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The Freedom Advisor

Dear Advisor:

Up until last year, I was pretty happily married, hoping for kids, and doing the mainstream suburban life thing. Then I discovered Ayn Rand and the freedom philosophy, and my life has become really confused. I now reject a lot of the things I once believed in, like monogamy and Christianity and government support. My spouse is somewhat sympathetic to my new thinking in some areas, but is very religious and does not like many of my libertarian friends. I want to be open and honest with my spouse, but if I am completely open, it will probably mean the end of my marriage. I want to be free, but I also love [X] still, and want to continue that relationship. I guess this is what you've referred to as a "mixed marriage". My spouse really wants children, but given my situation I don't think that's a good idea right now. I feel like I'm doing a balancing act on a high wire, which I don't like, but I don't see how to get off it. Help!!?

No Way Out?

Dear No Way Out,

You're right; your marriage is a very good example of a mixed marriage. What I mean by that is that one partner is more pro-freedom, or more consistently pro-freedom, than the other. If the partners can be honest with each other about this, and accept their differences, it need not be a problem. Often times, however, the non-freedom-loving partner has a difficult time with this. Or, because of the differences, over time they can become big enough or important enough to put a large strain on the partnership; both partners can come to feel trapped and unhappy.

It's understandable that given the differences you perceive between your partner and yourself, you're reluctant to create children now. In fact, that's a strong signal that you shouldn't ignore. It's time for you to do some soul searching, my friend. Are your differences the reason why you don't want children? Or is it a fear that your marriage will end and you don't want them going through a divorce? Or, are you concerned about how your partner might want to raise your children (taking them to church, sending them to the thought police schools, etc.)? It's certainly understandable that you want to see if the relationship will change before bringing kids onto the scene (they never improve a marriage, no matter how much they're wanted and loved; they bring a large new set of stresses and challenges to be addressed). If it's either of the latter two reasons, though, you've more to address than the issue of children. If you have concerns about the relationship ending, then the source of those concerns must be examined. And if you think the home environment won't be a good one for raising children to be free, what effect is that same environment having on you now?

And that's the fundamental issue here--you. What's most important to you? What is it you need to be your best, and most complete? Is it this specific relationship? Is it more freedom than your partner seems able to accept? Only you can look deep inside yourself and find the answers to these questions, but be warned: you can hide or disguise the answers if you aren't fiercely honest with yourself. For example, it may feel like you need this specific partnership, but that could be due to fears of being alone or going through the dating scene again rather than truly valuing the relationship.

You say you feel like you're doing a balancing act. Is that really what you're doing--or are you hiding parts of your soul from your partner? If you've talked with your partner openly and fully about the changes you've been through, and where you are now, then you probably are on the high wire you describe. But if you haven't done that with your spouse, then it's likely you're hiding some fundamental aspects of your way of being, which isn't healthy for you or the relationship.

I'm not there, I don't know you and your partner and how you interact, but it might be possible that you've communicated less effectively than you realize--perhaps out of fear that your spouse wouldn't understand, or that doing so would mean the end of your marriage. Given how things have changed for you, and your understanding of how those changes will be met by your partner, it's pretty clear that it's important to come to terms with this possibility. It's possible that your marriage could end with or without these differences contributing to that. Your spouse could change and seek a split, or the effects of trying to live a life that no longer suits you could cause your partner to no longer love you, for example. Or, worse than a split, your spouse might make a project out of "saving" you, which would most likely escalate the mental sparring to open warfare between you. If you can prepare yourself for the very real possibility of a split, while working to avoid that, if staying together is what you really want, then you'll be much better able to deal with whatever outcome you create.

You say your partner is "somewhat sympathetic". Is it possible that your previous attempts to share these ideas went awry somehow? People have different styles of communicating and different ways of learning--if you were presenting the information in a way your spouse isn't comfortable with, or didn't make sense, it might reduce the "sympathy" exhibited. (As an example, some people are very comfortable with abstract ideas, while others aren't; they prefer to deal with the results of those ideas--the concrete effects they have on people.) Try sharing with your spouse again, starting with areas where she or he is most receptive to the freedom philosophy, and tuning your points--there should be no more than 2 or 3 to start with--to his or her communication style. This might mean taking you out of your preferred communication pattern, but if you value the marriage as much as you say, it should be worth the effort. Also, don't think that you're on your own here--share essays, books, songs, web sites, or other materials that are oriented to the issues and communication style your partner prefers. Ayn Rand's works appeal to those with an intellectual, analytical bent, while Rose Wilder Lane and Mary Ruwart are good for individuals who are more practically-minded. The science fiction of Robert A. Heinlein is another wonderful way to introduce pro-freedom ideas, particularly those relating to sex and sexuality. The possibilities are vast.

Encourage and enable the exploration as far as your partner is willing to take it. It may be that his or her current "upper limit" is within your range of acceptable freedom. It may also be that the uper limit will change, if you are successful helping your spouse to understand your new way of being better. And what a wonderful gift to give your spouse--opening the paths to greater freedom together! If this doesn't happen, then you can face the other possibilities--hiding aspects of your way of being in order to try to keep your marriage, or ending the marriage so that you can create the freedom you need--knowing that you have done your best to share your growth with your partner. Remember, marriage is an active partnership between two people--it takes both partners to be fully committed to it for it to work. I wish you the best.

Send your question to The Freedom Advisor--no serious question will go unanswered


(c) 2001

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