On Being Fiercely Independent
Mr. MPB & I chose to make our home in a city without any family here. We love our freedom. We love our independence. Some would say we are fiercely independent.
My parents knew this about me as a small child, and seemed to have been smart enough to let me do my thing because to tell me what to do would have led to an epic meltdown. Not to say they never intervened, just that they only did when they needed to. They raised their children to be independent thinkers and to learn to live with the consequences of their actions. This is something I am grateful for, and highly value in life.
As a teenager, after my mom and sister died, I was really left to my own devises. There was a time where I was virtually living on my own while my Dad was spending time with my now step-family. Then, once we all lived together, I continued to do most things on my own without much input from my parents. I learned to be independent almost as a way of basic survival. While in many ways it was an unfortunate lesson to learn as a teenager, I have learned to live on the foundation that:
there are no guarantees that those you love will be there for you, so you’d better be prepared to take care of yourself.
Mr. MPB also chose a life of independence as he went out of province for university. We met and somehow we just clicked. We have formed a strong bond that almost screams it’s us against the world. We function as a very cohesive team, but we do so without a lot of support from those outside of our marriage.
That said, while being independent may be viewed as a character strength, I’m not convinced that being fiercely independent is.
Recently, we were asked by our counsellor why we don’t ask people for help more. And this has been on my mind constantly lately. Truth be told, I’m sick and tired of being let down by people I love.
In the past, when I’ve asked for help, I’ve been told no.
- As a teenager, my Dad broke more promises to me then he kept. I learned that people wouldn’t live up to their word, and I learned that I was not a priority. I learned that if I wanted something, I needed to make it happen for myself.
- One time, I asked my parents for to drive me to a miscarriage medical procedure as Mr. MPB couldn’t do it and I wasn’t allowed to drive home. Their response was essentially that it wasn’t a good day for them, but if I could have the date changed they would do it – funny thing about medical procedures in Canada, you don’t get to choose the date or time, and they know this.
- Recently we asked my parents to attend an event that really mattered to us, and they declined.
- If we ask Mr. MPB’s parents for advice/help, we are told that what we are doing is completely wrong, and we are idiots for it. Their advice is always to let them make them our decision as they know best. Really, it feels like its there way or not at all.
At some point, we stopped asking. We just stopped. I guess, we gave up.
By doing everything ourselves, we’ve become even more independent. And essentially by becoming more independent, we’ve eliminated any reason for them to help.
Maybe we are caught in a bit of a chicken and the egg situation.
If I’m being fair, maybe our family doesn’t head our rare calls for help because we’ve pushed them out for so many years by simple things like choosing to live in a city far away, and not asking. We’ve made such an effort to live on our own, doing things our way, that now our families don’t know how to help. Or maybe they just don’t want help now because they’ve become accustomed to not having to help?
I’m not saying that it’s all our fault or all their fault. I really don’t know.
But, after years of living fiercely independent, we are starting to experience the downfall. And today, I cannot help but wonder, is there such a thing as being too independent? And, how do we raise our children to want to spend time with us as adults, rather then do what we’ve done and push our parents out?
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I can’t even begin to tell you how much I relate to this post. I also grew up with broken promises by my mom and my dad raised me to be independent. I learned very young if I want something done to do it myself.
When I moved in with my husband his family was very different and they always helped everyone with everything. It didn’t go well for me as I didn’t want help, and I didn’t feel obligated to help them either.
We moved to split the distance between our families and be 4 hours away from each.
I told my husband recently for the first time in 7 years I wish we were closer to family. I would love to have some company and help now that we have Mackenzie. I’ve felt really alone these last few weeks and I’ve struggled with it. I’m making a point this week to try to occupy myself more and enjoy this time of my life. If I can’t do that, I will be seeking the help of a therapist/counselor.
So to answer your question – I think independence is good but I honestly do think one can be too independent. I would have answered you differently two months ago but now with an infant things have changed.
Thank you so much for sharing your understanding and your experience. I find it so fascinating that as life moves on something we once considered a great asset starts to feel more like a negative. I guess we both need to learn to find a better balance. Love to you! I hope your week with Mackenzie is going well.
