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  • Ronan Harrington

I is for Interdependence - An A-Z Guide to Resilience

Updated: Jun 8



I asked my person to marry me. But this isn't a gushy engagement post. It's about the courage all couples must summon to stay together. I share this story with her blessing.


Three years into our relationship, she fell in love with someone else. We were deeply in love, but someone new arrived into her life. One of those connections with a hurtling momentum of its own.


I lost myself in a subculture that was rejecting monogamy: "It's just jealousy. Who are you to possess your partner?". Despite my best attempts to reframe my fear as a growth opportunity, I was being physically and mentally ruined. Memories of losing my brother in a car accident came rushing back. Soon, I was locked in a trauma response that would trigger the health crisis that I'm still reckoning with. These are the lasting consequences of not honouring our boundaries.


(I always share my personal story with my audiences as I believe it is fundamental to my authenticity as a leadership keynote speaker. You can read some of it here in F is for Family).


There are no victims or villains here. We both felt trapped between a rock and a hard place. I no longer felt safe in our relationship, and she felt she would be betraying herself to cut this person from her life.


How do you come back from that?


The first step was to recognise the ways in which I had become co-dependent. I had so thoroughly lost myself in our love that I genuinely believed I couldn't cope without her. Co-dependence ironically threatens the longevity of a connection because in the desperate fear of losing each other, we start contorting ourselves. We lose contact with who we are and what we need. It's the death of ourselves and our relationship by a thousand paper cuts.


I eventually found the strength to initiate the break up, but it was also a mutual attempt to preserve the possibility of staying together. Our year apart was marked by a type of knowing that only comes with absence. Underneath all the hurt and pain was the truth that we really were each other's person.


The poet Kilal Gibran wrote in his marriage elegy: "the pillars of the temple stand apart".


Unbeknownst to us, what we were reaching for was interdependence. Two independent people who walk the tightrope of honouring themselves and becoming a team.


The hardest part was letting each other back in, when it would have been so much easier to walk away. Interdependence is an invitation beyond the surface level understanding of strength: the unfazed persona that cannot be touched.


We cannot experience true love, the very foundation of resilience, until we let our guard down. The wisdom that carries us is that behind our most believable defences lies the scarred self that is terrified of being hurt again. Its healing is our mutual homecoming, the deeper purpose of love. This wisdom is important to our development of resilience and so I often share this with my audience as a leadership keynote speaker.


I proposed at the top of Hallin Fell in the Lake District. Three years ago, we came here when we were hanging on by a thread. We climbed the mountain and took a stone from the top, committing to return it when we had made it through to the other side.


Last weekend, three years to the day, we returned the stone.



This is an A-Z guide to showcase some unfamiliar concepts in resilience, originally shared on my LinkedIn and inspired by day-to-day insights from my own experience with burnout and my work as a leadership keynote speaker.


Also is this series: A (is for Auto-Regulation),B (is for the Breath), C (is for Coping), D (is for (the far side of) Despair), E (is for Endurance), F (is for Forgiveness), F (is for Family), G (is for God) and H (is for Habit).

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