Family Constellations Healing and a Favorite Mr. Rogers Quote

“We need to help people discover the true meaning of love. Love is generally confused with dependence. Those of us who have grown in true love know that we can love only in proportion to our capacity for independence.” - Mr. Rogers

Here's a stand out quote from Mr. Rogers that my partner shared with me. Not only is it a beautiful quote about love, but it directly speaks to an intention of the Family Constellations healing work I do.

Dependence does not equal love. In fact, dependence can actually get in the way of love. Here's a surprising example in committed relationships:

When a partner becomes so ill that they cannot care for themselves, the healthy partner often reflexively assumes the role of caregiver. In a short period of time, the partnership can go from a relationship of equals to a relationship between a caregiver and dependent.

If the healthy partner does this out of duty without considering their own independence and needs, it can result in all kinds of negative consequences. One of the most common and surprising issues that can arise is that the sick partner begins to resent or openly express anger toward the care-giving partner.

What? Why is that? One reason is that give and take in the relationship has become dramatically unbalanced. The sick partner is now receiving care and attention that they could never reciprocate - and that weighs on them. Unconsciously, the sick partner can actually become invested in pushing the other person away because the balance of give and take is so one-sided.

How is balance and love restored to these relationships? The healthy partner must be given permission to choose if they want to be a caregiver or not. They must stand in their independence and choose what is right for them. From this place, they can choose to give care to their partner to the degree that they are still respecting their own needs.

If the decision is made from this place, both people are respected as individuals and a healthy flow of love can continue. Importantly, the dependent is freed from being a burden to the other person because both parties have made their choice freely.

Have you ever witnessed a person who has become sick or hospitalized get angry at their caregiver(s)?

Disclaimer: Please know that there are always exceptions to these observations. This is a broad brush stroke to inspire introspection about the flow of love in relationships.

Nick Werber