The ongoing battle to hold on to our hard-earned personhood while in a love relationship demands self-confidence and self-awareness. But what about encouraging your beloved to also be an individual? What about having the maturity (hate the word) and wisdom (a much better one) to grant them -- nay, encourage them -- to own breathing space to be themselves? (Risky business, that, because neither of you knows for sure which direction your growth will take you, so loss is a distinct possibility.) But take it from me: The wisdom to allow a loved one his or her own destiny is the rarity that separates spoiled brats from adults in the exceedingly grown-up game of love. Holding your cards loosely takes guts, for sure. And yet it's the only way to earn the respect and esteem at the core of the real thing.
Yes, love has imposters, to be recognized and avoided. Cloying jealousy is often mistaken as true love but is soon enough unmasked and revealed to be massive insecurity and possessiveness. Tight control of the partner, another of Love's false facades, insists on strict dominion (masquerading as deep concern) over the Other and in time achieves total control, but at exorbitant cost. The one being controlled builds up layer after layer of silent resentment that finally erupts in deep mood swings; fits of temper; long, morose silences. However cloaked, resentment of being controlled has long since extinguished love's fires. Lovers who must control -- or must be controlled -- cannot risk releasing the beloved. And so they are denied love's huge payoff: mutual respect.
But don't mistake a loosely held relationship for openness. True love definitely has its boundaries and rules, understood and agreed to by both beloveds. Yes, this is freedom all grown up, ready to stand on its own, not in the shadow of the beloved -- but not far away, either. (A cheating sex life finds no dark corners in this sunlight, no nourishment in this healthy environment and so is drawn to a totally different kind of openness.)
This sort of loving needs the vaulted openness of spirit -- the generosity shared by committed lovers that gives each one their own space, their own mind, their own personhood. Devoutly to be wished.
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