“People who need people,” the philosopher Barbra Streisand once declared, “are the luckiest people in the world.” How true. Life is full of twists and turns, and having someone to rely on is a very good thing. Anyone who is so independent that they have no need of another human being’s care is going to be too independent to be part of a couple.
Mutual support is important in healthy relationships. Being part of a successful couple requires the individuals involved to both give and receive support. This may not be as simple as it sounds. Men are taught to be independent from an early age. Independence is an important quality. Each of us is ultimately responsible for his own life and welfare in this world. Expecting someone else to make life easy for us is setting ourselves up for a lot of disappointment. And being in a relationship with someone who can’t make his own way in the world is no walk in the park.
At the same time, our culture celebrates the unrealistic fantasy of the “self-made man.” To be strong and self-sufficient is thought to be masculine and far superior to being needy and dependent. The thought of really needing another person’s help can be terrifying to some men.
As men, it’s often easier for us to offer help to someone else than to ask for it ourselves. Nurturing someone else can distract us from our own needs by focusing on the other person. Carried to its extreme, this sort of misplaced caring is a form of codependence. Habitually putting the other person’s needs ahead of our own is not a path to happiness or fulfillment.
In reality, none of us is completely self-reliant. We need someone there for us when the chips are down – whether it’s a bad day at work or a life-threatening illness. We want an encouraging word from time to time. We yearn to be loved and accepted for who we are, not just for how useful we can be to someone else.
Several years ago I had a conversation with a very close friend about our goals in life. Fred said, “Well, mine is to never use a bedpan.” We laughed. A couple of years later, Fred got sick, then sicker. He was confined to bed for most of the last year of his life, completely unable to care for himself.
Fred became dependent on his partner and their friends for everything – including personal hygiene. It was difficult for him, but he learned to accept his situation with grace and good humor. He was unable to do the many things we take for granted each day, but he was showered with love and affection by those who cared for him over those weeks.
We care for one another in a dozen different ways every day, often without even thinking about what we are doing. It’s a natural thing. When you allow yourself to be loved and cared for by your partner from time to time – and when you reciprocate and offer yourself to him – you’re letting him slip inside your defenses. That’s one of the ways we grow more intimate with each other over time.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions. It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist. I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.