A Buddhist teacher once explained that there are three stages in the character development of human beings: dependent, independent and contributive. Unfortunately, most people are completely unaware of the third, the contributive (or interdependent), state of life. For them, there are only two options, independence or dependence.

Independence, the stand alone self, can be a happy state because we are in control, a necessary condition for happiness. The strong, confident self, however, can easily become arrogant and isolated. But arrogance and companionsip do not mix well. It is all too likely that an arrogant person will be unable to sustain fulfilling relationships. Instead, those relationships will most often end in conflict and strife.

The alternative for most is dependent (or codependent) relationships. People give respect and love, but not freely; strings are attached. This is the let’s-make-a-deal approach to relationships, “I’ll love you as long as you give me what I need.”

Life in this sort of relationship can only be an emotional roller coaster, climbing to exhilirating highs and plunging into desperate lows. This is because your happiness is dependent upon another’s behavior – upon his or her validation of your worthiness of being loved.

Happiness in any situation cannot be achieved without a sense of control. Depending upon another to validate that we are worthy of love gives that person control over our emotions and our self esteem. We have given up our power.

In any relationship, we must keep our power, developing a strong self-identity and ability to be happy on the inside. Standing alone upon the firm foundation of our own happiness, we can seek out and nurture contributive, sharing relationships, relationships in which we give our love freely without attachments and expectations. We are not needy of the other. Nor are we addicted to the other. A relationship between two such people brings a deep and abiding love.

Before going out to look for a contributive partner, we must first strive to develop that ability within ourselves. Only then will it be possible for us to draw forth and nurture the same quality in others. “Happiness is not something that someone else, like a boyfriend or girlfriend, can give to us,” Daisaku Ikeda wrote in his book The Way of Youth. We have to achieve it for ourselves. And the only way to do so is by developing our character and capacity as human beings, by fully realizing our own potential. If we sacrifice our growth and talent for love, we absolutely will not find happiness.

Source: The Buddha In Your Mirror (Pg. 129-135)