I always thought I’d be in a monogamous marriage.
You know the kind. That image of a happily married couple. Together and dedicated to one-another forever.
Holding hands, rocking on the front porch together in their rocking chairs.
That was the vision I had of us in our old age in my head.
Then 12 months ago something completely unexpected happened.
It’s not that that image has changed, particularly.
I still see us rocking together in our old age. Happy as sandboys.
It’s just that now I see things a bit differently.
When I told him about this post, he wanted me to be very clear (maybe in case his mother is reading this?!) that he is not sleeping with anyone else.
That really isn’t the point.
This post isn’t about Nick’s choices. It’s about my thinking about them.
In this post I share what I realised about myself and how that changed what I think about my husband, his life, and monogamy.
It was May 2016. And I was in a course in Vermont.
The topic? The Fundamentals of Structural Thinking.
Sounds boring, I know. (It’s not.)
The workshop – and its’ content – was fascinating and life-changing.
It was being run by mentors of mine, Robert and Rosalind Fritz. Their work is amazing – you should look it up. (I’ve put some links below this post, in case you want to).
Anyway. We were in the middle of a conversation about manipulation.
More specifically, the ways and reasons we manipulate ourselves and other people.
I’m not sure exactly what was said, but my mind suddenly flashed to the blog I was writing at the time.
It was a blog designed to help women become the best versions of themselves in their marriages.
I was loving writing it. And it was getting a lot of great feedback.
But in that moment, it suddenly dawned on me that my blog might be actually teaching people how to manipulate themselves – and, indirectly, their partners.
As someone who really values integrity, my heart sank.
And I was suddenly experiencing a massive inner conflict.
If what I was creating was really teaching people manipulation, then I was, all of a sudden, not cool with that.
The Statement that Changed Everything
In the coffee break, I dragged Rosalind aside.
I wanted her take on it.
Was I really teaching manipulation?
I shared my blog project with her – and that the conversation about manipulation had sparked my fears that my blog might be manipulative.
She asked me some questions about it, and I ended up sharing my take on relationships. Namely, that we should try to be the best we can be for each other.
The next thing she said has had the single most profound, and unexpected impact on my thinking – and my decisions about my life – than anything else I can remember ever being said to me.
“Well, you must not value Nick’s freedom then. Or your own, actually.”
I was dumb-founded.
Do I not value his freedom?
How did she get there?
As I processed it, I was shocked to realise that she was right.
I had never thought about freedom in that way, but the evidence was there in black and white.
I had been wanting Nick to be who, and how I think he should be.
In other works, ways that pleased me.
Now, those of you who have heard me talk about my husband will know I think he’s amazing. Because he IS amazing.
He is one of the most kind, supportive, generous people I know. And a phenomenal husband and father of our kids, to boot.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things I would change if I could wave a magic wand.
I’d like him to give more of a shit about home decor.
Waiting 12 months (I’m not kidding) to have him put up a framed picture, because I’m not allowed to do it because I might not do it perfectly enough, drives me batshit crazy.
I would make him put less pressure on himself when he’s feeling stressed about something.
I’d get the beloved ‘lemon loungers’ he lives in as far away from my house as I possibly could.
I wish he was less of a perfectionist about shit that – in my mind – doesn’t matter.
But that is who he is.
And I love him regardless.
The enquiry I went through
As I thought about it I realise that I actually do value his freedom.
Not only to be who he is.
Even though sometimes I think he’s crazy.
But also to do what he wants. Think what he wants. Feel what he feels.
This conversation penetrated deeply into my thinking over the coming days. (Excuse the pun).
I thought about all the ways I’d try to change him over the years.
And I thought about how I’d had a number – at least what I thought – of ‘really good reasons’ for trying.
His personal growth.
Our connection and intimacy.
What I realised
When I thought about it, all of these were actually selfishly for my happiness.
I had not been valuing his freedom, because I was making him changing important for my happiness.
In that moment, needing to change him for MY happiness was no longer ok.
As I continued to think about it I wondered how free it was ok with me for him to be.
I suddenly had a thought: given I value his freedom, do I value his freedom to sleep with other people?
And I realised I do.
I know, the answer surprised me too.
He has one life. One life to experience whatever he wants. And I don’t want to stand in the way of him experiencing what he wants.
If he wants to play, and try stuff out, I’m ok with it.
Personally if he wanted to play, I’d prefer to be there with him, but if he’d rather go play without me, that’s okay too.
But what if….
I’ve talked to friends about it, and one of the questions they ask is ‘what if he doesn’t come home – like ever?’
Well, if he doesn’t, he doesn’t.
If he’d rather spend his life somewhere other than with me, I value his freedom to make that choice.
Would I be devastated?
