The first six results in the Urban Dictionary for Ball and Chain propose that significant others (especially women) will hold you back from having fun and require that you spend all of your time with them, even if you would rather be elsewhere. Supposedly, being in a relationship means that you are more trapped than free.
Aside from the stereotypical "oh no, I can't go and make out with randos at bars anymore" constraints, the wrong relationship can have deeper emotional limitations as well. Thinking back again to my relationship with Tom, even though I adored him, I felt trapped the entire time. When we were together, I couldn't express myself fully because I was afraid of loosing him. On the night that he dumped me, I realized that I felt free to be myself, like I had come back home to my loving family after four months as a guest in someone else's house.
Yet, with Owen, I feel more free to act like myself than I did when I was single. He actually encourages me to do those things that I want to do, but hesitate to do. As I stated in my first post, I gave up acceptance to my number one choice of graduate programs at CSU in order to follow Owen to Iowa. This particular program was for rhetoric and composition--a very marketable degree. Yet, if I could write about anything that I wanted to, it would be creative work, not persuasive work.
Now, I am in Iowa City with Owen, which happens to harbor the MIT of creative writing programs. The particular program that I would be interested in accepts approximately 25/450 applicants. Rather than jumping on the opportunity to apply to the creative writing program, I continued to seek programs that I knew had higher acceptance rates. Owen encouraged me to forget practical and submit my application to the program that I am most interested in: the Writers' Workshop Poetry MFA.
I don't know yet if I will be accepted, but I feel damn good for having submitted my work to the number one school for creative writing, and I know that I would never have done so without Owen's encouragement.
Ultimately, I think that the freedom or lack-thereof that we experience when we spend time with our partners revolves around the extent to which we can be ourselves in our relationships. Do you feel forced to act against yourself when you are with your partner, or does your partner encourage you to act out the desires that you can't face on your own? I would suggest that even the image that I initially alluded to, the young man who feels his girlfriend holds him back from the fun revolving around the party lifestyle, implies a problem with the relationship more so than the individual. If you feel that your partner holds you back from anything, that implies that you are more focused on what you are missing than on your partner, and something will have to give.
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