Linda: There is an unconscious collusion of the freedom fighter and the connector to co-create a degree of closeness that is acceptable to them both. Although it seems like each wants one extreme or the other, in truth they are both unconsciously co-creating a system that is characterized by a degree of intimacy that they can live with. They can be on opposite ends of the spectrum, and when one moves towards or away from their partner, inevitably the other will accommodate the change by seeking a new equilibrium by moving in their direction.
The terms connector and freedom fighter are not a fixed characterological type. They are a role assumed in a relationship with a person who is prone to a different tendency. A connector can become a freedom fighter, and vice versa, depending upon the dynamics of the relationship.
The Turning Point
Coming out of denial about the ways we each frighten the other and taking responsibility for the ways we each contribute to the chaos and fighting, creates a turning point. Once we bring the pattern out into the open to reveal the fear that gets triggered, the intense discomfort begins to subside.
The Connector’s Growth: For the connector to outgrow their destructive patterns, it is necessary for them to turn their attention away from their partner to focus on the ways they have been contributing to the trouble. By keeping their focus on themselves, especially through bringing caring, nurturing attention to self, and using kind self-talk, the connector is not abandoning themselves. Through many repetitions of not abandoning themselves, the fear of being abandoned by their partner diminishes.
By putting themselves first in their own attention, once the connector does bring their attention to their partner, they are in a better position to see their positive qualities, rather than see them as the cold-hearted rejector. Rather than being the old reaction machine that was so toxic to the relationship, the connector finds that they have power over their choices to keep calm and speak in ways that don’t frighten their partner. The balance changes from angry outbursts and retaliation to more skillful interchanges.
The connector realizes that is was just an image they projected on their partner of being a rescuer who could redeem them from present and past suffering. When they adopt a realistic view of what is possible, their behavior changes to look to themselves and friends for care, freeing them from being so dependent on the one relationship. Feeling fed from work, hobbies, friendships, and spiritual practice are ways to become whole apart from the romantic relationship. Taking risks, and recognizing how they are growing, they hold themselves as worthy of self-respect, which goes a long way toward calming their persistent fear of abandonment.
The freedom fighter’s healing: The freedom fighter’s healing is different. They have a need for setting strong boundaries. Their work is to become more flexible in their boundaries and noting the prices they pay for holding such rigid ones. By allowing their boundaries to be permeable periodically, they come to understand that they have been missing the joy of connection. It is only through the experience of letting go and blending into the other, that they can feel the deepest closeness.
This joining is only temporary. The freedom fighter discovers that when they do allow themselves to merge, they can then emerge, safe and intact. The other person doesn’t swallow them up. They may be surprised to find that instead of being weakened by the experience, they are strengthened and enriched.
Freedom fighters redefine their faulty definition of intimacy. Their associations with intimacy as being dangerous because it’s filled with boundary violations, enmeshment, and exploitation gives way to a more realistic attitude. The newly adopted definition is one in which two people share their inner life with each other. The transition from the fearful associations with intimacy to trusting intimate relating comes with experiencing slowly over time, that revealing feelings, thoughts, needs, and desires is safe. They discover that their partner does not use their sharing to manipulate and control as their childhood caregiver did long ago.
Over time, the freedom fighter can hear the feelings, thoughts, needs, and desires of their partner and not slip into the role of feeling responsible for meeting their needs. They trust that they can establish boundaries and say “No” and that they can also say “Yes” if they choose. When they commit to staying present for close emotional encounters without fleeing, they learn that being close is not as dangerous as they imagined. They learn that their boundaries don’t have to be walls. Another task for the freedom fighter is to reframe vulnerability not as a weakness but as strength, so they don’t fear to expose their own need for closeness.
Moving beyond the old patterns does require that each partner to be willing to do their part for the rebalance to occur.
Stay tuned for Part 3…