Many years ago, my wife, Christine, and I attended a “hippie” wedding where the bride and groom vowed to each other: “I Give Thee Freedom.” We thought it funny and curious to start a marriage in this fashion, a time when many couples promise to cleave to one another. But this phrase has stuck in my mind, through the years, and has been instructive in its counsel.
Of course, no one can really give us freedom. It’s there for the taking. The psychiatrist and Nazi concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl, pointed out that even in extreme circumstances one still has the freedom of choice regarding one’s attitude and search for meaning. But, in our daily lives, we so often convince ourselves that someone else is squelching our freedom, imprisoning us. We blame others for our inaction or passivity in order to avoid facing our fear of loss, failure, rejection, or, worst of all, “looking silly.”
In the earlier part of our marriage, I was quite dependent on Christine, wanting her to make my life meaningful. She resisted my clingy behavior, saying she felt like “you want to chop me up and spread me on toast.” She made it clear that she needed a certain degree of privacy and independence. I gradually ventured out into the world to make friends and develop passions. Witness my love and pursuit of dancing.
It feels wonderful to be supported in my individual pursuits. Though a non-dancer, Christine often cuts out articles for me about dancing. This love helps me to extend my support for her separate ventures. The mutual encouragement of freedom in our marriage has been accompanied by a strong commitment to honesty and trustworthiness, necessary ingredients for freedom to flourish in a relationship.
It’s a wondrous love to be accepted, respected, and encouraged to be more fully oneself, to be given the space to become and then to become again.