Independence, Dependence, Interdependence

Many people, have a rather cynical attitude about romantic love and the commitment it calls forth. It is fashionable today for men and women to talk about “independence.” To depend on someone, even a mate, seems to be a sign of weakness, or at least, incomplete fulfillment.

As my wife and I have moved into the later stages of married life, we have witnessed an epidemic of divorces among our peers. I am sure there are many reasons for this. Veronica and I have noted, however, that the issue of “independence” and “fulfillment” is often an iceberg which commitments and relationships crash.

An overemphasis on independence shows a lack of understanding of the nature of marriage and, as a matter of fact, of the nature of human character in general. Men and women have become what they are by interdependence, not independence. Marriage has at its very core this interdependency which is acknowledged in the marriage vows. A healthy marriage is a place where a husband and a wife can be fully themselves, while at the same time supporting and leaning on each other. Both husband and wife have identity and value as individuals, but they also recognize their need for each other.

This interdependency is reflected in that well-known passage about marriage in Ephesians. Paul began with the invitation to,

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”(Ephesians 5:21)

In beautiful language he then illustrates how this mutual submission is to be played out in the family:

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Eph. 5:22-25,33).

The submission Paul was speaking of is not the same as the obedience required of children and servants (as discussed in Ephesians six) The idea of submission here implies voluntary accommodation to the other. It calls for a give and take that respects the personhood of each partner. Husbands are not ordered to dominate their wives; rather, wives are asked to voluntarily submit themselves. Husbands are asked to think of their wives ahead of their own interests. Indeed, for the first time in history, men and women were recognized as having equal worth and privilege.

Thus, in a healthy marriage, husbands and wives come with the attitude which says:

We cannot own each other.

We cannot change each other.

We can only discover each other.

And in the process help each other to grow.