Everyone has, or had at some point, the quest to show and express love or the quest of finding the perfect gift to do so.

Giving respect, true friendship, support, caring and so many more examples of a good character should be the starting point in any relationship.

Giving gifts, romantic gestures and making the other feel unique and special seems to work as well. Even if, sadly for many people, in last instance it just means buying any last-minute present.

Giving company, being really present, sharing moments and effectively being there for one another in each other’s life and projects, it is a precious present but also a hard accomplishment. That it seems simple at first but we all know is more and more rare nowadays.

All of this is true and of value but the fact is that giving any or giving all of these, is what one should do to show affection and sentiments for someone relevant in one’s life and world…

So this had me thinking what is indeed, and in my opinion, a true show or gift of Love… To me, the non-romantic, zero-shopping, amnesic for relevant dates, independent me. And the answer came out to me immediately.

Freedom.

I hold that to be the truest, highest form and gift of love. When one offers and provides to the other, the freedom to be, think and act.

Luisa Baltazar

And I’m not alone in this idea that independent freedom in a couple is the path to a fruitful healthy relationship and an expression of true love.

In the popular culture you can find the saying “If you love someone, set them free.” May this freedom be of letting the other one be immersed in his/her own thoughts without sharing it with you. May it be letting the loved one roam the world at his/her will and whim. Or letting the other pursue his/her own projects as a consequent pursuit for happiness. Or accepting the other’s decisions and choices in life regardless of agreeing or not with those. Will Smith in this short yet poignant video, and happily married over 20 years now with Jada Pinkett, refers that it is the individual pursuit and independent responsibility of achieving happiness, that works as a recipe for a long lasting passionate and loving relationship.

In the highest literature you can find Rainer Maria Rilke, saying that “the highest task of a bond between two people is that each one should stand guard over the solitude and independence of the other.” You can read more about it on this Brainpickings article “The difficult art of giving space in love: Rilke on freedom, togetherness and the secret to a good marriage.”

“Our paradoxical longing for intimacy and independence is a diamagnetic force that it pulls us toward togetherness and simultaneously repels us from it with a mighty magnet that, if unskillfully handled, can rupture a relationship and break a heart. Under this unforgiving magnetism, it becomes an act of superhuman strength and self-transcendence to give space to the other when all one wants is closeness. And yet this difficult act may be the very thing, perhaps the only thing, that saves a relationship over and over again.”

Rilke

As an example and image of how to live and offer freedom as a couple in togetherness I choose this painting of Almada Negreiros that I love and portrays a couple lazily napping together.

Although they are not in a romantic embrace nor amorous enlace to me this couple is a show of Love. Each one’s defenses down, falling asleep… Each one facing it’s own way  but laying down together… Each one free to think and feel and be whatever one desires… Each one independent and in solitude but together in complicity.

So my advice for today, Valentines Day, is for you to go and set free all the ones you really love. Fact being that the more you love someone the harder this is. You can easily provide a friend with the freedom to do and live how he/she wishes. You can even do so with yours parents out of respect for them. But you’ll find it harder to do with your own kids as they will want to do everything differently from you. And ultimately, it is with your lover, chosen partner and soulmate that you’ll have the hardest time offering true freedom for him/her to be where, who and what he/she wants. And this is indeed a paradox…

Nevertheless, I will be doing exactly that, setting my kids and everyone I love, free to be themselves, to walk their own path, to make their own decisions and ultimately I will even give them the freedom to choose to love me back or not.

Hopefully they will love me back… and they will do so, happily and of free will.