21 May 2009

Can we be free and in a relationship?

Richard is planning to write an essay on the topic, but I won't be able to post the essay until late in the evening. So please come back later for the essay. Thanks Lawrence

Can we be free and in a relationship?

The subject boils down to the following idea: how to reconcile freedom with the stability of the relationship.

At the moment I am reading Berlin ’s idea on freedom and there is a clear parallelism between freedom and authority within society and the subject we are to discuss. As we know the social problem has not been solved yet and most probably never will be solved. And what about our subject? The answer is very straightforward. It may only be solved within the couple concerned. Every solution is good as long as the people involved approve of it. After all, all is fair in love and war.

As the circumstances change and as we grow older (and … wiser), a couple in order to survive in a relationship must know how to adapt.

The other problem here is what it means to be in a relationship. To my mind it means to have a joint life experience, joint plans, sharing our happiness and sorrows. There are more and more couples that consider themselves to be in a relationship but they lead their individual lives. I will never call it that those couples are in a relationship.

In this sort of literature there is a tendency to portray two people in a relationship as 2 independent human beings that preserve their individual independence as a model of a healthy relationship. I don’t share such an opinion. There must be some doses of dependence between the partners. After all, our lives should complete each other’s. Obviously it is hard to define how big this dependence should be. It seems to me that it ought not to be very high. As there are two individuals who decide to enter in a relationship, they, willy nilly, will have to preserve their own respective identities, they cannot merge permanently in one human being as William Blake supposed that one day human being will reach that highest stage.

It is useless and not proper to give even a tentative general answer to the question of freedom in a relationship, because a human being is, at least it has been up till now (later on, time will tell because clonization may take over) a unique creature and a combination of unique creatures will always result in uniqueness. Besides, the whole situation the couple is involved in is unrepetitive and cannot be replicated. What does this all mean? It means there are no two couples who organize their relationship in the same way. There could be similarities but never identicity. Obviously we may classify all the couples into some main categories but it will not help us much. All in all: the situation is unique and the couple is unique and on top of that we all change in the course of time. Ergo, there are too many variables that prevent us from finding a coherent answer valid for even most of us.

It is true that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander but it is also true that one’s man’s meat is another man’s poison.

My personal opinion is that I am sure whatever we may understand by freedom, being in a relationship implies that one will have to live in a different way compared to the way (s)he leads his/her life living alone. Lots of people forget about it. One must assume responsibility not only for himself/herself but for the partner and for the off-spring(s) if there are any. And not only that. Knowing how to share the same space is very important indeed. We should not play it down. It is not rare that here lies the root of a conflict.

The main problem within relationship is to satisfy each other’s needs. The problem of freedom starts to emerge when those needs are not satisfied. Very often there is incompatibility between the professional and family life of those involved in a relationship.

Until a year ago when I read an excellent study “Mating in Captivity” by Esther Perel, a multi-cultured psychologist and a family therapist, I thought that for the good of the couple, there should be no secrets between those who form a relationship. The authoress points out that it is not healthy either. If a couple chooses stability in their relationship, sooner or later it leads to boredom. She asks such questions:

Can we want what we already have?

Why does great sex fade for couples who claim they love each other as much as ever?

Why does intimacy not guarantee great sex?

How to go higher in our erotic intelligence?

There is no doubt that a certain mystery about our partner must be preserved and Perel calls it “the third one” as a challenge to the actual partner. But attention: this “third one” does not necessary imply a person, it could be an activity like playing the piano or any other mystery not revealed. So it is better in the long run not to reveal everything to the partner. Obviously creativity is indispensable as a weapon against boredom that creeps in.

But there are couples that accept that kind of routine leading to boredom with all its consequences. And they conform with that situation and consider it natural and normal.

On the other hand if you do not have that stability, your relationship is wobbly, although it has an edge; boredom is not present; the relationship is alive and kicking.

Spanish women have changed a lot in the last 20 years. In a way it is understandable taking into account the male almost total domination. It was a justified reaction but the things as usual in such circumstances has gone too far, a sort of Jacobin revolution that ended with the guillotine chopping off the man’s head; the result: the man is still looking for his head … And now, a burnt child dreads the fire or once bitten, twice shy, which definitely sounds better in Spanish, Portuguese, Russian or Polish (with the respective literal translation), because in German or Swedish the proverb sounds the same:

PT O gato escaldado de água fria tem medo.

"The cat scalded of water cold has fright"

ES El gato escaldado del agua fría huye.

PL Kto się na gorącym sparzy to na zimne dmucha. "Who on hot scalds on cold blows"

RU Obzhiogshis' na moloke, duyet na vodu. "[Who is]Scalded on milk, blows on water"

DE (Ein) gebranntes Kind scheut (fürchtet) das Feuer.

"A burnt child avoids (is-afraid-of) the fire"

SE Bränt barn skyr elden. "Burnt child avoids fire-the"

No wonder, Spanish men in their late 30s or 40s turn their attention to women from South America or to those from Eastern Europe . The scar is profound.

Can we be free in a relationship? First we should answer the question whether we can be free living alone. Free from something or free to do something?

Have a nice day


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