Freedom. What does it mean? According to the Dictionary app on my Mac, "freedom" is the following:
- the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint
- the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved
- the state of not being subject to or affected by a particular undesirable thing
- the power of self-determination attributed to the will
- the quality of being independent of fate or necessity
So what does Freedom mean in regards to a relationship? Some might hear this word and automatically think of open or multiple-partner relationships, but that's not what I think of. There is a certain ignominy brought forth when we dare use Freedom in regards to our relationships, as if the word heralds a particular insouciant capriciousness that allows one or both partners to let their hearts and bodies wander down any and every path they cross.
I dated someone, multiple people now that I think of it, who used my desire for Freedom against me on a regular basis. When he (the most recent one I'm referring to) got angry with me, he would say "Go be free", as if to remind me that being with him was a penitentiary and that the only appropriate place where I had the right to act, speak or think as I wanted without hindrance was outside of the relationship. In his eyes, I should have chosen him 100% of the time over myself, my friends, my family, my career, my goals, my hobbies, especially the hobbies that didn't include him. In this relationship, I could not have him and have Freedom simultaneously.
Tonight, I met with one of my dearest, closest friends. She is struggling to find any reason to stay in her current relationship. The relationship has put a damper on her ability to maintain the life she loves. It has held her back from pursuing certain goals, has kept her on the same career path even though she longs for a major derailment and has held her back from going all in on her dreams. She reminded me of myself not too long ago.
Have you heard this story before? Maybe a friend or family member has confided in you about their desire for Freedom. Maybe it is you who desires to be free. Maybe you have cried yourself silly feeling imprisoned or enslaved by someone else's expectations of you. Could we just slow it down for a minute? Relationships do not imprison you, they give you Freedom. Well, let me clarify, the right relationship will give you all the Freedom you desire...and more!
If I had to guess, many of my perpetually single friends' love the single life because of the flexibility, liberty and independence they feel. But the right relationship will make you feel even more of these things. Gasp! How can it be true?!
A good match for you is anyone who makes you shine brightly, anyone who pushes you to achieve every dream you've every dreamt. They don't get jealous when you get a promotion at work, when you meet new friends, when you spend several nights a week perfecting your whatever-it-is-you-do-that-makes-you-feel-happy. They don't get in the way, they help pave the way. What's more is that the right relationship will make you question yourself in a good way, in the kind of way that makes you want to find the best version of you, because your partner is also awesome and is going places and doing things they love. What's really cool is that the right relationship works like a positive feedback loop. That's basically when you are motivated by your partner's own awesomeness that you become super awesome and they are in turn motivated by your super awesomeness that they become super duper awesome and then you are motivated and then they are motivated and this keeps going on and on and on as you both become a ridiculously super duper awesome power duo. Not in competition, in collaboration.
"But I'm afraid if I seek out this kind of Freedom, I'll lose my partner." Oh honey, let them go. If you are more terrified of losing your partner than of losing yourself in the relationship, you are indeed in a prison of codependency, vulnerability and obsession and that is NOT the right relationship for you.
I've written several times on the idea of unconditional love and I stand by it, both as a giver and a receiver of this type of love (the only real kind there is). The right partner will not attempt to change you. They will not anchor you to the seabed that is your relationship. They will not discourage you or guilt-trip you over wanting to have a night out with your friends or just to yourself. They won't weigh you down with their baggage or problems because the right partner will not be dependent on you for their own happiness and well-being.
The right relationship is one in which you are together, independent of fate or necessity. You choose each other day in and day out because, hey, why would anybody get rid of their MVP? The right partner will have your back, will support you and will not let their ego get in the way of what's best for you, whatever you think that may be.
The right relationship also requires that you behave with the same courtesy and open love towards your partner. You must give love without expectations. You must cultivate a spirit of trust and autonomy towards your lover so that they never feel held back. If you are having a difficult time creating room for growth of your partner or if you catch yourself feeling jealous or entitled, you should take a step back and reevaluate if YOU are mature enough for the right relationship yet.
If you perpetually find yourself in relationships that leave you wanting more, that leave you feeling a little less you and a little more them, that make you think twice or not at all about going after everything you've ever wanted...run! Get out now! This is not a relationship and you are in fact in a prison. Do not give up on love, on relationships. No, that's crazy. Just give up on the idea that Freedom automatically means being single because it can't possibly be found within a relationship.
The right relationship, the right partner, will complement your spirit and your mind, will magnify your strengths, diminish your weaknesses and will elevate you to the best version of yourself. That is what we are all seeking on our quest for Freedom anyway, right?