How often do you take the time to do things on your own? Without your spouse/partner?
Or is almost every activity you do together?
Every once in a while I get an ah ha moment about what I was doing wrong in my marriage. Usually they come out of nowhere and often hit me upside the head.
And naturally it’s when I’m doing something wrong with my new partner.
Recently, while working through the online course Rekindling Desire by Esther Perl, my partner and I came to the section about autonomy. And suddenly a lightbulb came on.
When speaking about maintaining desire Esther says that, “in order for desire to thrive in a relationship there needs to be a certain level of differentiation or autonomy in a relationship.”
She give examples of:
- Do you visit with your friends, male or female, on your own?
- Are your family visits always as a couple or do you see your parents on your own at times?
- Do you go to watch movies you really wanted to see or only ones that you agree on together?
All of these examples took me back to my marriage.
In Esther’s practice as a sex therapist she says it is most often women who come to her with this issue of, “I lose myself when I am in a relationship.”
I said this after my marriage ended and I have had coaching clients say this to me as well.
So why do we, as women, do this?
I believe that it may be due to lack of confidence and self esteem.
I met my ex husband when I was 19. I was working on self confidence and esteem the entire 24 years we were together. In hindsight I now can see how I always had a fear of what if he meets someone else when I”m not with him? What if that person is more of everything that I am not? Happier, healthier, nicer, more energetic, fill in the blank here. Somewhere in my life I had come up with this belief that couples should always do things together. I didn’t want him having experiences without me and besides shouldn’t we be creating memories and a life together?
I just want to say here that there is a big difference in knowing what you were doing that wasn’t working and then actually behaving in a totally different manner than what you used to. (this is where that self awareness part comes into play.)
Fast forward to 3 years ago. I’m now 47 and I’ve got the self confidence thing down. I’ve spent time on my own and like it. I know that I’m ok without a partner, I want one but I don’t have to have one to be happy in my life. (trust me this took some work on my part.)
In comes the “new” relationship. This time I know I need my autonomy, because I’ve had it for 4 years and I’m not prepared to lose myself in this relationship like I did in my marriage. Because I I know this about myself it’s now easier for me to also be able to give autonomy to my new partner. And as he is also 47 he has no intention of giving up his autonomy, which he clearly tells me as we begin dating.
Esther says it is our ability to tolerate the separateness that helps to maintain desire. I say that it is key not only to maintaining desire in your partner but that it is key to being able to maintain your marriage or common law relationship, period!!
Without that autonomy there is going to come a point where you wake up and wonder , “Where did the old me go?”
What do you need to wrestle with to be able to give your spouse or partner more autonomy?
What feelings within you need to be worked through, stretched or spoken about to be able to do this?
Can you find the courage to ask for the autonomy that you’ve been wanting but have not been taking? Better still, can you find the courage to give your partner the autonomy he/she may be asking for?
Taking time to be more autonomous may be just the thing you need to prove to yourself that your stronger than you thought you were.
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