All of life is about finding an equilibrium between opposing polarities. Most of our emotional struggles are the result of our inability to establish this equilibrium and to maintain it. We say yes, when we want to say no. We become submissive if someone else is domineering. We fall in love with someone serious and responsible if we are free spirits.
When we are young and inexperienced we often feel so obligated to those around us, so worried about being amoral, so worried about losing love, that we become a slave to other people’s whims. Or we act as if commitments, bonds and promises mean absolutely nothing and can be discarded if they become inconvenient. To better understand how to find a sustainable balance, let us consider whether our commitments have the following qualities to them:
Do you respect the other person in the relationship? Does the other person respect you? Without respect love can quickly turn to hate or apathy. It will be ruled by attachment, possessiveness and dependency.
If you respect your partner, then you will trust their judgement on matters much more easily. This will create space in your life. Freedom to think about your own challenges and interests. You will feel secure in your relationship because you will trust your partner’s good judgement. You will believe that their approach to challenges is effective. You will believe that they esteem themselves enough to not succumb to negative pressure.
You will not need to double check whether they paid all the bills. You will not constantly worry about their ability to hold onto their job. You will trust them around members of the opposite sex. All because you respect them and trust that they respect themselves and you.
If your partner respects you, your good opinion will matter to them. They will value your ideas and your input. They will not dismiss your feelings. They will trust your judgement, and allow you the space to make your own decisions.
Without respect no freedom is possible in a relationship. You will desire to control your partner’s actions. Mistrust will reign. Wounded pride or insecurity will wreck havoc all around themselves.
If you respect your child, then you believe that they are competent enough to handle the challenges that come their way. You do not try to take over their lives and do everything for them. You do not treat them as someone inferior to you. You understand that they do not belong to you and allow them the space and freedom to grow into their own lives and their own adventures, with some gentle guidance from you.
If you respect your parent, you will stay in touch with them. You will help them in ways in which you can as they age. But you will also know that they do not need to live vicariously through you. Your connection will be governed by love. You will want to know their opinion. You will want them to be a part of your children’s lives.
You will reach out to them, but you will also know that your boundaries will be respected by them.
The key to surrounding yourself with people who value you is valuing yourself. Believing in your own strengths and abilities. Knowing how to say no. Forcing yourself to stay in relationships where there is no respect for some “greater good” is never the answer.
All relationships will have their ups and downs. Unemployment, weight gain, bad moods, family drama are all realities that can encumber upon the dream of perfect love. Your commitment to the other person should be strong enough to weather these challenges. They should be able to trust you enough to be authentic with you.
If you or your partner believe that your relationship required dishonesty and role-playing, then the foundation on which you are building your house is too shaky. Wanting to be a better person for someone is not the same as pretending to be someone you’re not.
Anyone who has your love should be a person in whom you see inherent value. A value that never diminishes regardless of the challenges you face together. These challenges should never make you turn on each other. You should cherish the company of your partner. You should still be grateful for their friendship in difficult times. They should still know that they can count on your support.
This is the basis on which lasting families are built. The understanding that everything in life isn’t about pleasure, and that together you can manifest something more beautiful than either of you could have created alone. Families are built on the knowledge that you look out for each other as well as yourselves.
If your partner runs for the hills any time things get unpleasant, then they are not mature enough to have a relationship with anyone. The same applies to you.
Ultimately any relationship that we are in should be one that is loving. We should care about the other person. The other person should care about us. We should not be in any relationship based purely on obligation or responsibility. The other person will feel our lack of affection and will resent us for it. We would also resent anyone who was with us only out of a sense of duty. Such a relationship would make us feel small, worthless, and unlovable.
In order to be able to love another person and not just be attached to them, we need to have room in our lives for self-love. Without self-love we will feel like we have nothing to offer to anyone else. Nothing about us is truly desirable. Even if we do not consciously acknowledge it, subconsciously we will feel that our relationship is a farce.
Allow your partner the freedom to nurture themselves. Help them build themselves up in their own eyes. Make sure that they are doing the same for you.
When all is said and done, we can see that extremes offer no freedom. Freedom comes with moderation. Some personal freedom and some responsibility. Caring for our partners without neglecting ourselves. Being helpful, but saying no to overbearing people. Loving others, but not needing them, not depending on them for happiness.