Like most articles, this is the scourge of thoughts that have derived from recent discussions, personal experiences and observations.
This issue is one of my longstanding queries and I am happy to write about the truth that I have realised up until now.
I have mentioned in previous articles that we form relationships for a variety of reasons eg. insecurity, need for companionship, family creation, elimination of loneliness etc.
A relationship is the constant contact between two people in a context both internal (within the relationship) and external as each relationship occurs in a particular social context that has its own relational rules. For example, the expectation of expressing tenderness and acceptance of a straight couple and a gay couple varies from one society to another and this of course has some effect on the couple themselves.
When two people create a relationship they create that web of rules and expectations (within the general social context) about what is or is not allowed, about everyone's roles in the relationship, about each person's needs and desires and, also, the 'goals' (common vision) of the relationship.
As long as there is agreement and understanding on the above, then there is satisfaction that the relationship fulfils the expectations of its members. If there is a disagreement, then the members are being called to renegotiate all or some of the terms of the original agreement, with the possibility of not being able to reach an agreement and decide to fulfil their wishes separately in another relationship.
This 'technical' description of a relationship reflects one of the basic ways that a free person operates on in the same way that he would decide to change jobs by choosing one that would provide him with more money and greater overall satisfaction.
But how much understanding and freedom does a person have when their desires contradict the prevailing expectations of society?
How much understanding and freedom, for example, did someone have 70 years ago when they wanted to break up from a marriage, a woman who didn't want to marry and have children, a lesbian couple who wanted to have a child?
In different periods each society has got its own regularities (norms) that provides homogeneity ans a sense of security and continuity. It certainly has its benefits in knowing that one must follow a particular path in the society she lives in order to be loved and to enjoy its privileges.
We all learn these norms and expectations in childhood as they constitute our main models of societal roles. This is what we saw our father and mother, uncle and aunt, cousin and cousin doing. As we follow these rules we feel loved, if we stop following them then we risk of losing that love.
If one's wishes do not live up to society's expectations, then he has two options, either to support his wishes at any cost or to be oppressed by playing the role society demands of him to play. Imagine what people have done in the examples above: The person who wanted to split up either remained unhappy in the marriage or got divorced with a social outcry, the woman who didn't want to marry and have children, either eventually had children or she was marginalised and was derogatory features by the community and the lesbian couple either they remained best girlfriends or they broke up in order to become mothers.
Gradually some societies changed because more people claimed their wants beyond the norms and at any cost (see trans history etc.).
Every relationship is to a certain extent a representation of society as all the unconsciously learned rules seek to be re-applied to a new form (relationship). The material and dynamics of the members of this new relationship are slowly called within the relationship to deal with these rules. At this point the question of companionship or slavery arises.
If each member prioritises the rules he has learned against his own will, then he ends up in slavery, a replica of other relationships.
Otherwise the members negotiate their wishes against the existing (internal) rules, reject the ones that do not suit them and come up with a synthesis that satisfies them.
There is no right and wrong and all options have their benefits and costs!
In the latter case there is no 'knowing'. Alone or in a relationship someone decides to create a new path of freedom, where he can set up his own rules and live exactly as he wants without the expectations of others even if he has to lose from his life some people that he loves.
Creating such a relationship of freedom where its members can set their own rules and freely satisfy
their wishes is not an easy task. They both need to be genuinely vulnerable by expressing their wishes, expectations, and insecurities that have so far been covered by existing societal rules. It can also include a lot of fear of the unknown, fear of the possibility of abandonment, anxiety about being accepted by the other and so many more difficulties.
Choosing such a position is, after all, an ever-evolving but pure life stance where our primary relationship, that is to say with ourselves, is not based on lying, hiding, security at all costs and fear but on love, honesty, care, freedom, and courage that are needed to surrender to the truth and the process of exploring one's self.
After all, a relationship (with oneself and significant others) can be that safe and loving space where all parties can explore the wide spectrum of their existence as well as all the possibilities of being with, helping and deeply loving another human being without giving up their own freedom.
As always the choice and responsibility is a personal matter ...