But his freedom is more important to me than the temporary feelings and practical reworking of my life that I’d have to do to find my feet again.
I love him unconditionally.
And I want for him whatever he wants for himself.
I want him to want to be with me because he wants to be with me. Not because he has to.
(And yes, he can keep his freakin’ god-awful loungers).
Am I saying that you should let your partner sleep with other people?
Before publishing this, I let my best friend read this post.
She asked me if I was suggesting that if other people value their husbands (or wife’s) freedom, does that mean they have to let them sleep with other people?
Now, please be clear in case that’s what you think I’m saying…
I’m not saying that everyone should – or needs to – be cool to let their partners sleep with other people.
I’m just saying that because Nick’s total freedom really matters to me, if he wants to, I’m personally cool with that.
If it’s important to you to have a monogamous relationship, that’s perfectly okay. You can value their freedom and have boundaries.
As a side note, I did question her use of the word ‘let’…. (“Should we ‘let’ our husbands….”)
If we value their freedom, it isn’t about ‘letting‘ them. (I fucking hate that word).
Our husbands are not our ‘property’ – or our children. They are living, breathing adults with free will to create the life they want.
Whether we have agreements or vows in place and whether we cage them up, whether we like it or not, they are truly free to do what they want.
It’s much more about knowing what we would do if they chose to exercise their freedom to do what they want.
And for what it’s worth, for one, want my husband to do what he wants without the fear of me being upset with – or leaving him. Monogamy is way less important to me than his freedom.
What about YOU?
Before I close off this post, I wanted to share some questions to give you the opportunity to explore ‘freedom as a value’ for yourself…
These questions are worth reeeeeally exploring.
You may see the answers reflected in your thinking about and behaviour towards all of your relationships and people in your life.
From your opinions about their choices, to the way you speak to and about them. To the way you may try to manipulate and control them to doing – or being – what you want.
It’s a massive, powerful + life-changing enquiry!
Do you value the freedom of the people in your life?
Your partner? Kids? Your parents? Siblings? Work colleagues? Clients?
Be clear… The question is not ‘are they free?’
The question is ‘do you VALUE their freedom?
Do you value their freedom:
To be who they are? (Even if you don’t like it and wish they were different)
To think how they think? (Even if you disagree)
To do what they do – and want to do? (Even if you think they shouldn’t)
Or do you try to insert yourself and your needs, wants, opinions and feelings into their life and their choices?
Here’s the life-changing eye-opener (if you’re willing to look…)…
Your answers provide clues into whether you value YOUR OWN freedom. Or whether you apply rules to your life that restrict and burden you.
When we obligate others to behave, think and be ways we want them to be, it suggests that we apply these same rules to ourselves too.
This causes us to obligate and burden ourselves in the same ways without realising it. I write about it in this post on 12 ways we inadvertently burden ourselves. If you want to explore your own freedom, it’s worth a read.
And again, for the record, neither my husband, nor myself have slept with anyone else while we’ve been together. But we’re open that maybe one day, we might.
Did you get something out of reading this about your own values – or relationships?
Since posting this post, I’ve received a number of private messages from people sharing what they’ve gotten for themselves and their relationships.
If you got something for yourself, I’d love to hear about it. Please leave a comment below – or feel free to send me a private message.
I’ve also copped a bunch of heat about this post from people who have clearly either not read it – or entirely missed the point. I wrote this post about their feedback – and why freedom is a conversation I’m going to keep leading.
P.S. I mentioned before that Robert’s work is phenomenal and life-changing. The power of structural dynamics in helping people create results, personally and professionally, is unlike any other method I’ve ever come across. Here is a 30 minute YouTube video that is a short section of the first course I took with Robert.
P.S.S. And here is one article that Robert wrote on conflict manipulation (a common type of manipulation we do of ourselves, and others) – and why it doesn’t work. It’s hugely insightful. If you’d like to learn more about structural dynamics, Robert has written a number of great books on the subject – available via Amazon and Kindle, including this and this and this.
P.S.S.S. In case you were wondering what happened to my old blog and my work, I decided to kill the blog. I could no longer, in integrity run it.
Having discovered the power of structural dynamics, two things happened.
I decided to down tools on my previous coaching and training programs and spend time reflecting on what I now wanted to create. And I decided to study under Robert and Rosalind in their certification program.
After months of soul-searching, I had my answer. What truly matters to me is freedom. My mission now, and the underlying reason for this blog, is to help people to create freedom for themselves.
For some that means helping them to create what truly matters to them. For others it means freeing themselves of the bullshit that binds and burdens them.
If either of those sounds good to you, I hope that I can help you to do just that. If you’d like to receive posts direct to your inbox, you can subscribe below.