It’s nice to have people we can trust next to us, people who will support us when our forces fail and encourage us to realize our dreams. Needing the others does not make us more vulnerable, on the contrary, it strengthens us, always when we do not make the mistake of thinking that the other person belongs to us. The boundary line between a mature relationship and a dependency and possessive one is very thin, and it is very easy to overcome it.
The illusion of exclusivity
In the collective imagination there are different ideas that create the illusion of exclusivity: the soul mate, the best friend, the spiritual guide… In reality, they are all linguistic traps that lead us to think that these people belong to us, that are “destined” to us.
When we fall into this trap, we forget that in every relationship there are always two people and nobody belongs to anyone. Finding the soul mate means only meeting a person who satisfies our emotional needs and our expectations. But it is necessary to take care of that relationship every day, make sure to give and receive happiness, otherwise our sweet half can become very bitter.
Idealizing the other can generate emotional dependence
In reality, there is no perfect partner or friend, just a relationship where both have to invest time and effort to obtain the best results. It is important to be aware of this in order not to idealize the other.
Idealizing someone is a very dangerous game because it tends to be the prelude to emotional addiction. If we are convinced that the person is tailor-made for us, if we allow ourselves to be convinced by the “illusion of exclusivity” we become dependent, and this will create a harmful asymmetry in the relationship because those who depend are always disadvantaged.
The problem with an asymmetrical relationship is that the dependent usually ends up putting aside his needs to satisfy the other, to the point that suppress his individuality. Dependence does not make you happy, on the contrary, often generates the fear of losing the other, which in turn gives way to jealousy and possessiveness. We commit the terrible mistake of limiting the freedom of the person we love for fear of losing it, because we think it belongs to us.
The dilemma of the hedgehog: How to develop mature relationships that enrich us?
One of the most famous passages of Schopenhauer’s work is the parable of the porcupine, which refers to his vision of human relationships.
“On a cold winter’s day, a group of porcupines huddled together to stay warm and keep from freezing. But soon they felt one another’s quills and moved apart. When the need for warmth brought them closer together again, their quills again forced them apart.
They were driven back and forth at the mercy of their discomforts until they found the distance from one another that provided both a maximum of warmth and a minimum of pain. In human beings, the emptiness and monotony of the isolated self produces a need for society.
This brings people together, but their many offensive qualities and intolerable faults drive them apart again. The optimum distance that they finally find that permits them to coexist is embodied in politeness and good manners. Because of this distance between us, we can only partially satisfy our need for warmth, but at the same time, we are spared the stab of one another’s quills.”
There is no doubt that the closer the relationship is with someone, the more likely it is that the person can hurt us because it is emotionally important to us. After all, only what we give importance can damage us, that which we allow to enter our inner circle. But when we move away, we are likely to feel anguish and the emptiness of loneliness.
Therefore, in interpersonal relationships, whether they are a couple, a simple friendship or between parents and children, it is necessary to find the optimal distance. Erich Fromm spoke of mature love when each person shares with the other the necessary for both to grow up, developing a relationship in which everyone maintains its individuality.
In this regard, it is essential to address all our relationships being fully aware that nobody belongs to us. We must be able to love enough so that the person is always free to be by our side or leave. We must learn to love without possessing and live without being dependent.