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Freedom…and Relationships

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Freedom and RelationshipIndependence Day invariably makes one ponder on freedom and the sacrifices that have been made to ensure that we are able to be free citizens of a strong country. As I thought about India’s past and future this 15th August, my thoughts invariably also turned to the question of freedom within our closest relationships. 

How much independence do we want in our marital relationships? Is a relationship stronger when partners are dependent on each other or when they are two independent individuals staying together out of choice? Such questions drifted in and out of my mind and I scanned the knowledge gained from my own experience to come up with the following:

A mutual need for each other is undoubtedly the starting point of a relationship. Why should we even consider a long term relationship if we are entirely comfortable without another’s presence? Whether we marry for love, or go in for an arranged marriage, the basic driving factor is invariably because something about the other person has seemed so attractive, even necessary, that we cannot imagine a life without this quality, or this person. If a need for each other is the very beginning of a relationship, then it stands to reason that mutual dependence is the foundation of a strong marital tie.

However, all of us grow and learn at different speeds and in different ways on this long journey called life. Even the patterns of our dependence on others change at adolescence, young adulthood, mature middle age etc. A relationship has to be large enough to provide space for this growing and learning. In other words, partners must be free to explore the world and evolve their own ideas and approach to life.

This is where most of the conflicts arise in relationships. When a partner’s growth, ambition, or desire to be independent is making the other feel insecure and worried, then the foundations of the relationship are shaken. It is the responsibility of the partner seeking growth to reassure the other that he or she is still a very important part of the seeker’s dreams. If such care is not taken, or personal goals are consistently given more importance than partners’ needs, then trouble is inevitable.

Come to think of it, an aggressively personal agenda within a relationship invariably triggers an ‘I-can-also-do-without-you’ reaction from the partner who is feeling hurt and excluded. Thus too much independence for one partner can actually mean a corresponding ego problem being created in the other.

Finally, the sweetest freedom within a relationship is to be able to be absolutely, undilutedly oneself before the other person, without being ashamed or guilty. This psychological nakedness is necessary to achieve the greatest intimacy. And while it may take some years and maturity to be able to achieve this, it is wonderful to be able to lean on each other for support, completely confident that together you can face the world and anything life dishes out.

So freedom and personal space have many shades within relationships and marriage. The key to success is giving enough thought to such issues and solving them with mutual care and consideration.

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