The Un-Couple

Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

-Charles Bukowski

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The Paradox of Uncoupling

Uncoupling is about Unconditional Love.

If you’ve read the first two posts, then you are likely wondering why would any two people who love each other so well choose to avoid being together—as a couple. So here’s the primary explanation. Uncoupling isn’t about being single, or alone; it’s about being completely independent and free while loving someone else, and also letting them be completely independent and free. It’s actually about unconditional love. Unconditional in this context means there are no conditions in which you stop loving each other. Love in this context means that you treat your person with all the things that word encompasses: kindness, respect, honesty, compassion, tolerance, generosity, appreciation, and acceptance. Do we only do this when we are satisfied with each other. No! We do it regardless. That means he or I may choose to do something the other isn’t partial to, but that’s not reason to try and manipulate the situation to our own favor. We communicate openly and respectfully about it. The discussion isn’t to persuade the other, it’s simply to understand each other. What happens when you treat another person in this way? A deep level of trust and safety forms.

For instance, I may want to spend a weekend traveling with a friend; he may have wanted to spend that time with me. However, I simply don’t want to because I want to have a different experience. Since we have no obligations or expectations of each other, I don’t have to feel guilty for that. He is also safe to share his disappointment if he needs to, without repercussions, just as I am safe to say I want to do something different from him. That’s freedom and love happening simultaneously. Neither of us will recoil, shame, or blame the other even when we experience discomfort because of something the other chooses. Remember, controlling others nearly always pushes them away. If not in the moment, then assuredly it will cultivate a tenacious resentment over time.

I have complete freedom to be who I want to be at all times. This means when I want to be alone, or travel with friends, or explore another person, I get to decide these things. My companion chooses not to intervene lest he will tamper with my truest wishes. Since he doesn’t want to do that, I feel even more loved and appreciated for who I actually am. I don’t feel pressure to show up in any specific way, I don’t feel obligated to alter what I feel or do to make him happy. One of the gifts we enjoy most is seeing the other happy; and we never seek to put fences around how it happens. I want for you what you want for you.

The Paradox

Ironically, since there is no pressure to be anything but my authentic self, it makes me want to prioritize his feelings. So in the end, do I consider his feelings when I make decisions? YES! I absolutely care if he feels forgotten, or unimportant, or undervalued. Those things matter to me so I nurture a sense of love, acceptance, and value in hopes that it makes him feel appreciated. The paradox is that his complete acceptance for who I am makes me prioritize his feelings beyond what I thought I was capable of. His lack of any control about what I do or how I feel is validating, safe, generous, and respectful. If I felt there was an expectation or pressure to prioritize his feelings over mine, it would feel like confinement. I also receive his love in the same way, because I give the same things to him. This means there’s nothing that can come to the table that can turn us away from each other. Even other people.

Disclaimer: Nothing of what I speak is relevant where there is emotional, physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse. Please know that violation of your safety and human rights is never to be tolerated. Please speak to a professional if you are unsure whether this is happening in your relationships. Therapists are a great place to start. You can always search for a clinical professional by visiting Psychology Today at the link below,and searching by your city, insurance, concerns, and other preferences.

What I’ve Observed

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe.

Marilyn vos Savant

When I look at other relationships, a great many have countless conditions and pressures placed on them. For instance, many of my clients could never share with their spouse that they feel lonely in their relationship, that they still find others attractive, that sometimes they think about a different life. They aren’t able to take time for themselves, or have dreams that don’t include their partner. Some can’t even have a meal without sharing what they ate with their significant other. The conditions go on and on. Some people are so used to this style of relationship, they don’t even realize the emotional exhaustion they are experiencing as a result. They complain of depression, anxiety, emptiness, but don’t realize it is because they’ve lost so much autonomy. The result of these rigid romantic agreements in relationships is a loss of self, agency, and creative personal expression. Contrary to what many think, I believe having thoughts and feelings that stray away from the core relationship are normal; even in healthy long term partnerships. The human mind evolves throughout our lifespan. It is creative, untamed, intelligent. It is only natural to wonder, and to wander; I therefore wouldn’t punish or shame another for what is natural and likewise wouldn’t want that for myself.

I realize that the utter sense of anarchy in my circumstances may be untenable for many. A relationship without any rules or boundaries isn’t easy, and one must possess at minimum a strong skillset in healthy communication, and a healthy sense of self and security. Not everyone is ready for that, they still require a great deal of personal work to heal earlier attachment wounds, or later life emotional injuries. Moreover, couples raising children or living together have more challenges to negotiate, further complicating this issue.

However, the relevance of unconditional love is still valuable to consider. Can you share all of your feelings and thoughts with your partner comfortably—especially those feelings that might invite jealousy? How is your relationship constructed? Are there expectations of each other? What are they? Have you had honest conversations about these expectations? What conditions do you have for your partner and how are they affected by them? Have you asked them this question?

Let’s consider an example. What if your partner said, “Thinking about forever is scary to me.” How would you respond? What feelings would emerge? Anger? Fear? Jealousy? Would you feel that statement implies that you are not good enough for forever? How would you communicate those emotions? With language of blame and control? Should and Must statements? Would you accuse them of not loving you enough?

Or would you say with compassion and empathy, “Tell me more about that feeling? Where does it come from? This scares me, but I want to understand.”

Which of the two responses demonstrates love? In the latter, we are telling our partner that their feelings are valued, safe–and you are there to be a listener, a supporter. In contrast, the first approach sends the signal that certain emotions are not allowed. You are telling your partner what they can and cannot feel. Consider how this impacts a person over time. What are the long term implications of these tiny moments of invalidation? Do you notice evidence of a breakdown in your intimacy and connection as a result? Do you feel these conditions being placed on you? How does it impact you?

If you can’t be completely uncoupled, what are ways in which you wish you had freedom within your own relationship? What makes this impossible—Social ideologies? Fear? Have you ever thought about these concepts? How can you start making your relationship more unconditional now?

I’d love to hear your perspectives and feedback. Have a question? Ask, I may write about it!


2 responses to “The Paradox of Uncoupling”

  1. The paradox!! Although, difficult to explain and fully comprehend, I can say I have experienced it and know it to be true. It creates a deepness of understanding and the highest level of respect. When I know I am free to spend my time as I please and my partner is too, we know that when we are together it is because we are CHOOSING too, not out of guilt or obligation. Then by knowing it’s okay to do that, the level of communication increase as a result. Inevitably, the closeness to that person increases because I am able to be authentic without judgment or “should” statements. Able to be my truest self and able to show up as I want in this life with the person that I choose to spend that time with. I didn’t believe in unconditional love until understanding and beginning to live the paradox. Excited for the next blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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