The majority of modern relationships are based off of fear.
Marriages that are more about possessiveness than about love. Unspoken codependent social contracts abound. Jealousy, game playing, and manipulation are more the default than the exception.
So, if trying to possess or control someone is the broken model of relationship, what does the healthy version look like?
Above all else…
Love your partner in a way that makes them more free.
And when I say free, I mean love them in a way that makes them more themselves. Since the dance of intimate relationship is really just a covert, long-term therapy session where each person slowly erodes their ego and dissolves into true connection and love.
Loving partnership is, in essence, a service position.
Think of yourself as two sculptors… chipping away at the leftover marble chunks that have yet to be taken off of the ever-evolving masterpiece.
Or, consider Escher’s Drawing Hands, where two hands draw each other into a stage of further completion.
This concept is a direct metaphor for the healthiest relationships.
You bring yourself to your intimate partner and tell them, ‘I am this finished as a work of art, and I trust you to continue to help me move towards further beauty and integration.’
And then you both engage in that act for each other simultaneously,
So what does loving them in a way that makes them more free look like, in action?
In essence, you hold each other to a vision of becoming your truest selves, according to your own individual values.
Here are three examples, to illustrate this point further.
1. Say that your shared relationship vision could be boiled down to “selfless contribution to the community around us.” If you one day catch your partner talking about how much they resent how everyone in your community wants their energy and attention and how they’re thinking about going on an extended solo trip, then it is up to you to remind them of their own heart. Sit them down, and tell them, “I hear that you are feeling tired, and perhaps a bit resentful of our community. But this is exactly what we set out to achieve. We are giving back just like we wanted to. Is there something else that’s going on that might be behind this desire to leave your responsibilities and skip town?”
The loving behaviour that would have your partner be more free, in this instance, most likely wouldn’t be enabling them to ditch their life and go off on an extended vacation… it would be to sing the song of their heart back to them when they’d forgotten it.
2. Say you are with a man who, after many years of marriage, tells you that he wants to sleep with other women. He wants your relationship to become polyamorous so that he can engage sexually with others.
Now, the societal default might be to baulk at the suggestion based on principle, but it’s worth sitting with.
If this man married his high school sweetheart (e.g. his first sexual partner) then perhaps sexually engaging with others in the short term is something that would open him up further and add to his development as a person. Perhaps they would both benefit from engaging with others, as a short term experiment. That would certainly be something for the couple to discuss.
But if his desire was rooted in something that didn’t sit right with his partner (for example, fearing a deepening of relational intimacy and secretly wanting to create distance between them) then acting on this desire would not make him more free. In fact, it would keep him trapped. A slave to his own mind.
3. Let’s say that you have a strong attraction to someone. More than just a passing attraction… a legitimate crush on someone who you think would be a good partner for you. But there’s only one problem… the timing isn’t what you’d want it to be. Maybe they’re just out of a long-term relationship and need some time to process their emotions. Or perhaps they aren’t in a place where they feel like it would be self-honouring for them to commit to a relationship.
If you were leading with your ego, you would want to find a way to convince them to date you anyways. You would let your head win over your heart, and by leading from a place of fear, you would both suffer.
If you were willing to love them in a way that they were to become more free, even while not in partnership with them, then you would happily let them have all of the space and time they needed. You would trust in the ebb and flow of life, and you would know that if your relationship was meant to happen, it would, in time.
Set Them Free With Your Love
Whether you are trusting the timing of life more deeply… reminding your beloved of who they truly are… or navigating new phases of your relationship with your significant other, intimacy is a never ending dance.
It won’t always be so black and white, or easy, to know how to best serve your partner in love. There is endless nuance in helping someone to become more of who they truly are. But as long as you are truly listening, staying awake in your relationship, and keeping your partner’s best interest at heart, I trust that you will know what to do.
Dedicated to your success,