Can You Be Free AND Committed In Relationship?
When we work with people around relationship, one of the most frequent concerns is freedom. Or rather, the fear of losing freedom inside the marriage or long-term relationship. This shows up for singles wanting a committed relationship, but unable get past the fear that it will be the end of freedom. It shows up for men who have a very strong innate need for freedom, and it shows up for women who feel their freedom disappear beneath diapers, jobs, cleaning, cooking – and a husband who still wants to have sex!
Often, how people attempt to deal with this is coming up with ways to secure their rights to freedom. In the same way one would fight back to protect the village if intruders were attacking: “My freedom is my birth right, and by darn, I’ll fight to protect it if I need to”. And as in any war, whether justified or not, an excess of force is used, and in the end, there are no winners.
In real life that could look like this: “I’m not doing one more load of laundry before you do ____ !”; “I’ll have sex with whomever I please!”; “I can’t commit to you, because I’m a free man and I intend to stay that way!”
What gets utterly lost in this way of dealing with the right to freedom is questioning what freedom is. Most adults still carry the same understanding of freedom as our teenage boy: Freedom is the absence of any obligations, responsibilities and duties. Freedom is doing whatever you want at any given time, disregarding any consequences.
In working with people, we ask this question: “What is freedom?” and initially most answer like our son. We then add, “Now look at that from inside your relationship. So your partner has the same freedom as you, he can do whatever he wants at any time, have sex with anyone he pleases, come and go as he wants, etc”. In the face of that realization, most people all of sudden think freedom sounds a lot less desirable. It sounds like lack of trust and accountability; it sounds like not caring; it sounds like recklessness; it sounds like “how can I build anything in such a relationship?”
From that perspective, suddenly commitment looks a lot less restrictive. As a matter of fact, commitment, which to those who fear the loss of their freedom is equal to burdens, chains, cages and weights around their necks, now appears to be freedom! A 180 degree shift in perception. People will say, “wow, if I knew my partner was committed too, I’d feel safe to be myself; I’d trust and relax; I’d feel like building something beautiful together; I’d be free to express myself!”
What is freedom really? Is it not having to do anything but that which you desire right now? Or is it being able to be yourself, express yourself, know yourself?
From my experience, freedom and commitment are not mutually exclusive. They are one and the same.
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