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Significant Other

Happy Fourth of July!!

Folks in the US celebrate Independence Day today. This has me thinking about the phrase "significant other." Give me a moment to make the connection.

Independence is a big deal here, and we're well into yet another upswing in its importance. Americans do not like to be told what to do.

In World War II, most folks gave up a whole bunch of personal independence to secure their collective independence. Today, though, personal independence is on an upswing. The internet (an incredibly interdependent bit of infrastructure) has given us all more opportunities to assert our independence.

Managers are advised to give a lot more autonomy to their employees or lose the best ones. People in droves are seeking self-employment, risking (and in most cases losing) large chunks of their previous incomes. And it is not just the ones made suddenly independent by an employer who could no longer afford their services.

The more we seek independence, the more we resent obligation. Even our commitments chafe against our independent streaks and threaten our ability to do as we please.

And this is how we arrive at significant others: our husbands, wives, and life partners. What makes them significant? Is it what they can do for us? Or is it what we are willing to obligate or commit ourselves to do for them, harnessing our independence in service to something bigger than ourselves to create soul-satisfying meaning?

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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