What makes so many women and men offer explanations to an angry spouse, when they come home late from work? Wouldn’t it be more natural to expect their partners to understand their exhaustion, and welcome them home even more warmly? Why do people feel compelled to attend that Sunday family lunch if they’d rather go to the movies, wake up late or meet up with friends? Why would a boyfriend be entitled to tell his girlfriend how long her skirt should be? And why would she ever agree to change her outfit and see his conniption as evidence of his love? There’s only one answer to all of these questions: to avoid conflict with the people they love.
We often act that way unwillingly, because we are not brave enough to face the consequences of a disagreement. Human beings are afraid of rejection, direct criticism and moral judgment—we fear that if we stand up for ourselves, we’ll be abandoned and condemned to loneliness. So we’d rather just see these small, everyday compromises as minor losses and move on, without giving it much thought. However, over the years, the sum of restrictions on our modest, everyday, freedom becomes a compact package of grievances and disappointments, which only wears down the relationship.
We grow up believing that being alone is not only painful, but also socially regrettable (you try eating dinner alone at a trendy restaurant and see!) This misconception has made many people remain in a failed marriage or unhealthy relationship. But when a relationship truly ends and we have to live on our own, we get the chance to experiment small solitary pleasures: overtaking the remote control, sleeping with three blankets, going to the movies twice on one Sunday or wearing that daring dress.
Often, only this experience allows us to assess just how harsh were the restrictions to our freedom we had passively accepted. Finding that out makes us less tolerant to possessive, jealous and sometimes envious demands that are so common in romantic relationships. And with change, comes the question: “Am I becoming selfish?” No. We are all entitled to create our own way of life, even if it’s different from that of our family or social group.
When we finally understand how satisfying it is to be alone, we stop being afraid of facing our solitude, and rebel against the small, multiple rules of relationships. We then become freer, more able to even rebuild the base of relationships that confine us.
Relationship rules will then adjust to the new times, respecting the newly acquired individuality, and consequent freedom. It’s impossible to give up on such a gratifying change.
Tradução: Amanda Morris