Mother's Day Features
Free to Be
As we approach the 4th of July, we as Americans stop to reflect upon what freedom means to our nation, to our families, and to us as individuals. We consider freedom one of the “unalienable” rights defined in our Declaration of Independence. It is sacrosanct, part of our birthright and thus, unable to be transferred to anyone else.
Yet, some marriages seem to operate on the premise that you should relinquish your individual freedom when you join your life with someone else. And certainly you give up some freedoms, such as the freedom to date other people! But all too often, we are coerced into sacrificing much more of ourselves than we ever intended to do. And the resentment that builds up over time because our individual freedoms have been surrendered eventually erodes the foundation of love and trust we have for our partner.
The title of the popular off-Broadway musical, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”, sums up what often happens when two people in love make the choice to marry. They unconsciously begin trying to change their partner into their unrealized, unspoken “ideal” of a mate. And because none of us are “perfect”, nor are we the “perfect mate” in anyone else’s fantasy, we set ourselves up for tremendous disappointment and heartbreak as we slowly begin to realize that our partner is not meeting our unrealized expectations, nor are we meeting theirs.
It is possible to merge your life with your partner without losing yourself in the process. However, it involves a comprehensive identification of your expectations and some honest communication and compromise regarding those expectations. And perhaps even more importantly, you must both agree to embrace the necessary attributes of MATURE love, outlined for us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6:
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.”
You must put aside jealousy and pride. You have to learn to be more patient and kind, resisting the tendency to demonstrate irritable behavior, even though you may be irritated. You cannot “keep score”, continuously reminding your partner of their wrongdoings. It is essential that you master the art of forgiveness and learn to move beyond past hurts. And you must be able to distinguish between maintaining your sense of identity and “demanding your own way”.
One of the keys to the success of our marriage is that we allow one another to be “FREE to BE”. Free to be ourselves, and not just who the other wants us to be. Free to be individuals, even though we are a couple. Free to be what we are, what we feel, in the moment. We have learned to separate our feelings and frustrations about external issues from our feelings towards one another. We understand that each of us experiences pain, loss, frustration and aggravation in our lives and we have learned to discuss these without taking them out on each other. We remember that we are not only a couple, but we are two distinct individuals with hopes, dreams, expectations, challenges and everyday disappointments and set-backs of our own.
This level of freedom starts from a fundamental place of RESPECT, as well as LOVE. You can love someone and not respect them. You can respect someone and not love them. But when you both LOVE and RESPECT someone, something magical happens.
You enjoy them for who they are, for what they bring to your life, and for how they enhance your world. You give them permission to fail. You encourage them to grow. You support their efforts to move along life’s path at their own pace.