Do Relationships Kill Freedom?
Secretly, I used to resent being in a relationship.
It wasn’t something I was super aware of. It was more of a niggling anxiety that showed up whenever things got tough – during arguments, or when my own wants and needs contradicted those of my partner.
It was based on this belief:
That relationships kill freedom.
As a freedom-loving, highly-spontaneous woman, that created quite the dilemma for me.
I had this idea that being single meant I could make whatever choices I wanted. That I didn’t have to think about how my actions affected someone else, and that I answered to no one.
On the other hand, I thought that being in a relationship meant compromise. Being responsible for someone else. Giving up my own needs to cater for the needs of someone else. I thought it meant being restricted.
So having this kind of subconscious belief, you’d think I’d have spent most of my younger years being single right?
Nope. I was in a relationship more often than not.
But what I did was shrink my own wants and needs as small as possible in an effort to keep my relationships smooth and easy. I’d try my hardest not to impose or be disagreeable. I was a ‘yes’ girl. But it meant I spent a lot of time biting my tongue and suffocating my dreams.
As you can imagine, burying myself like this made for a lot of resentment.
Relationships felt smothering to me because I was smothering me. Self fulfilling prophecy much?
So when things got tough (’cause they always do – EVERY relationship will have its challenges #spoileralert) what did I do?
I cut and run.
Because I believed staying = less freedom, and leaving = more.
With freedom as one of my highest values, I was never going to stick to something that meant less freedom.
And so it was that I never fully committed to relationships. I always kept one foot out the door. Never going as deep with my partner as I could (or probably should) have.
I hadn’t thought about all this for a while, until just recently when speaking with a client.
We were on a call together, talking about her relationship. She felt like it meant sacrifice. Compromise. That she didn’t have the freedom to change her mind or follow her own soul. And unsurprisingly, it was causing HUGE problems for her.
Whilst she loved her partner deeply, she was struggling with her own self worth and sense of personal power. She felt trapped, smothered, disempowered and restless. And it was causing overwhelming anxiety in all areas of her life.
It sounded oh so familiar to me.
But as we we started to work through what she was feeling and how to shift it, I realised something truly liberating:
I don’t feel that way anymore.
I don’t see relationships as something restrictive. I don’t feel trapped or smothered. I don’t feel like my needs are suffocated or that I have to compromise. In fact, I feel quite the opposite.
Reece and I are engaged, and I’m EXCITED about the idea of marriage and a life-long commitment. I don’t feel less freedom – I feel MORE.
So what changed?
Is it just the relationship I’m in now? The type of person my partner is versus the partner’s I used to have?
The changes have happened in me.
There’s been two major shifts – the same two shifts I supported my client through:
1. Take Responsibility For Your Own Needs & Desires (and speak them out loud)
It’s scary speaking your truth. Especially in a relationship.
In the early days it’s so much easier:
You can talk about what you want and what you don’t want, and if your new partner disagrees, the stakes aren’t quite so high. You can walk away if you’re not a good fit, or you’re not heading in the same direction. The differences often don’t matter that much and they’re easy to ignore.
But as your relationship deepens the stakes get higher. As you care more for your partner you care more about what they think. It’s harder to shrug things off, and their disagreement can feel like a personal challenge that cuts to the core.
If you share a need or desire with your partner…
“I want to move overseas.”
“I’m going to quit my job.”
“I want to open our relationship.”
…you don’t always know how they’ll respond. Or even worse – you think you know EXACTLY how they’ll respond, and it’s not with enthusiasm.
And that hurts.
Because you’re so much more invested in each other’s lives. It’s not so easy to walk away if things end in disagreement.
And so the solution seems simple – just don’t bring it up.
But you probably know from previous experience – that ‘solution’ doesn’t work. Resentment festers. A mental tug-of-war between what you want personally and the peace you want for your relationship begins, and it can be downright crazy making.
The real solution is this:
If you want your needs met you have to self-validate. You have to speak up. You have to know that no matter how your partner reacts – your wants and need are worthy of being heard.
All too often it’s the fear of how you’ll be received, rather than the relationship itself, that creates that feeling of restriction.
And taking responsibility for your own needs is how you reclaim that freedom.
2. Challenge the idea that being in a relationship means less freedom
I used to focus on all the ways my relationship meant less freedom.
“I have to think about someone else’s needs.”
“I have to consider how my actions affect my partner -I can’t be selfish.”
“I have to compromise and be selfless.”
But there were two powerful truths I was completely ignoring:
I didn’t HAVE to do anything. I was simply choosing not to (or unwilling to accept the consequences of choosing not to). Either way, still my choice.
But most importantly…
There are actually SO many ways that my relationship gives me MORE freedom.
And that’s the truth that really shook things up.
When I started to challenge this idea that ‘a relationship means less freedom’, I realised just how wrong I was.
The support of my partner when times are tough is incredibly liberating and enabling. Those times when I’m burnt out, insecure, overwhelmed or lost – the loving and oh so insightful guidance of my man means I’ve been able to do MORE of the things I want, not less.
Relationships are freakin’ FUN! Reece and I have been on some amazing adventures together – travelling the world, starting our business, sleeping out under starry desert skies and exploring bustling Turkish markets by the sea.
Sure, I could do these things by myself, but sharing them with someone else has brought me so much joy, and yes – freedom.
Not to mention all the ways being with him has taught me to love and accept those parts of myself that I thought were completely shameful and unlovable. That’s been perhaps the most liberating of all.
And so it is that I’ve come to realise that being in a relationship can actually bring me more freedom, not less.
It’s all in how I look at it, and how I show up.
What about you? What are all the ways your relationship gives you freedom?
And how can you take more responsibility for your needs?
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