I conpletely relate. Our parents are very involved in our loves. Callie’s parents live in our same complex, 2 buildings over, and my parents love about 15 minutes away. They give us advice all the time, but ultimately we know that its our life, our family, our choices. Do we take into consideration the things that they say? Of course we do, but ultimately they arent with us 24/7/365, they dont know the inner workings of our family. Its not a matter of being independant, it’s a matter of doing whats best for us, and not really caring what people have to say About our choices, even if they are our families!
Thanks so much for sharing your perspective and experience! It is always so nice to know that my feelings are “normal” and that at the end of the day it really is about doing what’s best for us.
I think with everything there should be a balance. Like you said, you can’t keep putting yourself out there only to get hurt time and again. But I think asking for help is also important. Do you have close friends that you could call on in a time of need? That has been so important for me as I too live far from my family. Once you have you sweet baby safe in your arms, there may be times where, just for logistical reasons, you might be forced to ask for help. For example, with this most recent D & C, I needed Tim to drive me to and from the hospital, which meant that we had to ask someone to be at our house to watch Lettie. I have the utmost faith that you will find the balance you need!
We definitely have some pretty awesome friends who live in the same city as us. When we chose to live away from our family we knew we’d need a good network of reliable friends. And, you make a very good point to remind me about relying on our great friends when we need some help. It is likely that with our friends we will find the right balance.
Thank you very much for sharing this. These are issues I’ve been thinking about too. ❤
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I’m glad I’m not alone in all of this, and I hope you and I both find our own “right” balance. 🙂
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Just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you can rely on them. But friends, now – you get to choose your friends, and one of the features that sustains a friendship is whether or not they’ll be there for you when you need them.
I think being able to be independent is a great blessing. Not HAVING to rely on other people is great. But mutual caring and dependence is possibly the most powerful binding agent in a friendship or community, and I would really encourage you to build such relationships. My husband tends to be ruggedly independent, but over the years, with some pushing from me, he’s learned to ask for help and that has released our friends to ask for help that we can offer. It feels pretty good… 🙂
Wow, I just love your words here – thank you! You are so right that we get to choose our friends and mutual caring and dependence is the most powerful binding agent in a friendship. While our family may not be our best support network, our friends are pretty awesome and I shouldn’t love sight of just how awesome they are. Thank you!
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What the what?! I swear I didn’t read your post before I wrote mine. Though stemming from different experiences, I totally get how you learn over time to stop asking for help. There is also something tied up in all this (for me, anyway) about how being vulnerable enough to ask for help just made me ashamed– especially when I felt that request would essentially get rejected.
As a fellow hyper-independent, I’m starting to see this trait I’ve loved so much has a double edge. What’s the good in being independent when you convince yourself you don’t need anything or anyone? Because it isn’t true, it could just be a defense mechanism.
I’m working on finding people who DO help when I need it, and investing in those relationships. That may not always come from our families, for better or worse. But there are always people in our lives who want to love and support us. Or at least I hope so. 😉
Thank you so much for sharing your understanding! I truly appreciate “how being vulnerable enough to ask for help just made me ashamed– especially when I felt that request would essentially get rejected. ” I think that’s one of my biggest issues – it takes a lot for me to ask for help and the rejection just stings me to my core.
I completely agree with your approach to finding people who DO help when i need it – we are fortunate to have some pretty amazing friends, who we can rely on, and I cannot overlook just how important these people are to our lives.
I hope we are successful together in finding more of those supportive people.
Finding that balance is difficult. My husband and I live on the other side of the US from either of our families and we love having our space but at the same time it can be hard having so much distance. I don’t have terrible relationships with my parents, but I have never gone to them for help with things that really matter; I was raised to keep my problems to myself and to always keep up a facade that things are going well, so that’s how I usually act when I talk to them. I wish I could rely on them more for support, but it’s difficult. I wonder the same thing as you, though – how can I raise our future children to have close relationships with us when I never had that experience with my parents. I think it might be one of those things that works itself out as you go though, if you really make it a priority to have a close, supportive relationship from the start.
Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and experience, it sounds very similar to mine.
