knew she could depend on them to cheer her up when need be. From her side too, she was always there to support them and stand by them, but her need to be strong for herself was so deeply ingrained within, it ensured that she could never truly be herself, even amongst ‘close friends.’
She was opinionated but not overtly insensitive. She only followed the rules she made for herself. If a situation bothered her, or she didn’t like someone, she simply walked away. At work she was committed, hard working and meticulous. Things had to be done her way. She rarely allowed others to change the way she operated since she felt that it was not only the right way to work but the only way to get things done correctly. In reality, it meant that she was in control!
But she wasn’t angry with life and her circumstances. She simply believed that when life threw a curveball, the only one who could help was she, herself. So she came first and most of her life decisions were based on what was important to her, what mattered to her and how the situation was going to make her feel and impact her life.
Many of her relationships with the opposite sex often led to the men running away from her. According to them, either she came on too strong and they couldn’t handle it while others felt that she was too demanding. She did try to act coy at times but failed miserably! For some others though, it was easier to walk away than deal with her forever vacillating stance – ‘I need you but I don’t or I don’t need you but I do!’
Only Mahesh, one of her many boyfriends stood by her – he made every effort to try and understand her insecurities and accept her as she truly was. He could read her like a book and managed her and her different moods with ease. He adapted and adjusted himself so well within her life and world, that she became comfortable being herself. Every one of her friends knew that he was for keeps.
Yet after a three year relationship he decided to walk away from her. He loved her but didn’t want to continue feeling like he was pushing her to commit simply because he needed her in his life.
Why? He knew her so well, understood her insecurities and also knew exactly how to handle her. Then why did he want to walk away? Was he getting tired of continuously trying? On the other hand, she was most comfortable in his presence then why was she pushing him away?
Was she actually scared that he was truly for keeps (like her friends’ kept telling her) and therefore would stick around? Did that make her uncomfortable? Was she afraid that it meant she would have to make the extra effort to unlearn her usual responses? She would have to learn to depend on him (sometimes) more than herself. Or perhaps more importantly she would have to learn to trust someone other than herself! She would have to let go. Sometimes, she would need to allow someone else to take control. Her decision making would now need to be made not only for her own good but their collective good. She would have to stop protecting herself and let herself be open to hurt. Was she feeling threatened by how vulnerable this new arrangement would make her feel? Was pushing him away therefore easier as she could then go back to being who she was, comfortable in her own skin?
She was angry and hurt that Mahesh wanted to call it quits. No matter how much her friends pleaded on his behalf, his wanting to walk away was a reaffirmation that one could never depend on anyone else but one’s own self. Unfortunately, she was equally afraid to fight for him to stay as breaking the boundary of her deeply ingrained comfort zone was as pressurising. Simultaneously, knowing that he was always the one to compromise, understand, accept, and adjust to suit her needs was making her feel miserable. But she just didn’t know how to show or let him know that she cared enough to want him to stay. She could emote her affection and dependency only to a certain extent as beyond that, it bordered on making her vulnerable and anxious. And she was terrified of letting anyone get a glimpse of this weakness.
Their situation also made me wonder if walking away was actually a stance for Mahesh to make her experience life without him and then perhaps feel the need – the strong need that she needed him as much in her life to want him to stay. Perhaps this was the only way he knew how to make her react, to make her want to take that step, to get her attention.
Maybe, for him, a part of loving her was to learn to let go. For her, though, it was a struggle between wanting him to stay and protecting her own self.