“So much of the language of love was like that: you devoured someone with your eyes, you drank in the sight of him, you swallowed him whole. Love was substance, broken down and beating through your bloodstream.” ― Jodi Picoult
The problem with the ‘perception’ of possessiveness
Very often, I see girls gushing after the hero in romantic movies who relentlessly pursues the girl until she says ‘yes.’ Their responses are no different for the guy who resorts to ‘anything’ to declare that the girl’s his’ and his alone, or the guy who has no qualms turning against those who as much as express a mild interest in the object of his affection. The ‘attraction,’ as it were, extends into reality- with women finding possessiveness in relationships ‘sweet,’ ‘cute’ or even ‘romantic.’ But here’s the problem with the idea perpetrated by such deceptive ‘romances.’
Image source: Flickr
Romance isn’t about ‘attaining’ the person you fall for. It is about expressing the sentiment and respecting the choice that the other person makes. Very often, our culture makes women believe that they owe men something simply because they denied them something they wanted in the first place. Men, too, feel like they are entitled to a ‘yes’ merely on account of evincing their interest- like it were a privilege they were conferring on us. Trying over and over in hopes of turning a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ is its own kind of coercion and women are tricked (by pop culture representations) into buying into the fantasy of ‘relentless persuasion’ as the absolute apex of ‘romantic desire.’
The same is true for consensual relationships, where women think that their boyfriends getting a wee bit uncomfortable when their co-worker makes them laugh or their husbands tossing and turning in bed while they work overtime is ‘cute.’ You see- possessiveness in relationships, no matter how you choose to define it, is never healthy. None of us ‘own’ our partners and while it is wise to check on them and be concerned about their safety, possessiveness has been and shall always be a precarious ground to tread upon.
Why ‘possessiveness in relationships’ isn’t healthy?
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“Mine. The language of love is like that, possessive. That should be the first warning that it’s not going to encourage anyone’s betterment.” ― Holly Black
While possessiveness in relationships may seem like a ‘sweet deal’ at first, it hardly remains an ‘innocuous’ entity afterward. Possessive behavior could be the warning sign of deep-seated fears, insecurities and jealousy that may quickly flare into a breach of privacy. Possessiveness in relationships could quickly escalate into an intrusion of boundaries. Be honest and tell me that you haven’t known relationships (or worse, been in ones) where cell phones are secretly scoured, hanging out with friends is associated with inevitable guilt trips or incessant interrogations have followed ‘innocent’ conversations with a member of the opposite sex! Therein lies your answer.
Believe it or not, possessiveness in relationships is a means of controlling one’s partner and modifying their behavior to an extent that it remains conducive to assuaging or dispelling one’s own fears and insecurities. The fix, however, is temporary for no attempt to control another to deal with one’s own emotional turbulence can yield any permanent result. In shrinking one’s partner’s world by depriving them of the comfort of friends or colleagues or doubting them so much as to spawn mistrust and deception in your relationship, you are only paving the path to relationship dissatisfaction and ultimately, destruction.
How do you deal with possessiveness in relationships?
The first step is to understand that possessiveness is not the same thing as concern. Concern is healthy and emanates from a feeling of love and affection. Possessiveness is unhealthy and stems from a feeling of entitlement and an inherent distrust of your partner or the world around.
The second step is to identify the possessive patterns you engage in and the reasons that underlie your attempts to control your partner’s behavior.
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The third step is to pore into the reasons responsible for your possessive streak to uncover why you tend to project them onto your partner instead of dealing with them on your own. Your insecurities could be rooted in your childhood experiences, past relationships, deeper struggles with intimacy, trust issues, low self-esteem, a fear of rejection or abandonment and/or other psychological issues. You need to understand that these negative emotions shall naturally birth a desire to control your surroundings so you could alleviate these feelings- but what you need is a process that rights your erroneous self-concept and/or your perception of relationships instead of using them as defensive strategies to regulate external stimuli.
What you need to accept is that acting out your defensive strategies in the present isn’t going to rid you of these emotions. You are simply strengthening your insecurities and fears by clinging to your negative experiences and re-enacting their presence in your relationship for a false sense of security. In the process, you are pushing away your partner and creating an unequal relationship.
What you can do to break the pattern
1. Build up your sense of self
If you are grappling with deep-seated insecurities, you need to work on ways to channel self-love in your life. You need to know and believe that you are enough and that the world won’t stop spinning even if your partner were to leave or betray you. You need to believe that trust is a key component of relationships and by constantly doubting your partner, you are doing little to invest it in your bond. You are strong and capable, so instead of worrying about what would come to pass if your partner left, use your strength to build on your bond so the question remains unthinkable.
2. Resist jealous, authoritative and/or entitled behaviors
Resist the urge to control your partner and their life. Surveillance, stalking and/or other controlling behaviors are only going to drive a wedge between you. Not to mention, the inescapable guilt trips you’d have and try to project onto your partner afterward! Learn to recognize your urges, nip it in the bud and deal with your issues on your own.
3. Invest in your life
If you direct your thinking toward your own passions, hobbies and goals, you may find a healthy change of pace that allows you room to think of a lot more than just your partner. By not dwelling on negative emotions and investing in things that build you up, you shall enhance your sense of self, bolster your self-esteem and consequently, channel your positivity into your relationship as well.
4. Engage in healthy communication
It is always advisable to open up to your partner and bare your heart so they can understand your struggles. Tell them you have been grappling with trust issues- be careful not to lay blame and take accountability for your incorrect behavior. Tell them you wish to work on yourself and that instead of attempting to control or induce guilt, you wish to forge an intimate connection of which this raw, vulnerable admission is a crucial first step.
Remember that relationships always benefit from trust rather than control. The only way to know you are in love and being loved is when you feel free to give love and your partner feels free to accept and reciprocate. That is the real definition of being self-possessed within ourselves even as we give away ourselves to the relationship.
For love, always!
Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License