Healthy Dependency on Love, According to Brené Brown

Nurturing dependency in love is about allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your loved one. It means being able to open yourself up emotionally to them, knowing that you'll be understood and respected. It's an extremely important quality in a relationship.
Healthy Dependency on Love, According to Brené Brown

Last update: 09 June, 2022

Healthy dependency on love exists and is based on the bond of intimacy. It means being able to create a positive attachment fueled by reciprocal affection, authentic concern for each other, and trust. Brené Brown is a famous writer, professor, and researcher at the University of Houston. She delved into this subject to clarify a number of concepts.

For many years, the negative and dangerous dimensions of dependency in couple relationships have been emphasized. For example, the doctor of psychology and successful writer, Walter Riso, transmitted these kinds of ideas. Indeed, there are certainly many adverse variables associated with this dimension.

However, in the context of a romantic relationship, it’s inevitable that there’ll be a certain bond of dependency. This must always be based on work and mutual support to build a shared refuge in which to grow together. Nevertheless, partners should never cease to be themselves and one should never try to dominate the other.

That’s the key, knowing how to build a strong and healthy union in which both partners feel identified through enriching, committed, and reciprocal dynamics.

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”

Brené Brown

Boy caressing his partner symbolizing healthy dependence in love
The happy couple relationship makes use of a set of balances between dependence and healthy independence

Healthy dependence on love: How to practice it

You might be confused by the term ‘healthy dependence on love’. After all, how can it be healthy to ‘need’ a partner? Well, the truth is that, as human beings, we need others to guarantee our emotional well-being. In fact, love needs a healthy type of attachment for us to survive and develop in our relationships.

Neurologist and psychiatrist Amir Levin, together with social psychologist Rachel Heller, wrote an extremely illuminating book on this subject. In Attached, they define healthy dependency as an essential component in a dating relationship. It’s a type of coexistence based on intimacy and complicity, where there’s no room for fear or discomfort.

However, the focus that Brené Brown provided on the subject in her book, The Power of Being Vulnerable stands out above the rest. She claims that healthy dependency on love is one in which we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our partners. The honest closeness we develop with each other is behind the kind of alliance that fortifies us. We know that we have unquestionable support from our loved ones and that makes us happy.

We all need to create bonds of healthy dependency in our relationships. This allows us to love and be loved, help and be helped, and also to have that special figure in our life with whom we can be vulnerable and reveal our deepest needs.

Emotional commitment to each other

Partners must support each other. Your relationship shouldn’t be a minefield where you never know where to step for fear of making your partner angry. Being a couple means offering peace, not war. Furthermore, knowing that you have someone with whom you can expose your weaknesses, fears, and needs gives you genuine psychological well-being.

A healthy dependency starts from a connection that goes beyond simple sexual gratification. You depend on your partner because they’re your daily support with whom you share everything, from anecdotes to serious problems. They’re your essential and emotional ally. In fact, the greater the emotional commitment you build between the two of you, the more valuable your relationship will be.

Independence and healthy dependence on love: happiness in balance

If healthy dependence on love is a core component in every relationship, so is healthy independence. These two dimensions, far from being antagonistic, complement each other. In your relationship, you undoubtedly need the closeness, support, and love of your partner. On the other hand, you also want —and need— to fend for yourself and to have your own important plans.

Truly enriching love is one that, instead of subordinating, offers impulse and freedom for the personal fulfillment of each member of a relationship. Happiness is found in the subtle balance between attachment and freedom, between dependence and independence. This dynamic of forces will always be possible thanks to the nuclear component of trust.

The University of Freiburg (Germany) conducted research that confirmed what we already know. Trust is and always will be the essential requirement in any happy couple relationship.

Couples who trust each other know how to maintain a proper balance between dependence and independence.

Healthy relationships support and are emotional havens

Healthy dependency doesn’t mean you need each other to the point of not being able to live without them. Enriching dependency relies on both of you making your own decisions and continuing with your own plans. You do so knowing that your partner will always be your best friend and refuge.

However, building a healthy relationship is no easy task. Certain concepts must be made clear and agreed upon.  Above all, you must never forget that, without intimacy, without the ability to be vulnerable with each other, your relationship will never be satisfactory.

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  • Brown, B. (2012). The power of vulnerability. Sounds True Audio
  • Covey, S. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people. Free Press
  • Levine, A. & Heller, R. S. F. (2010). Attached: The new science of adult attachment. Tarcher/Penguin
  • Kluwer ES, Karremans JC, Riedijk L, Knee CR. Autonomy in Relatedness: How Need Fulfillment Interacts in Close Relationships. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2020 Apr;46(4):603-616. doi: 10.1177/0146167219867964. Epub 2019 Aug 8. PMID: 31390934; PMCID: PMC7057354.