The word “freedom” is generally seen as the anti-thesis to being in a relationship. To live free usually indicates that you go wherever you choose, when you choose and you are exactly who you want to be. To love free brings to mind loose commitments or an “open relationship.”
When a couple gets married, they are said to be “tying the knot” and the joke is that they are now one another’s “ball and chain” (where the woman is often assumed to be the one imprisoning the man).
Talk about stark images of being tied down, bound and severely limited!
With all of these negative associations, it’s no surprise that many people resist making a clear relationship commitment, even if the love is there. Along with the deep feelings of attraction, respect and desire to continue to spend time together is very real fear. The fear of commitment is almost always rooted in a belief that commitment equals a loss of freedom.
There’s nothing wrong with moving along at a pace that’s right for you and it’s helpful to honor your partner’s wish to go slow, but when the level of commitment or speed at which the relationship develops is dictated by fear, this is an unhealthy situation.
All of the delicious experiences that are possible when two people fall in love and share their lives are lost. The relationship will wither and die if these dangerous beliefs aren’t questioned and changed.
But it’s not always as easy as it sounds.
If you’ve had a past relationship in which you felt trapped or suffocated, your fearful beliefs will seem true– not just for that relationship, but inevitably for all love relationships. Casual comments that your current partner makes are triggering. An innocent question or joke feels like even more proof that relationship commitment equals restriction.
“Will I have to get her permission anytime I want to do anything?”
“Will I get to spend time alone with my friends ever again?”
“Will we become old, boring and predictable?”
These are real fears that you might not even know you have and it all goes back to your beliefs about freedom and commitment. If your partner seems to be commitment phobic, it could be that some of these very same thoughts have crossed his or her mind.
Just for a moment, we invite you to suspend everything you think is true about relationships.
Open your mind and consider these possibilities….
1. Freedom and commitment can coexist.
What if you could have clear agreements with the one you love so that you both know what to expect and you both know what “this” is that you’re doing together AND you felt wonderful about it? You could still be and do what you want; you’d just do so in a way that honors your agreements and this wouldn’t be stressful.
“Agreements” and “commitment” may sound like big and bad words designed to rein you in, but they’re simply ways to build trust and understanding. In most cases, when commitment feels like a loss of freedom it’s because the agreement to do so came from guilt or feeling manipulated.
When you ask your partner to make a commitment to you and he or she seems to hesitate or rejects it, try not to take it personally. Ask a follow up question like, “What kind of commitment are you willing to make right now?” and be honest with yourself and your partner about how flexible you are. If you’re still confused or you feel rejected, ask your partner to, “Please help me understand what your expectations are about our relationship.”
2. Freedom doesn’t mean separation.
You can create a close and connected relationship AND nurture a strong sense of freedom as well. When you and your partner are free, it doesn’t mean you two have to somehow lead separate lives or that you can’t talk about what you mean to each other or even what you can count on (or what you can’t).
Think about what it could be like to choose on a daily basis to be with the one you love. You aren’t merely spending time together out of obligation or because you “have to.” You really want to be in a relationship with this person and that sensation of choice is what freedom is all about.
Freedom is choice and it’s intention too. Create room in your experience for honest conversation with your partner about your relationship and contribute to an environment where you really listen to one another and try to understand what is being shared.
Carry this inclusive approach into all areas of your life. In each moment, invite yourself to be free as you choose to honor your agreements with others AND to be and do what helps you feel fully alive.