It is paradoxical but true that the ties that bind are the ties that loosen the bonds of human relationship. It happens in so many relationships that we try our utmost to hold onto the object of our affections and succeed in losing it. It is most often seen in parents ʻimprisoningʼ their children.
I know of a young lecturer who seldom goes to his parents. He says, “I love my parents all right, but I am really afraid of visiting them as they are very possessive and treat me not as a being but as a piece of their property.”
Another common manifestation of it is seen in the overpossessive wife. She becomes a virtual jailor and would not allow her husband to move out alone even if his business and prestige suffer.
This occurs in intimate friendships too. I know of one such friendship where one friend crippled the otherʼs independence of action by laying excessive claims on his time and attention.
Its acutest form is seen in two people in love. The more insecure of the two gets fits of jealousy, the purpose of which is to ʻimprisonʼ the beloved one to retain a monopoly of his or her affection.
In our desperate attempts to hold on, we grip too tightly or pull the strings too tightly, thus damaging the delicate relationships.
Take the metaphor of a child trying to hold a pet bird in his hands. If he keeps his palm open, the bird stays, the moment he tries to close his fingers, the bird feels uneasy, flutters and flies away. This is the case with human relationships. The more we try to clutch too tightly, the object of our love tries to move away from us as his or her sense of security and independence are threatened.
In other words, the object resents our imposition of emotional and mental slavery. No one likes to be a pale and ineffectual copy of anotherʼs will.
In our desire to hold anotherʼs affection we tend to overlook the lesson that the closest relationship is sustained and nurtured by loose bonds.
The head of one of the closest and happiest families I know told me, “I never believed in holding my children by tying them too closely to me. I let them feel free. I have watched them making mistakes knowing a difficult experience was the best for them. Had I protected them, it would have pained me all the more to see them blundering in adult life.”
How different from another another situation where the son is neither allowed a free hand in the money he earns nor in the time he has. His parents look upon him as a son par excellence, a model of filial duty obedience.
But the son laments along with his wife, “We have no life our own. We are mere extensions of our fathers and mothers.”
They do not have the courage to overthrow the ʻimperialistsʼ as years of emotional and mental slavery have drained all independence from them. The stronger we want our relationships to be the greater the necessity of allowing blank spaces which can act as shock absorbers.
We forget that mighty oaks cannot grow in tiny flower pots.
ʻOpening our palmsʼ requires some mental readjustments. We have to put aside our rights, our inflated egos, our easily-hurt feelings. Life would become easier and free from emotional stabs if we were not to expect much from others. Then, when something pleasant happens, we are agreeably surprised.
This attitude brings relief, reassurance, and serenity. By loosening our bonds, we never lose a relationship.
The loosening allows more room for enabling the ʻrootsʼ to go deeper. It strengthens our relationships.