As a child I always wanted a dog or a horse, which I could only manage to get once I was an adult. As an adult I knew that to get a dog (which was more realistic than a horse), meant a lifelong commitment and responsibility towards a being which would be mostly dependent on me. As I explored the options, I decided to adopt a stray. I met with a lady who had started an initiative of finding adoptive families for Sicilian strays. When I adopted my dog, this lady advised me to never let her off leash in open spaces and not to trust her to come back if she ever left. This was due to her background of being a stray: she was resilient, self-sufficient and had probably run off in the first place due to her wanderlust nature.

I lived with this knowledge for a whole year before I was challenged to let her go off leash. I was scared and terrified when it came to this… I kept thinking about all the possible outcomes of such a decision. The responsibility of having promised to care for this dog and ensure her wellbeing. Eventually with help, I did let her go and she did run off quite far in the countryside, and yes, she did return.

Every time we go out in the countryside we let her off leash to roam and explore, sometimes it’s a challenge to call her back and sometimes it’s easy… but I learned a very important lesson from this, you can’t hold on to someone you love rigidly without giving them the space that they need. The more you restrain and interfere, the more they will push back to establish themselves and their space. On the other hand, the more secure one is without feeling threatened by their loved one’s individuality and need for individual space, the less resistance they get and the more secure and healthy their bond is. Be it as a parent, a lover, a professional and a friend. Whatever your role is in a relationship, it would be beneficial to realise that each person in the relationship is a separate person with individual needs, interests and abilities but each shares areas of common ground.

In relation to these thoughts, I came across an article by Townsend and McWhirter, which reflected on connectedness rather than codependency. Connectedness occurs when two individuals share a close bond and relate to each other whereas codependency is slightly more negative as it implies that one person is dependent on the other and there is a blurring of boundaries. The article explains how in a relationship, psychological growth is apt to happen when the individuals involved are aware of who they are; how they function in relation to each other and how each person has their own worth; independently of each other, and each is a whole. They are not a whole only when in the context of the relationship, but when together they create something different.


Connectedness: A Review of the Literature With Implications for Counseling, Assessment, and Research

Townsend, Katharine C;McWhirter, Benedict T

Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD; Spring 2005; 83, 2; ProQuest

pg. 191

Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on or call us on 79291817.