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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Love & Being Autonomous


Typically when autonomy in love gets discussed in my office, people object, because we believe, we feel, that when we love, when we are in love, there is no longer any room for autonomy, as we are, so to speak, glued at the hip. We need each other. We become dependent on the other.

Oh, we all know that you leave in the morning to go to your job, and I go to mine, and that you have your poker night out, or perhaps it's football, or even opera, and I have my bridge club night out, or perhaps it's my book club night or even night classes at law school for the next who-knows-how-many years ... so of course we aren't glued at the hip. Don't you see - they tell me - we do so much apart, we even have some friends we don't share and all these activities. Really, glued at the hip - not us, we are of another generation than our parents.

I agree. We do all of the above and more and so apparently we are no longer glued at the hip the way so many previous generations were. We make our own money, our own decisions and have become quite emancipated in all matters pertaining to love, no matter our gender.

But this is what is missing, not with everyone, but with mostly everyone: we continue to be glued at the hip because we still fall apart if our partner is not in a good place with us. By that I mean that if you see his/her face over the breakfast table in a certain way, or if he/she comes home from work looking a certain way, you already know something is wrong and it affects you in your innermost self, in that place where you feel good or bad about yourself, even if your partners swears it has nothing to do with you.

In a nutshell, what is happening is that your well-being is hung up inside the place where you feel good only as long as the beloved is also in a good place. When he/she is not, due to any number of reasons external to the relationship, and is not in a good place him or herself, then you find it very difficult to extricate yourself from that place where you feel - against all logic - that it must have something to do with you and therefore you continue to feel not as optimal as you could until this element that is external to the relationship has been resolved.

An example that is slightly closer to home is when the partner actually feels upset or annoyed or impatient or jealous or whatever about something you have done - or they simply believe you have done, and are now in this not-so-good-place with regards to how they behave with you, and your inner world tends to collapse, and you will often do whatever it takes to re-establish the equilibrium.
That's what it means being glued together at the hip. And it's not a pretty picture. Not for you and not for your partner because they will have similar reactions, even though one of the two may notice it more than the other, or hide it better than the other. That is generally the dominant partner.

Here's the thing: until you are emotionally independent of your partner in the sense that you are taking such good care of yourself on all levels including the one where you love yourself, and unless you have reached a point where your responsibility for yourself embraces absolutely all aspects of your life, you will not be able to totally unglue yourself from the hip of the other. This is a process that begins with becoming aware of exactly what is going on.

A final point: "unglueing" yourself from your partner does not mean not loving your partner. It doesn't mean not wanting to spend as much time as possible with your partner. But it does mean feeling good, experiencing inner well-being both when you are not together. Even when something goes awry and you see that strange look on his/her face, you don't jump to the conclusion that it has to do with you. And if it does have to do with you, you talk about it, but you don't fall into the trap of feeling bad about yourself because of it. If you need to change something in your behavior, you will do so. But your inner autonomy, based on your love for yourself, will keep you from losing yourself inside the web of need. Self-love and self-responsibility will help you grow out of dependence.

Note: click on the labels below for more posts on these subjects.

Photo Credit: Kilian Schoenberger

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