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How Partnership Set Me Free
A journey to finding greater freedom, authenticity, and empowerment in life.
Four years ago, I sat on my couch in my Palo Alto apartment, my face crumpling as I sobbed into my hands, feeling so helpless at what to do and how to move forward.
My friend Ana had reflected to me on a call earlier that I seemed asphyxiated whenever I talked about my marriage at the time. Dreams deflated. Desires held back. Feelings boxed in.
“I actually feel more free in my marriage,” she’d said. When her husband championed and supported her, she felt capable of doing more in the world.
I certainly didn’t feel that way — at least not any more.
For several months, I oscillated between feeling confident and feeling terrified about leaving the 17-year-long relationship that had been a core part of my entire adult life. The decision agonized me.
This week marks the 4-year anniversary of me choosing myself and my aliveness by leaving that first marriage.
When I finally left, I tasted the sweet, newfound freedom of single life. No romantic commitments. Nowhere I needed to be. Just the freedom to be myself wherever I wanted to be. I thought it’d last me a while.
That all changed when I fell madly in love just months later with my now-wife Candace.
Here’s the kicker. We typically associate the jumping into new relationships and the end of single life with a loss of freedom.
But surprisingly, in entering the new partnership, I experienced a paradox — I discovered an even greater level of freedom than I imagined possible.
And it’s been a continuous journey of becoming more and more free.
How was that even possible?
It turns out that true freedom comes from being able to be authentically myself and to pursue the things that I truly care about in life. And in reflecting on the past few years, I realize that this freedom comes through two commitments Candace and I have in the relationship:
Our commitment to return to unconditional love creates an ever-growing safe haven where we feel increasingly accepted as we are.
Our commitment to champion each other’s growth creates a secure base where we’re supported and empowered to take bigger risks in the world.
Together, those commitments free up the energy to be the fullest versions of ourselves in the world.
Get more intimate stories on how to unlock more freedom, authenticity, and empowerment in your romantic partnership.
How Safe Do You Feel To Be Yourself in Your Relationship?
It’s only in this partnership that I’ve experienced what unconditional love truly is — accepting the person as they are, without needing them to change.
As partners, can we hold each other in our grief, anger, disappointment, joy, jealousy, and other emotions without needing them to go away? And can we be with any emotion — even when it feels painful or uncomfortable?
In the very early days of our relationship, I would feel embarrassed and a bit ashamed to shed tears and show sadness in front of her — now it’s rare to have a day when tears don't move from something.
I feel more and more free to reveal parts of myself, as does she.
There are still parts, of course, that are difficult to be seen in — disappointment, anger, and shame, to name a few. And there are times when we make each other wrong for their emotional experience rather than loving and accepting it.
After all, our ability to be with and love someone in a given emotional state is limited by our ability to be with and love ourselves in that same state.
But our commitment to doing our own inner work — to deepen our own self-love and self-acceptance through coaching, meditation, reflection, and even plant medicine — means that we can be with and love more of what shows up. And that creates an increasingly safer haven for each other.
In her book Polysecure, psychotherapist Jessica Fern writes that we have a safe haven “when our partners care about our safety, seek to respond to our distress, help us to co-regulate and soothe and are a source of emotional and physical support and comfort.”
The safer the haven, the more free we feel to go inward and move through difficult emotions when times get rough.
And that inside job to feel at home with ourselves is the true source of freedom in life.
When I was going through mediation for my divorce, I received an email right before a mediation session that threw my nervous system into panic and shock. I feared potentially losing rights to a book that I’d poured years of heart and soul into, just because it was written while I was married.
I don’t have kids of my own (yet 😉), and the experience was the closest I’d come to losing something I considered my baby.
At the time, Candace was my new partner of less than a year, and she guided me back to my breath under some redwood trees and put her hands on my body to ground me back to earth. I was able to show up calm and collected in mediation hours later.
I felt freer emotionally to be where I was at and do what I needed to do because she was a safe haven for me.
Join us — a husband-and-wife duo sharing personal stories about how to awaken more love freedom in your partnership.
How Supported Do You Feel in Taking Bigger Risks?
In our awakened partnership, one of our commitments is to support each other in our fullest growth and expression.
The degree to which we feel empowered to take bolder risks in partnership is the degree to which it's a secure base for us.
In Polysecure, Fern writes that we have a secure base when our partners “provide the platform from which we can move out in the larger world, explore, and take risks.”
I’d dreamt of doing a year of travel for many years, but the idea of packing everything into storage AND managing my business AND navigating the uncertainty of world travel felt overwhelming for a long time. With Candace, all the risks and choices in deciding to become nomads not only felt manageable but also adventurous — even during COVID.
We ended up traveling for a year and a half as nomads around the world. It’s an experience that I feel so deeply grateful for.
I’m also a very iterative entrepreneur, usually only dreaming of the next incremental product or program to create and build, based on what I already know.
Our partnership has helped and challenged me to dream bigger — as I see and believe more of what’s possible for myself and for us.
I dream of building a successful business with work that brings me joy and purpose and touches the lives of millions of people, where we get to enroll people we love to work with us.
I dream of writing a New York Times bestseller some day that empowers people to choose aliveness in how they’re creating their lives.
I dream of helping people at scale lovingly get into deeper touch with their emotions and create awakened partnerships that support their expansion and growth.
I might not know the steps to get to these places, but our partnership has fostered a self-confidence that makes dreaming big possible. I know that even if I were to fail, I’d have a supportive and loving home base to fall back to.
I feel more freedom today than I’ve ever felt in my life — and the safe haven and secure base created from this partnership plays a significant role creating that experience.
My desires and feelings get more and more authentically expressed every day.
My dreams and life purpose grow bigger and deeper.
And as proud I am for how far I’ve come and how much more freedom I’ve experienced, I’m excited because I know I’m also just getting started.
Thanks to Morris Rachel, Jesse Cheng, Vincent Tam, Tomáš Ruta, Karena de Souza, and Candace Sauve for reading early drafts of this post.
Have bigger dreams for what you want in your intimate partnership? Join us as we share mindsets and tools to make them real.