The Three Stages Of Relationships
Self-Therapy For People Who ENJOY Learning About Themselves
THREE STYLES OF RELATIONSHIPS
People generally tend to relate to each other in one of three ways: Dependently, Independently, or Interdependently.
People in dependent relationships spend much of their time fighting about who has to take care of whom.
People in independent relationships are often lonely. They spend much of their time out of each other's sight. People in interdependent relationships do whatever is best for both partners. They make sincere, reliable agreements with each other,
based on their separate wants and needs, and they stick to them. We can be happy in all three relationships. But we can only feel genuinely secure in interdependence.
DEGREES OF DEPENDENCE, THEN AND NOW
These three types of relationships correspond to stages of personal maturity. Infants are born dependent and remain primarily dependent until at least age 15 or so. Healthy teenagers become independent and remain that way until at least age 20.
Healthy adults can become interdependent after age 20 and for the rest of their lives. (The ages given above are only statements of an ideal. They hardly relate to the real world at all!) If you ever get to the point of having a truly interdependent relationship - in which there is never any bickering about who has to take care of whom and in which there is almost never any unnecessary loneliness - consider you and your partner mature and very, very lucky!
Dependent people think of independent people as "detached" or even "self-centered." Independent people think of interdependent people as "stodgy" or "boring." Interdependent people think of both other groups as "immature" and "too predictable."
OUR STAGE OF PERSONAL MATURITY IS PARAMOUNT.
We can't even IMAGINE being in a different stage than the one we are in! We form relationships with others who are at the same stage of personal maturity as we are.
YOU ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR RELATIONSHIP
You only change your level of personal maturity when you get what you need! It does no good at all to try to be in a different stage. It does do a whole lot of good to get what you need!
Dependent people must get enough love, attention, and protection from others before they can become independent. Independent people must learn that they can survive on their own before they can become interdependent. You are more important than your relationship. Get what you need and you will "advance" in terms of personal maturity. And if you and your partner are even minimally close, you will automatically bring your partner along with you!
CAN WE "SKIP" THE INDEPENDENT STAGE?
No, we can't. It's a necessity. But some people who have remained dependent long into adulthood are happy with a very brief independent period.
No one chooses to remain dependent all their lives. Everyone wants to get enough love, attention, and protection to outgrow dependency. Some people do choose to remain independent all their lives and, supposedly, they can be happy that way without feeling a need to become interdependent. (Note the word "supposedly". I was taught this by people I respect, but I've never really met anyone who was independent and happy about it past the age of 35.) Nobody reverts to an earlier stage of maturity unless they have to. If you know what you need and choose people who can give it to you, the rest is automatic.
Staff, H. (2008, November 28). The Three Stages Of Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 6 from https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/inter-dependence/three-stages-of-relationships