As time goes by and the break up is further behind me, the lessons are coming into focus and the clarity is mine. After a long term relationship with someone who was so dependent on me, it only seems natural that I found myself in this last relationship with someone who was very independent. I can’t stress the word “very” enough. I remember someone asking me what it was that I gave to him and it took me awhile to come up with an answer and even when I did, I was stretching the truth and feeling pretty lame. It was an odd place for me to be. I’ve been a natural born helper as long as I can remember. It feels good to be able to do for others and it often helps me in some small way. So you can imagine, I wasn’t feeling much like myself in the relationship and often questioned whether or not I was even needed. Yes, I admit, I need to be needed. I don’t admit this with shame because now I know about the Maturity Continuum.
This concept of the Maturity Continuum was offered up by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I hope you find this helpful, because it was exactly what I needed to hear. I always believed that people moved through life from a stage of dependence to independence and that was it. There was nothing to follow. It makes sense that we come into this world one hundred percent reliant on others to care for us and meet our needs. Without them, we would not survive. As the years go by, we begin to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially to a place where we are independent, self-directed and no longer need others to care of us. While independence is a wonderful and necessary achievement, it does not reign supreme.
Here comes the cool part. As we continue to grow and mature, we realize the interdependence that surrounds us in nature and in our society. We come to recognize that the higher reaches of our nature have to do with our relationships with others. Essentially, human life is also interdependent. We can move from “you must do this for me” to “I can do this for myself” to ultimately arrive at “we can do greater things if we do them together.” So maybe the concept is not new. I’ve heard people say “I’m a better person because of him.” Maybe this is what they are talking about. Their interdependence on each other elevates them to higher levels of effectiveness as human beings. I’ve also heard people in the business world say they don’t know everything but they know to surround themselves with smart people. In both of these scenarios, they make a great team and together they conquer the world.
How do you move towards interdependence? Well, I will tell you now that dependent people cannot. As Covey says, “They don’t have the character to do it; they don’t own enough of themselves.” They have to work towards their own independence first and experience those private victories.
When we do move through the maturity continuum towards interdependence, we are in a place to honor the opportunities that lie before us: to share ourselves deeply, meaningfully, with others, and have access to the vast resources and potential of other human beings.
My ex, as well as many others, cannot move past their place of independence because they do not have the maturity to see how vastly different it is from interdependence. They often feel they would be retreating to a place of reliance on others. They sense that it requires vulnerability on their part and that is unthinkable for some. We see people leaving marriages, relationships and all kinds of social responsibilities so that they can become liberated and independent. Covey says it best, “Of course we may need to change our circumstances. But the dependence problem is a personal maturity issue that has little to do with circumstances. Even with better circumstances, immaturity and dependence often persist. True independence of character empowers us to act rather than to be acted upon. It frees us from our dependence on circumstances and other people and is a worthy, liberating goal. But it is not the ultimate goal in effective living.”
In a nutshell, my ex, like so many people don’t know there is a maturity continuum. They are unaware of the divine beauty of interdependent relationships. They stand proudly in their independence believing whole heartedly they have arrived at their final destination. They see open, vulnerable people who are willing to grow and connect with others as threats to their existence. Their immaturity literally stunts them and their growth towards interdependence. It’s a shame really. As for me, my journey continues. I invite all of you into my life and onto my team, where together we can conquer the world.