Oppressed persons around the world have a legitimate reason to cry for freedom. The cry may start quietly and can reach a state of civil disobedience or even civil war. In Barbados, there are no comparable oppressed persons and the main cries for freedom are heard in relationships.
The more vocal cries come from children who do not understand the safety that results from boundaries set by their parents. In their desire to act without parental restraint, they cry for the freedom to pursue activities that can have long-term harmful consequences. Children do not always appreciate parental authority and discipline; however, when they become adults, they are either grateful for having been restrained, or regret not having been sufficiently restrained. Children’s cries for freedom from responsible parental set boundaries should therefore not be entertained.
The second major cry for freedom is typically silent, and comes from husbands or wives who feel trapped in a marriage relationship. Marriages can become partnerships, or they can degenerate into adversarial and apathetic type relationships.
In a partnership, each member wants the freedom to make mistakes and have such mistakes treated as part of their developmental process rather than being criticised for them. Each partner recognises that the partnership consists of two imperfect people who will inevitably make mistakes during the lifelong relationship. Mistakes are opportunities to review the incident and result in a renewed commitment to improve the relationship, while recognising that many more mistakes may be made before such improvement is evident.
Adversarial type relationships view the marriage from a different perspective. Mistakes or failed expectations become opportunities for criticism, shame and embarrassment. Unlike the partnership relationship, neither party feels confident that if they happened to make a mistake, or did something that fell below their spouse’s expectations, that they would be completely forgiven. Adultery is a special case not covered in this article.
If the relationship degenerates to the apathetic stage, then each partner has accepted that his or her desires will not be met, and has essentially stopped trying to improve the relationship. The typical justification is that a state of apathy is necessary to avoid arguments and to achieve a state of quietness in the home. Regrettably, the relationship does not develop into a partnership without the combined efforts of both partners.
If each partner were perfect, then there would be no disappointments from failed expectations. In adversarial and apathetic type relationships, one or both parties can experience the stress of living in the fear of not achieving someone else’s subjective standard of perfection. This can become a state of bondage where the silent cries are the loudest.
Married persons desire that their relationship become a partnership where they are appreciated for the things that they remembered to do, and not reminded about the things that they forgot to do. Where they feel encouraged for the commitments that they kept, and not reminded about the commitments that they broke. Where they feel loved for the times that they brought joy, and not reminded about the times when they caused sadness.
Fortunately, it is possible for adversarial and apathetic type relationships to become partnerships. It is better if remedial action is taken before the dominant party has extinguished all residual attraction. However, even if the attraction has been extinguished, it can be rekindled with love.
Love means to accept the other partner exactly as they are with all of their perceived faults, and to provide an environment in the home where they can flourish. This environment is one where criticism, shame, embarrassment, and nagging are absent. Where problems are discussed free from accusations and with the sole purpose of improving the marriage. It is also an environment where simple pleasures are enjoyed and not extinguished, where sacrifices are given and not demanded, where forgiveness is offered and not begged for, and where patience becomes second nature to both partners.
While a partnership should aim for a peaceful and pleasurable co-existence, this is simply a means to facilitate the execution of their purpose, which they should define together prior to or during their marriage.
Grenville Phillips II