Through sickness and health. Through burping and farting. With bad friends and good. Through world cup football and otherwise. And then of course, till death do us part.” That‘s the way the vows go for many of us women.
Yes, it could be funny. But when you begin to give up the very essence of who you are; your very basic freedom in life, just because you’re in a relationship, that’s when the phrase ‘tying the knot’ becomes suffocatingly literal.
And sadly many of us slip into that fog easily. Giving up our identities. Buying into the V 2 R 1 concept. Letting social conditioning and many romance novels make us believe that the path to happiness is finding a man. That all we need to do is love him, and we’ll have nirvana. So we give up our freedom to go out with our friends. Give up thinking for ourselves. In some cases, don’t even tell anyone about the relationship, only because the man says so. Fooling ourselves all the time that it’s ok, so long as we are lucky to be in a relationship.
What is an even sadder fact is that many of us don’t even know what freedoms we are entitled to. Simply because, we’ve never cared to think about what we want. Of course, we may know one day when resentment festering invisibly like a wound under the skin erupts into confrontation.
But why wait till then. We are lucky to be in an age where many privileges come easy. Fought for and earned by women who’ve come before us. Who gifted us the vision of what we can have: The power to go out and earn and not be dependent on our partner. To wear what we want. To be able to define our own concepts of motherhood, of being a wife. To walk away or choose to stay in a relationship.
So yes, we should uphold them. And yes, you can have them without having to ask.
Freedom is what you give yourself. Once you declare yourself free, you are.
Truth is, before we ask for freedom in a relationship, we have to gain freedom from our own beliefs. The ones that say we aren’t good enough, don’t deserve this or that, that it’s wrong to want more.
So first, recognize what is important to you. And know that you deserve it, any of it, whether the freedom to be able to choose your friends, chew chicken to the bone at the dinner table, or to just have ‘me’ time.
And if you stay true to yourself, to what you want, all the time – whether within the room of your mind or at a presentation, you’ll have automatically given yourself the freedom to be you, in a relationship or otherwise.
The next step is easy. All you have to do is communicate what you want, clearly and compassionately. In most cases, your partner will respect you for it and nod. If he doesn’t, talk.
Talking –and listening- are vital to any relationship. And as necessary as love, understanding, respect, trust, and here’s a heavy one, responsibility.
As the head of any nation will tell you, freedom comes with enormous responsibility.
The freedom of speech gives you the space to say what’s on your mind, yet, not necessarily nag, be nasty or cruel. And ladies, it also comes with the freedom to think before you speak. Expressing ourselves does not mean flinging pots and pans.
Yes, it’s the 2000’s. But smoking and drinking come with the responsibility to take care of your health for the sake of the ones you love: you, your spouse, your kids. And earning and spending your own money is great, as long as you don’t incur distressing credit cards bills again and again, that will eat into the house loan.
Thing is, you can have any freedom you want, – even the freedom to meet your ex, now friend. But you have to trust yourself first, that you won’t abuse that freedom or your spouse’s faith.
How you own your freedom in a relationship demonstrates just how mature you are, and if abused, questions your right to have it. So let’s appreciate it, exercise it.
Like muscles, you need to exercise your freedom.
Today, thanks to progress, careers, our awareness of the importance of our roles as women and the resulting confidence, we have freedoms in our relationships that our mothers and grandmothers didn’t have: The freedom to build our careers, while our partner stays at home. To not cook and order out if we want. To chase our dreams, even if the income gets cut in half. The liberty to make decisions and have our partner’s support in whatever decision we take, whether it’s changing jobs, or buying a car.
If you lived in the 1930s, everyone and his cousin assumed that his wife was plain ecstatic just because she could cook his meals and wash his feet. Why would she want to do anything else. See a movie by herself for example.
Breathe happy because we have freedoms that many women in small towns and villages still don’t have. The space to travel to another country without our partner. To say what we want without being told to shut up. The freedom to stand up and not accept another woman or a second wife.
So let’s not take our freedoms for granted lest it erodes the love that builds our relationships.
True love and Freedom go hand in hand.
When you ask for freedom, you’re automatically making a pact that you’ll give your partner his. And you can only keep that handshake warm if you truly listen, love, stay compassionate and respect his needs and well as your own.
Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck in his best-selling book The Road Less Travelled, quite rightly says, “Freedom and discipline are handmaidens; without the discipline of genuine love, freedom is invariably non-loving and destructive.”
So then, dear people, freedom is also allowing the other to make mistakes, and the chance to make amends. My parents have been married over 30 years. They argue. They make up. And it’s because they choose their freedom to love over their right to stay simmering.
Kahlil Gibran puts it nicely, “Love each other, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” Translation: Keep it fluid, like dance, like a waltz. You step back sometimes and sometimes he does. Find your own unique rhythm, by growing, by experimenting.
Now while we assert ourselves, in capital letters no less, sometimes we need to cut a little extra slack. Having made big strides over the last decades we are changing quickly, even for men who are trying to keep pace. Should they open the door for a woman? Offer to split the bill? And that’s only the small stuff.
So let’s use our freedom to take the high road, and let them pass now and then.
Aah, isn’t freedom empowering?
(Published in Femina. Yes, a woman’s magazine.)
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