In an ideal marital relationship, spouses are interdependent upon each other. Meaning, they depend on each other to meet certain needs but are not dependent on each other to meet all their needs.
Some spouses have a hard time letting their partner know they have any needs at all. These spouses have a "fear of dependency." Their fear of becoming dependent upon their spouse is so strong that it is imperative to them to remain completely dependent and self-sufficient, not ever admitting to any needs.
Some fear dependency so much that they will choose to marry someone who is highly dependent upon them. Their dependent spouse has so many needs and is so emotionally dependent that it keeps them from having to focus on their own needs. In other words, they don’t have to face the fear of becoming dependent on their spouse because their spouses needs outweigh their own.
For example a man who fears becoming dependent upon his wife will choose, unconsciously to marry a single mother who struggles financially. Maybe she has a problem child or an ex-husband she is constantly engaged in conflict with. What better woman for a man who fears dependency to marry? He can spend his time supporting her financially, helping her raise her children and doing whatever he can to keep her ex-husband from causing too much damage.
In doing so, he buries his needs and in turn never becomes dependent upon her for anything. In less severe cases of dependency fear a person may marry someone who is independent and will handle their fear of dependency by remaining emotionally detached from the spouse and the marriage.
In less than severe cases, the spouse with the fear of dependency does not ask for much from their spouse and they do not give much. They are aloof and disinterested in the relationship and needs of their spouse. They never truly participate in the marriage and due to this, the marriage is nothing but a sham.
- Example of Extreme Fear of Dependency:
Josh marries Janet who has health issues, is a divorced mother and needs to be taken care of. Throughout the marriage, Josh puts his needs on hold to take care of Janet. In return, Janet takes as much as he will give but rarely gives in return. She shows no interest in an intimate relationship, no interest in Josh’s work, or anything other than her own needs.
Eventually Josh becomes tired of being the caretaker and giver and begins to expect something in return for all he has done for Janet. You see, no matter how deep that fear of dependency a person will eventually come to the realization that he/she has needs and those needs are not being met.
Josh blames Janet for her lack of interest in taking care of his needs. The true problem though is Josh’s inability to ask for anything either emotionally or sexually. From the beginning Josh has taught Janet that her needs come first. Janet has lived according to the example Josh set for her. In the end, the answer to their problems is for Josh to learn to express his emotional and sexual needs and adjust any fear he has of becoming dependent upon Janet.
- Example of a Less Severe Fear of Dependency:
Stan is a pilot in the military. He is a very independent, successful man who meets and marries Sandy. Sandy is independent and successful in her own right. She is a highly regarded nurse with a kind and generous heart. Sandy is a woman who has learned throughout life that it is OK to ask for what she needs as well as give others what they need.
Stan, on the other hand was raised by a mother who was aloof, uncaring and had little interest in her children’s emotional well-being. He was emotionally abandoned by his mother at a young age and due to this had learned that becoming dependent upon a woman meant being hurt by that woman. Stan learned at a young age that no matter what his needs were they would not be met.
Stan lives in his marriage as if he has no need for Janet at all. He goes on frequent trips and refuses to allow Janet to help him pack. Janet loves to cook and would love to cook special meals for Stan. According to Stan, he has no favorite dishes and shows little interest in what Janet cooks. Janet loves intimacy between herself and Stan. Stan could care less about their sex life. He acts as if he could take it or leave it, as if sex with his wife is not on his list of priorities.
The truth is, Stan loves Janet but out of fear of Janet abandoning him he can’t admit to her that he wants help packing for his trips, or would love for her to make a meatloaf or if he had his way they would have sex every night.
Stan does without what he needs most…a normal interdependent relationship with his wife. Because of his fear, Janet does without the same…an interdependent relationship with her husband.
If you are married to someone who with a fear of dependency you may find that you have to work over-time to help your spouse let go of those fears. He/she needs to learn that needs will be met and that it is safe to become dependent upon you. In most cases it will take couples and individual therapy if you are going to turn your marriage around and one day have a healthy give and take relationship with your spouse.