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Let Me Be Free To Be Me
by Cate Russell-Cole
11/02/2015 / Relationships
"I don't know how many times I've held back my feelings, and stuff I just knew I couldn't tell him because it wasn't what I was allowed to think or do. I wasn't supposed to be me; I was supposed to be a perfectly behaved princess that did what was expected. I guess I was scared I'd lose him, but it happened anyway. Maybe deep down he knew I was lying by being what he dictated. Maybe he picked up my insecurity, I was always scared I'd do the wrong thing and it would all end and I'd be on my own again with nothing. He sure was the boss of that relationship, no matter how sweet or how many times he told me he believed in me." Maree 26
Have you ever succumbed to the pressure of someone else's expectations in a relationship? Do you feel you have equality in the power balance (decision making and task sharing) and that your needs are equally being met? Some people prefer a partner with a stronger temperament; they can co-exist happily while someone else calls the shots for both. Yet others fall in love with a decisive partner thinking that they will be taken care of free of the pressures of life's responsibilities, and then later come to see the same traits as control and manipulation as they find they are not allowed to take the reigns, or truly be themselves.
In relationships we are taught to compromise, and the pressure can certainly be there to do so. The problem is, compromise is often a win-lose situation. One partner gets more than the other, who then has to give up on the fulfilment of their need or desire. The alternative is to learn to co-operate, so there is an opportunity to work together as a team in order that both parties can win, at least in a manner which won't be dominated by the stronger partner. This however, is wonderful in theory, but so hard to put into practice! Unless both parties are mature enough to be unselfish, and can work together without feeling choked by emotion and any other unresolved situations, you are, in reality, back to compromise and unmet needs.
What everyone needs is unconditional love, acceptance and a partner that values you for your uniqueness and individual value: just exactly as you are without wanting to change you. It's when we are not given the space to utilise our own potential, think and feel freely without condemnation, or to be ourselves with our own goals and values, that we feel like we are being stuffed in a box and suffocated. Couples that live together successfully have both common goals and a common identity, but within that, their own individual goals and identity which are not denied by the other. Studies have found that couples who are secure enough in themselves to allow the other partner that freedom, have an equal balance of power and met needs and thus, long and successful marriages.
As I've already said, it comes with chronological maturity, life experience, and is not easy, but it's not impossible either. Life and relationships are processes. They are continual and alive; they change with circumstances and can get better, even though at times you may feel its going in quite the opposite direction. However, no matter what age you are, or how long you have been in a relationship, from any stage you can work towards equality in partnerships. One suggestion is that you do not rely heavily on your partner to have all your needs met. Have a balance that wisely includes giving and receiving support from trusted family and friends. Total dependence on a partner emotionally or physically puts incredible stress on them. They are being expected to be responsible for two lives, when it is difficult enough to live one! If the needs of children are added to that expectation, it can become an impossible, back-breaking task to bear.
The researchers that study human development have also noted that to be in an equal partnership you need to be able to stand on your own two feet as a separate identity. It is only when we know our own strengths and weaknesses, our identity, what we believe and where we want to grow and develop, that we can share with another without leaning on them. Security in our own value and ability removes many fears and insecurities from relationships that become toxic over time. When you hold hands with someone, you are supporting the weight of your own body; you don't transfer your weight onto the other person. You stand separate, yet together, and this is ideally the best way to maintain a relationship: separate, yet together, and able to freely relate and co-operate without threat of losing yourself to others' expectations.
Even with a loving, equally balanced partner who allows us to be ourselves, and is there to support is when we need the help, life can still be tough. We need to know we have a God who is able to assist us as a couple and individually. He is there to listen twenty-four hours a day to any fear, hurt or problem: and He does it without judgement. He is there to love us and give us His power and courage whenever we find we could use some help: and He does that with unconditional love and acceptance. He knows us more intimately than any lover, He is able to provide for all our needs, and He is the only One who has the wisdom to get us through tricky and painful situations. People will always let us down and hurt us, no matter how much they love and understand us or how close they are, but God will never leave us alone or leave our needs unmet if we take the time to ask Him and wait with open hearts for His assistance.
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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