Posted on June 16, 2020


You’re an adult.  You can do what you want.  You don’t need permission.

Many partners bristle when they feel that they have to get permission from their mate to do things they want to do.  I wish we had a better word than permission.  It seems to imply a parent-child sort of relationship.  I don’t to be your parent or, worse, your jailer.  Call it common courtesy maybe?  TeamworkConsideration?  Work with me here.

In healthy relationships, there is a balance of togetherness and separateness that works for the couple.  Some couples prefer a large amount of autonomy, some prefer mostly togetherness.  Wherever you fall on this continuum, it seems to me that there is still an appropriate acknowledgement that the marriage is your primary relationship and that we are a team.  For example, if my friend calls and asks me about joining him for golf, I am going to check with my wife.  I have her calendar, but there may be something I don’t have a view to.  Also, it seems considerate to give her a view to the plans I am making.  Is that permission?

If something you want to do is distressing to your partner, and you choose not to do it, is that because you couldn’t get permission?  If you don’t do it because there would be consequences in the relationship, maybe it is.  If you don’t do it because you love and care about your partner, it is a choice that you, as an adult, have made.  Assuming this desire to love and care for your partner goes both ways, you don’t want to keep your partner from things that bring him or her joy.

In living with a partner, we will always be making requests of each other.  When you make a request of another adult, that person can say, “yes,” “no,” or they can negotiate.  If we both approach this from a position of love and care, the mission is for us both to get our needs met.  Autonomy and secure attachment are not polar opposites, they are two sides of the same coin.  The more secure you each feel in the relationship, the more autonomy is tolerable.  Part of building up heart trust is making sure your partner feels considered in your decision making.

When you got married, you formed a new unit.  Hopefully, it is one in which the needs of both are considered as well as the needs of the team.

Buy-in?  Concurrence?  We need something more representative of the nature of the relationship than permission.