I think you are right, I think fostering a closer relationship with our children is one of those things that will come with being close and supportive from the beginning. Hopefully we can both do it! 🙂
Wow! This was my theme last week with my fertility coach. I don’t ask for help anymore because I’m so used to my needs not being met by family that I just figure there’s no point any more. I tried to ask for help after our loss (i.e. asking my Mom to come out after my loss since I hadn’t seen her in 1.5 years, asking my MIL to stay with me the first day home from my surgery, etc), but it was the same old, same old. Nothing happened. 😦 As sad as it is, you and I live similar lives. I struggle with understanding why too. I’ve always been independent, but it hurts so much to know when I do need help, family is never there.
I am so sorry you can understand what I’m talking about in this post. And I’m sorry that neither your mom or MIL answered your call for help when you needed them most – it’s sad and frustrating all at once.
I don’t ask for help, first because family is so far away, and second because I don’t have a ton of dependable friends close to where I live now. B grew up here, but both parents have passed and his sister moved away, and he has no other local family. I moved here to be close to my sister, but she has since moved away, so we’re alone here now. I hate being so far from family, it drives me nuts and often makes me sad, but we manage. I’ve only in the past 10 years or so become an independent woman, and I think sometimes it drives B crazy. It also stemmed from not being able to rely on others and being let down. I agree with the comment above, about needing to find balance. I feel like it is a sort of defense mechanism though. It’s sad that so many of us (reading through these responses) have lost faith in our family being there to help…at least we have each other for emotional support!
Thanks so much for sharing Amy. I agree about the need to find a balance, but I also really like your point about this being a defense mechanism. It is likely that I learned to rely on myself because of being hurt and left alone. Now it just feels like second nature, but that doesn’t mean its a good thing.
And you are also right about having each other for emotional support! I am so thankful you are always here to share and provide words of encouragement.
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Ah, yes. I, too, have trouble asking people for help. Or accepting help when it is offered. And yet, when I can, it makes all the difference. It’s hard to live in a tower, waiting for the other shoe to drop and wondering if you have enough provisions. I have more energy to spend on life when I see the folly of that approach. Are you there yet?
You are so right, that it is hard work to live waiting for the other shoe to drop. It seems like in many aspects of my life, I do see the folly of that approach. That said, there are clearly more aspects I need to continue to work on.
Oh gosh – I can relate to this. We’ve done exactly the same. Distanced ourselves, done everything ourselves (I was always told no as a child and half my family are incapable of helping me much anyway), we just looked after ourselves. Our in-laws drive down to see my sister-in-law and her husband at the drop of a hat (like the time the dentist found a small lump in her gum. It turned out to be a hidden baby tooth) because she gets straight on the phone and asks for support. But for us – even when I was hospitalised for three days after a miscarriage they didn’t show – and we didn’t ask. Not one person visited me.
I have huge trust issues as well, which doesn’t help, but essentially, yeah, we are totally isolated. And sometimes it really is hard and it really makes me sad. I think you can be too independent. Some people genuinely do like to help. It’s difficult when you’ve been let down though 😦
Thank you so much for sharing Rose. I feel like our experiences with our extended family are very similar!
Over the years our independence has resulted in us being very isolated, some times we really like it, but lately it just makes me sad. Yet, beyond asking for the odd favour, I’m not about to start begging our families to spend time with us and be more supportive, they either want to or not. I guess we just need to focus on the people in our lives who do genuinely care and want to help – for us, that would be our friends.
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Sometimes friends really do win out. We just have to make the best of what we have, but yes – I feel sad too sometimes x
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Unlike almost everyone else that commented, I can’t relate to this. However, I do think that you moving away to a city independent of them is not an excuse for them not to be helpful or supportive. I was 1100 miles away from my family for 12 years and they were still there for me no matter what. No, they couldn’t aways be there physically, but emotionally and sometimes financially they never let me down. I think the best way to insure your kids want to continue to hang out with you as adults is to do your best to always be there for them when they’re kids, even if they’re being snotty teenagers, do your best to listen to them when they want to talk and make an effort to be involved with their lives. It’s a fine line at that age of being their parent and their friend but I have no doubt that you and Mr. MPB will ace parenthood and have adult children that will love, respect and hang out with you! 🙂
I am truly thrilled that you cannot relate to this – everyone deserves to have a supportive family and I’m thrilled that you do!
And I also think you make a great point – just because we live far away from our families, does not mean they have an excuse to not be supportive when we need them!
And thank you for your thoughts on being good and supportive parents from the beginning! It seems like an easy enough task since that is our plan. 🙂
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