Most of us recognize that we are individual persons, having our own unique experiences, perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and so on. We recognize that, as individuals, we have inherent personal freedom. That is, we understand that no one owns us, that no one has control over how we think or what we feel. Even when it would seem that others are in control of our thoughts and emotions, ultimately it is our choice to accept or reject that influence.
Of course there are a great number of restrictions which others have tried to place upon us, whether it is government, religion, parents, teachers, society, lovers and the like. And often we resent them for it, because we know deep down they have no right to force their obligations upon us. We know that ultimately, the only real restrictions upon our freedom are those we place upon ourselves. And even when we place restrictions upon ourselves it is only because we have the freedom to do so.
Now what is interesting to note is that those who seek to control us, to take away our freedom, often do not feel that they should be under any restrictions themselves. That is to say that while they value their own personal freedom, they do not acknowledge freedom as a fundamental right for everyone. In fact, they believe that their own personal freedom rests upon the control of others. This type of person is only concerned with their own selfish desires, and they will tread on anyone they have to… lie, steal, deceive, manipulate… in order to achieve their desires.
But this way of thinking is not unique to only a select few. It might be most noticeable in those who hold positions of power and authority, but this double-standard of freedom is actually quite common in our society, though it may be expressed so subtly at times that we don’t easily recognize it. Or it may even be that we are so accustom to it, that we don’t even give it any thought whatsoever.
I’m talking about relationships, but more specifically, romantic relationships. Because it is in these kind of relationships that a very interesting dynamic occurs. When we enter into such a relationship, many of us agree to voluntarily relinquish our freedom to one another. Yet, at the same time, we both take on the role of the master in order to exert a degree of control over one another. And so we become both slave and master in one.
It’s a very strange thing when you think about it, and it presents a great deal of conflict, both internally as well as upon the external relationship. How can one be both master and slave at the same time? The two are diametrically opposed. There cannot be such a balance of conflicting positions. And so you will always lean more toward one than the other, wavering back and forth.
Even if both partners begin the relationship from this seemingly equal standpoint, they will both be trying to exert their power as master over the other. This creates tensions and conflict. And this is why so many couples are always fighting. They are both trying to exert themselves over the other, trying to dominate the relationship, because ultimately there can only be one master.
In many cases one partner will eventually submit, allowing the more dominant partner to seize control. The master will enforce certain restrictions and boundaries upon the slave, while not necessarily adhering to the same standards and rules. Often one’s partner may take upon themselves the same restrictions, but only to insure you do the same. But in some cases, neither person is willing to submit to the other. Neither is willing to relinquish their power. And so, after many tense battles, they will separate and go their separate ways.
But there is another way to go about relating that has nothing at all to do with domination and control. What if we can recognize, instead, that we are each individuals with our own inherent right to personal freedom? What if we come to recognize that we can be in union with one another, to come together in sharing our energy, and yet still remain independent?
There’s the old saying, “If you love someone, set them free.” But often we’re afraid that if we set someone free they’ll leave us. The fact of the matter is that if someone is intent on leaving, they will likely do it regardless of whether or not we allow them to. But more than this, we need to understand that the more we try to restrain someone, the more they will yearn to escape. On the other hand, if you allow someone the freedom to come and go as they please, it is more likely that they will stick around because they appreciate the fact that you respect their freedom. And, if they don’t, then it simply means they don’t appreciate you, or maybe your just not aligned in some other way, so why would you want to waste your energy in a relationship that isn’t going to work out anyway?
In many relationships we place a great deal of expectation and obligation upon our partners. We assign them a specific role, and expect them to fulfill it according to our personal desires. We expect them to be obedient to us, to remain exclusive, to stay within well-defined boundaries, and never to deviate. We try to possess them and keep them confined. Once again, it is about exerting control. It is about taking on the roles of master and slave.
This kind of relationship is intended to secure the love of our partner, to keep it from slipping away. But in actuality it suffocates it. It snuffs it out. The simple reality is that love doesn’t work like that. Love is not a resource that one can simply extract from another.
The energy of love is fluid like water. You can hold it in your hands, so long as your hands remain open. But as soon as you try to close them… to grasp onto it… you lose it.
Love is also like a flower. As soon as you it cut it from its root, it begins to wither and die. To truly enjoy the beauty and fragrance of a flower, you must allow it to simply remain in its natural state.
To truly love someone means that you honor them for who they are; that you respect them. And if you respect them, you won’t try to force anything upon them. You will simply allow them to be. And if they choose, upon their own free will, to share themselves with you, the exchange of energy will be authentic. It will have a certain sweetness that cannot be bought with any amount of material riches.
The truth is that we can never truly possess the love of another living being. We can capture the body, confine it to a cage, but we cannot confine the heart. We cannot force that one to love us.
We can, however, create a safe space for love to come and dwell. We can invite it in and nurture it with kindness and compassion. And if we allow it to flow without restraint, it will fill that space with the sweetness of its fragrance. Love is only genuine when it’s free.