Not that I was super aware of it.
It was more of a niggling anxiety that showed up whenever things got tough: during arguments, or when my own wants and needs contradicted those of my partner.
It was based on this belief:
That relationships kill freedom.
I had this idea that being single meant I could make whatever choices I wanted. That I didn’t have to think about how my actions affected others, because I answered to no one but myself.
On the other hand, I thought that being in a relationship meant compromise:
That it meant being ‘responsible’ for someone else and giving up my own needs to cater for the needs of my partner.
I thought it meant being restricted.
So having this kind of semi-conscious belief, you’d think I’d have spent most of my younger years being single right?
Nope. I was in a relationship more often than not.
But what I did was shrink my own wants and needs as small as possible in an effort to keep my relationships smooth and easy.
I’d try my hardest not to impose or be disagreeable. I was a ‘yes’ girl. Which meant I spent a lot of time biting my tongue and suffocating my dreams.
As you can imagine, burying myself like this made for a lot of resentment.
Relationships felt smothering to me, because I was smothering me.
Self-fulfilling prophecy much?
So when things got tough (and they always got tough, because #spoileralert: EVERY relationship has its challenges) what did I do?
I cut and run.
Because I believed staying = less freedom, while leaving = more.
How To Find Freedom in a Relationship
With freedom as one of my highest values, I was never going to stick around in a relationship if it meant less freedom.
And so it was that I never fully committed. I always kept one foot out the door. Never going as deep with my partner as I could (or probably should) have.
I hadn’t thought about this for a while until recently when speaking with a client.
She felt like being in her relationship meant sacrifice. Compromise. That she didn’t have the freedom to change her mind, or follow her soul.
Not surprisingly, this was causing huge problems for her.
While she loved her partner deeply, she was struggling with her sense of self-worth and personal power. She felt trapped, smothered, disempowered and restless, causing overwhelming anxiety in all areas of her life.
It sounded oh-so familiar to me.
But as we started to work through what she was feeling, I realised something truly liberating:
I don’t feel that way anymore.
My relationship isn’t restrictive, and I don’t feel trapped or smothered. I no longer feel like my needs are suffocated, or that I have to compromise. In fact, I feel quite the opposite.
Reece and I are married, and the idea of life-long commitment now feels exciting. I don’t feel less freedom. I feel MORE.
So what changed?
Is it just the relationship I’m in now? The type of person my partner is versus the partners I used to have?
The changes have happened in me.
There’s been two major shifts – the same two shifts I supported my client through.
1. Take Responsibility For Your Own Needs & Desires
(and speak them out loud)
It’s scary speaking your truth. Especially in a relationship.
In the early days it’s so much easier:
You can talk about what you want and what you don’t want, and if your new partner disagrees, the stakes aren’t quite so high. You can walk away if you’re not a good fit, or you’re not heading in the same direction.
The differences often don’t matter that much and they’re easy to ignore.
And difference is also a big part of what makes a new relationship so exciting. The thrill of the unknown creates a lot of dramatic (and sexy) tension.
But as your relationship deepens, the stakes get higher.
As you care more for your partner, you care more about what they think. It’s harder to shrug things off because their acceptance and approval of you is more important now. Their disagreement can feel like a personal challenge that cuts to the core.
If you share a need or desire with your partner…
- “I want to move overseas.”
- “I’m going to quit my job.”
- “I’d like to be having more sex.”
…you don’t always know how they’ll respond. Or even worse – you think you know EXACTLY how they’ll respond:
You’re scared they won’t accept you. Or that they won’t be OK with what you want.
And that hurts.
Because you’re so much more invested in each other’s lives. It’s not so easy to walk away if you disagree.
And so the solution seems simple: bottle it up and don’t talk about it.
Obviously, that ‘solution’ doesn’t work so well. Resentment festers. A mental tug-of-war between what you want as an individual, and the harmony you want in your relationship begins. It can be downright crazy-making.
The real solution is this:
Say the thing anyway.
If you want your needs met, you have to self-validate. You have to speak up. You have to know that no matter how your partner reacts – your wants and need are worthy of being shared.
Because here’s the thing:
It’s the fear of how you’ll be received – rejected, abandoned, judged – rather than the relationship itself, that creates the feeling of restriction.
And taking responsibility for your own needs is the first step to finding freedom in a relationship.
2. Challenge the idea that being in a relationship means less freedom
In the past, I would focus on all the ways I thought I couldn’t find freedom in a relationship:
- “I have to prioritise what someone else wants…”
- “I have to consider how my actions affect my partner – don’t be selfish…”
- “Compromise and be selfless…”
But there were two powerful truths I was completely ignoring:
I didn’t have to do anything. I was simply choosing not to (or unwilling to accept the consequences of choosing not to). Either way, still my choice.
But most importantly:
There are actually SO many ways that my relationship gives me MORE freedom.
And that’s the truth that really shook things up.
When I started to challenge this idea that ‘a relationship means less freedom’, I realised just how wrong I was.
The support of my partner when times are tough is incredibly liberating and enabling. Those times when I’m burnt out, insecure, overwhelmed or lost – the loving and insightful guidance of my man means I’ve been able to do MORE of the things I want, not less.
And, relationships are freakin’ FUN!
Reece and I have the most amazing adventures together – travelling the world, starting our business, sleeping out under starry desert skies and exploring bustling Turkish markets by the sea.
Sure, I could do these things by myself. But sharing them with someone else has brought me so much joy, and yes – freedom.
Not to mention all the ways being with him has taught me to love and accept those parts of myself that I thought were completely shameful and unlovable. That’s been perhaps the most liberating thing of all.
And so it is that I’ve come to realise that being in a relationship can actually bring me more freedom, not less.
It’s all in how I look at it, and how I show up.
What about you? What are all the ways you feel freedom in a relationship?
And how can you take more responsibility for your needs?
Hi, I’m Jodie - a life, love, and sexual empowerment coach. I work with women and couples to help them create the lives, love, and sex they’ve always wanted. More love, more passion, more pleasure, and more fulfilment.
Apply for a complimentary 1:1 coaching session here.