Being too capable is ruining your relationships

The shoe on my feet, I’ve bought it

The clothes I’m wearing, I’ve bought it

The rock I’m rockin’, I’ve bought it

‘Cause I depend on me

If I wanted the watch you’re wearin’, I’ll buy it

The house I live in, I’ve bought it

The car I’m driving, I’ve bought it

I depend on me, I depend on me

– Lyrics from Destiny’s child song “Independent Women”

I don’t know about you, but this song has always been one of my jams. It totally promotes the idea of financially and emotionally empowered women having the right to choose what they want, who they want it with, and when they want it.  Love it! Right? So what’s the problem?

Alas, there are many. There has been a major influx of women over the past few years coming to my office complaining that too many men are threatened by their independence. They are educated, successful, and accomplished women who are totally capable of supporting themselves and thinking for themselves.

The problem is that independence is an illusion, for both men and women. In reality we ALL need help from other people; it just depends on how willing we are to acknowledge it that differentiates who is able to create loving connections and who is not.

Here are the top 3 reasons your high need for independence (aka: needing to be seen a capable/competent all of the time) is killing your love life:

1.) Denial of vulnerability. Basically you refuse to admit that you are in fact human, flawed and inevitably imperfect. The need to be right or morally superior is a reflection that you’re not being honest with yourself or others about the areas where you need help.  This often looks like, but is not limited to: Using judgment and blaming others for not responding to things the “right” way, insisting on doing everything by yourself even if it damn near kills you (financially, emotionally, or any other way), and not taking the risk of sharing softer emotions like fear, anxiety, or concern but instead jumping immediately into anger, resentment or frustration.

2.) Over-functioning. This term is from Harriet Lerner’s classic Dance of Intimacy. When you find yourself handling stress or crisis by managing everything and and everyone around you, you guessed it– you’re “over-functioning.” The problem with this is you are also creating a dynamic of “under-functioning” in others. This looks like, but is not limited to: Doing all of the housework, cooking, grocery shopping, bill paying, social planning, etc. while your partner does little to nothing to help out.  Meanwhile, you start viewing him as childlike: incapable, helpless, and generally a drain on your energy. The truth is we all have areas where we are competent and others where we are relatively incompetent. Stop trying to handle it all, start admitting when you’re overwhelmed, and ask for help in a way that invites connection. Ex: Don’t lecture your partner about how irresponsible or selfish he is, but instead request his input on something he’s more knowledgeable or capable of than you.

3.) Invalidating your partner’s existence. We all need to feel a sense of belonging and that we contribute to something bigger than ourselves. This includes your relationships. When you do everything on your own, you leave no room for anyone to add to or enhance your life. It’s also a way to protect yourself from risking emotional intimacy. Intimacy is built on your ability to turn toward your partner during a time of need, ask for help, receive that help, and then create trust that you can do that over and over. When you don’t allow your partner to contribute to your life, home, or emotional experience, you are pretty much sending the message “I don’t need you.” And who in the hell wants to stay in a situation where that’s the consistent underlying message?

I’m a card carrying feminist, always have been, always will be. But for the love of God, all my Independent Women out there, figure out when to assert yourself and when to stop. It’s such a powerful move to embrace not needing to be strong, in control, and self-sufficient all of the time.  If you want help figuring out they ways you’re preventing yourself from finding or keeping the right partner click here to set up a free 20 minute “Love blocks” call with me. And I still love this song:

All the women, who are independent

Throw your hands up at me

All the honeys, who making money

Throw your hands up at me

All the mommas, who profit dollars

Throw your hands up at me

All the ladies, who truly feel me

Throw your hands up at me..