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A Freedom Worth Fighting For

Love and marriage seem like a natural combination---at least if you believe the lyrics of old songs---but freedom Jim Duzakand marriage? To many, that’s a bit of a stretch, if not an outright contradiction. After all, the ball-and-chain image still endures as a symbol of marriage, especially among men. But women, too, often bemoan the suffocating aspects of traditional marriages. (Laura Kipnis, in her book, “Against Love”, catalogued nearly ten pages worth of unwritten marital prohibitions, such as “You can’t go out when the other person feels like staying home, particularly in the evening…You can’t take a nap when the other person wants to talk…You can’t be silent without being grilled about what’s really bothering you…You can’t express your opinion about something that might make the other person uncomfortable…”).

If your definition of freedom is the right to say or do what you damn well please, any time you please, you’re certainly going to have a problem with marriage. But you’ll also have a problem with being employed, with being a parent, with maintaining friendships or family ties, or participating in any activity that requires mutual accommodation. The truth is, we are rarely, if ever, totally free of restraints when it comes to other people in our lives. The challenge for most of us is how to live happily and authentically within those restraints. The good news is that it can be done, although it may take some imagination and courage to achieve it.

If you find yourself struggling with issues of freedom and self-expression in your marriage, you may want to re-think your notion of what a marriage should be. Too often, we take it for granted that we should have the kind of marriage that our parents had, or that our brother, sister, or best friend has. Those people may indeed have great marriages (or so we think), but they’re not us. They’re different people, with different values, needs, and expectations, different ways of communicating, different ways of handling problems. What works for them may not work for us.

Instead of trying to imitate a marital model that doesn’t suit you and never will, you may want to create what I call an unconventional marriage. I’m not talking about a marriage in name only, or an “open” marriage, or a marriage without shared experiences, intimacies, or quality time together. Quite the contrary. I’m talking about a marriage that allows, and even encourages, the spouses to be together when being together is what they truly want, and to be apart when private time is needed. I’m talking about a marriage that values trust, confidence, maturity, and an appreciation of individual differences. I’m talking about a marriage that embodies the belief that the best marriage is a freely-chosen partnership of two fulfilled people.

I’ve been thinking about these issues a lot lately because I just got back from a week-long vacation by myself. Although my wife and I usually go places together, and I’ll always consider her my ideal travel companion, once or twice a year we each go somewhere alone. It’s usually when one of us wants to go to a place, or pursue an activity, that doesn’t particularly interest the other person. I happen to love road trips, and this time I put over a thousand miles on a rental car driving through the hills of eastern Tennessee and into the Smoky Mountains. I enjoyed seeing sights I don’t get to see in Arizona, I enjoyed talking to strangers in bars and hotel lobbies, and I even---for a couple of days, anyway---enjoyed the humidity.

But in a way, the best part of the trip was coming home and telling my wife about everything. We had communicated by phone almost every day, but I loved describing in greater detail the things I saw and the people I met. And I know it will be the same for my wife when she travels solo to New York next week to see friends and relatives, and to Las Vegas later this summer on a business trip.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that you should have a marriage like ours (after all, imitating us is no better than imitating your parents or your best friend; as I said, we’re all different). But I am saying that you should look hard at your marriage and try to see if a little more alone-time can ease the pressures that have been building up, and allow you to grow as a person.

But what if your spouse likes things just the way they are? The simple answer is that you’ll have to proceed slowly and sensitively. You’re going to have to explain that you’re in search of the kind of experience that will eventually enrich his life as well as yours. You’ll have to reassure him that you understand that with freedom comes responsibility, and that you’re not seeking a temporary escape from your marriage vows. But you’ve got to start somewhere. Otherwise, the ball-and-chain image will be all-too-real, and, sadly, you’ll think of freedom as something that ended the day you said, “I do.”

Enjoy More Articles from Jim Duzak

Divorce lawyer and mediator, relationship coach and counselor, former dating service owner, Jim Duzak has been called the “Attorney at Love.” He is a graduate of Central Connecticut State University and Boston College Law School, and lives in southeastern Arizona with his wife, Sandra. For more information go to http://www.attorneyatlove.com/ or visit Jim's Blog - www.attorneyatlove.blogspot.com/




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