When we coach couples, a frequent concern is freedom in relationship. Or rather, the lack of freedom and the fear of losing freedom inside a marriage or long-term relationship. This also shows up for singles wanting a committed relationship, but unable get past the fear that it will be the end of their freedom (that used to be me).
We talk to husbands who have a strong need for freedom, and we hear from wives who feel their freedom disappear beneath career, diapers, 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 real life that might sound like …
- “I’m not doing one more load of laundry before you do ____ !”
- “I’ll have sex with whomever I please!”
- “You can’t tell me what to do!”
- “I can’t commit to you, because I’m a free man and I intend to stay that way!”
- “Of course I don’t tell you everything!”
What is Freedom in Relationship?
What gets utterly lost in this way of dealing with the “right” to freedom is questioning what freedom is. What does freedom in your relationship actually mean to you? Many adults still have the same understanding of freedom as our then-teenage son used to have: 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 did. We then add, “Now look at that from inside your relationship. So your partner has the same freedom as you, he/she can do whatever they want at any given time, have sex with anyone they please, come and go as they wants, etc. Now what is freedom in your relationship?”
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?”
What is Commitment?
From that perspective, suddenly commitment looks a lot less restrictive. In fact commitment, which to those who fear the loss of their freedom is equal to burdens, chains, and weights around their necks, now feels like 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!”
In relationship, 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 go hand in hand.