In her wonderful book, “Mating in Captivity”, Esther Perel says that the tension between security and freedom is “.. a paradox to manage, not a problem to solve.”
Relationships often hold an underlying question: “How can we feel safe and secure together as well as get enough life-giving freedom and excitement?” Differences about this can appear everywhere: in socializing, managing children, time keeping, hobbies and above all in romance, love and sex.
Problems arise when one partner embodies all the security/safety and the other, all the freedom/excitement. For example: “Why the hell do I have to do all planning and making sure things are properly organised?” – “Stop worrying, it will be fine. Lets get some fun and spontaneity in our lives.”
A power struggle may arise; each partner seeing the other as a threat to their particular kind of life-giving oxygen – security and freedom. As positions harden, each believes that their way of living is “right” and the other’s “wrong”.
Of course nobody is right, for we all need freedom and security; we just need them in different ways.
However, if both these people are pushed into a defensive corner, each will lose the very thing they seek. Free spirits, trying to prove a point, can come unstuck and end up alone and insecure. Security seekers, under threat, in scrabbling to gain absolute control, can end up feeling fruitless and empty.
The only way to manage this sort of impasse is to stop arguing the small stuff and have some deeper conversations. Free spirits might tell about their fear of feeling trapped with spontaneity gone; about why risk and excitement is life-giving for them and what help they need with handling mundane tasks. Those who seek security may say how loss of control frightens them; how they would like support when approaching life’s inevitable risks and what assistance they need for more excitement and fun.
Only when we are brave enough to accept the legitimacy of our partner’s inner fears and wishes, are we willing to change; harmony becomes accessible.
As Esther Perel says, the tension between security and freedom is “.. a paradox to manage, not a problem to solve.”
With thanks to:
Mating in Captivity by E Perel,
The State of Affairs by E Perel,
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