By Joeel A. Rivera, M.Ed.
So do you want freedom? More specifically, a relationship based on freedom and growth? The first step is to understand what freedom means to you. Freedom in a relationship may mean the freedom to be yourself, but how would you define this? As with anything else, we all have different experiences that shape how we characterize our expectations of life.
You will never reach a destination, in physical reality or a state of mind, if you do not know the place you are trying to find. You may have a vision of what an ideal relationship would look like, and use that impression to find all the faults in your current relationship. Or, maybe you see faults but you’ve never even defined your ideal relationship. You may figure it out and then find that you currently have what you desire in a relationship, but that you have been masking it by focusing on petty problems. At the same time, if your relationship is not what you want, defining what you want gives you the opportunity to see what needs to change, which may include you! Or maybe you would realize that exiting your current relationship would create the space to attract what you truly want.
For most people, what limits freedom is an inability or lack of desire (possibly out of fear) to truly see their life, relationships and surroundings for what they are.
In other words, they spend too much time on autopilot, just doing what needs to get done, and little time in defining what is working and what is not, and then figuring out how to change for the better. The more authentic you can be with yourself, the more you will be able to create a sense of freedom. Freedom comes from the ability to make changes that you know will be in your highest good.
True freedom is awareness and the ability to choose—to choose what you want and do not want.
To be open-minded enough to know that you always have a choice in the kind of life, or relationship, that you manifest and who you co-create it with.
Most people make decisions on where they shop, what they wear, and what they eat, yet they neglect to be conscious regarding their choices regarding what kind of music and media they expose themselves to, much of which negatively influence true ability to be free. Does the media you are exposed to nurture your growth or does it lure you to blindly follow what it tells you should be your roles and desires? You may have freedom in some senses but mental freedom is the most important factor in creating happiness, and many people’s minds and expectations of relationships are primarily controlled by the influence of media and loved ones. Who are you allowing to define what freedom, who you are, and relationships mean to you?
Below I provide several different perspectives on what may give you that sense of freedom within a relationship:
Want vs. Need: There is a big difference between being in a relationship based on want vs. need. For example, if you are with someone because of emotional, financial or physical NEEDS than you do not have freedom because your situation is not based on choice. If you know that you are complete within yourself and that together you enhance each other it, and therefore are together based on WANT, this creates an amazing relationship. This relationship is based on love, understanding and growth rather than co-dependency.
Gender Roles: Think of your relationship or previous relationships and ask yourself if you follow a pattern and play a role, or are you being true to your genuine wants, strengths and truths, and allowing the other person to do the same? It is okay to define your own unique roles. If they work for both of you, who cares what society dictates a relationship should be.
Don’t Expect Change: Can you and your partner truly be yourselves without judgment? If the answer is no then the relationship is not creating freedom for growth. Are you constantly trying to change him or her and vice versa? If yes, ask yourself: “Why?” You can change people temporarily but not permanently unless they want to participate in the process, and even then it would have to be on their terms, in their time, and because they are behind the idea. If you are trying to force someone to be your ideal partner then maybe, just maybe, they are NOT your ideal mate. Sometimes the things you may be wishing would change in your partner are petty and can be let go, and sometimes there is something you can do to improve the situation. However, the most important thing to reflect on is whether the things you wish would change are nonnegotiable. If you just cannot live with a situation or pattern of behavior then you may need to rethink your relationship. Let that person be who he or she is, see him/her for it, and choose to move on.
If the problems you perceive ARE negotiable than accept them and welcome freedom into your relationship.
Don’t expect others to change. It’s up to you to DECIDE for yourself what you want. It’s your decision, not theirs.
Balance and Equality: Is your personal freedom imposing on or interfering with another person’s freedom? For example, is your freedom creating a burden on others or limiting their own ability to choose for themselves? Are you limiting anyone else’s freedom—financially, emotionally or physically—in pursuit of your own ability to be free? If so, eventually you will see that the guilt and responsibility of limiting someone else’s freedom will deny you of your own.
In a nutshell (what does that even mean?) true freedom in a relationship is:
- Being open with communication because you trust the other to respect your perspective.
- Loving the other person unconditionally (with their flaws and everything else) because you’re honest with your own boundaries and expectations.
- Doing things for each other and being part of each other’s journey because you want to not because you need to do so.
- Being supportive of each other’s growth process and sharing that journey. A couple is either growing in the same direction, together, or in different directions. You can’t have two distinct lives that pull in different directions and expect it to create oneness.
- Not feeling like you “need” the other to be complete or feeling the need to rely on the other—being complete and self-reliant starts you as an individual. Your partner should add to you, not be required for there to be “you.”
- Each partner taking responsibility for nurturing themselves while at the same time nurturing the relationship and the other person, so creating the space for the love to continue to prosper.
- Each person committing to come from a place of gratitude, understanding that the even the smallest things that the other person does for you is because he or she wants to do them, not has to do them, and so express appreciation.
- Having a relationship that isn’t clingy—based on fear of loss of love—but rather based on an understanding of a true commitment. Decisions are made out of love and not fear.
- Having an expectation that the other person should be truly themselves and that you bring out the best in them.
- Knowing that you can make requests for improvements but that the ultimate responsibility falls on you to see your partner for who he or she is and making the decision whether that person meet your needs, rather than trying to manipulate him or her into being someone they’re not.
“Relationships are constantly challenging; constantly calling you to create, express, and experience higher and higher aspects of yourself, grander and grander visions of yourself…” —Neal Donald Walsh
Joeel A. Rivera, M.Ed., Ph.D. (ABD) holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling and is currently completing his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Psychology. Joeel’s extensive career as a relationship coach includes certifications in P.R.E.P, a 30-year research-based program for couples, Nurturing Father’s curriculum, and Parenting 21st Century. Joeel is now taking a select number of Life, Relationship, and Entrepreneurship Coaching clients. www.transformationservices.org