Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Possessive Language and Relationships

I've got a beef with the way we talk about relationships by using possessive language. Is the problem with the language itself or with us who are using it?

Let me explain. I melt over stupid love songs played on the radio as much as the next chick. But I absolutely cringe when these songs contain possessive phrases like, "I've gotta have you," (Taylor Swift's 22) "I'm yours," (Jason Mraz's I'm Yours), and I'm sure you can think of your own sappy lyrics to add to this list.

There is some instinct in each of us when we see something beautiful we want to have it. We want to hold on to it, and put it away in a drawer or up on a wall. It's not the "thing" that we really want, of course. It's the feeling we got when we first laid eyes on that butterfly flitting through the weeds. The feeling we have when we someone beautiful or handsome smiles at us. The feeling we get laying naked next to someone we love and feeling loved in return. It's the feeling we want, but it is impossible to physically hold on to a feeling. So, instead, we make it our mission to possess the thing that gave us the feeling.

Why is this a problem? What makes these precious moments such an emotional high is that they are free and spontaneous. If you clip that gorgeous tulip and bring it indoors, it will look much the same for 24 hours, but after that it will begin to lose the very essence you craved it for in the first place. Neither being possessed nor possessing bring back that original sense of wonder.

It is not romantic to feel like someone owns you, except maybe if you're BDSM, but we'll set those folks aside for now. (Nothing personal, you just complicate my argument a bit. Feel free to follow up with your own BDSM model of healthy possessiveness.) The real problem is that with all of these cultural messages telling us that love owns or controls us, we start to believe it. We truly start to think, If I can't control my beloved then he doesn't really love me. If I don't have a solitary claim to her affection then I've lost her.

As polyfolk, of course, we know that's not true. We've lived it. But there are still people out there who think like that. And it's not just control over outside relationships these "lovers" want control of. We've all met this type: my girlfriend can only dress a certain way, can only be out so late, can only talk to members of the same sex, on and on it goes. This is love?

Perhaps a possessive person behaves this is the way to keep from getting hurt? Controlling my beloved's behavior and relationships will make me feel safe, and I will never be in danger of losing the good feeling her love brings me. First of all, this is a completely self-absorbed mode of thinking. I might be hurt, so you're not allowed ...

Secondly, I don't know about you, but I only want to be with someone who wants to be with me. I don't want to spend my precious time with someone who's there only because I make them. That makes me feel even less desired and loved than if I was just alone.

Before my husband and I opened up our relationship, we had had many talks about how we didn't want to be in a relationship with each other just because we were married, because we felt we were stuck. We were clear with each other, saying, "I only want you to be here with me, if that's what you really want." The point was to get rid of the idea that we somehow laid claim to the desires of the other.

Not putting demands or guilt trips on a loved one means that when they are there with you, that's where they really want to be! And that feels great! This is not to say you shouldn't ask for what you want and communicate your needs to your partners. These are requests, however, not demands. And turning down a partner's request carries no threat of repercussion. The goal of any loving relationship is to love your partner, not keep them "locked up" for your own gratification.

Where did we ever get this idea that LOVE = CONTROL? (*Sigh* Alright BDSM, go to town ...)