No one should possess you

March 25, 2014 § 2 Comments

*Originally appeared on my Mail & Guardian column

There is no need to be possessive. Nobody owns anybody. But unfortunately there are some relationships where I have witnessed this unnatural behaviour.

They remind me of a scene in Quentin Tarantino’s latest offering, Django Unchained, where a slave owner played by Leonardo DiCaprio says of his slave woman, “Broomhilda is my property and I can choose to do with my property whatever I so desire.”  From what I gather, there is no difference between that slave owner and what some of our fellas do to women. It is as if they believe some strange things, such as:

  • If I love you, I own you.
  • If I love you, you must obey me.
  • If I love you, I am your master.
  • If I love you, I must control you.
  • If I love you, I must manipulate you.
  • If I love you, there must be double standards.

It is not just men who behave this way but it seems more prevalent among them than it does among women.

Some of these women are told whose numbers they may have on their phones and who they may keep as friends. They must always answer when he calls and the phone may not ring too many times before it is answered. When they dress up, they are questioned about whom they are trying to be sexy for and told to take the clothes off. This is the most unmanly display of affection.

Then the vicious cycle of being trapped in an intimate manipulative relationship begins. If someone else is remotely capable of making you happy, they need to be cut off from your life. Nothing makes abusers more miserable than seeing someone else make you feel content – even when that person is you. They want to be solely responsible for your feelings.

What inspired this column is a conversation I overheard on a flight to Durban over the weekend. A beautiful, young woman sat in the seat behind me. When I sat down, she was on a call I could not help but overhear. She was very calm but the person on the other end did not seem to be. Her tone and calm nature told a story: she needed to remain calm to prevent making him even angrier. At one point she said: “I can’t believe you just said that. You are so evil. How can you say you hope I get gang raped?” In my uneducated estimation, I think she heard it all before.

Even more surprising was that it seemed as though they were no longer a couple. She said: “No, I have not moved on. I don’t know what you are talking about.” Yet she answered the call and listened to his rant until he was done. His main goal was to ensure that wherever she was going, she would be miserable after his call. She was as calm as someone who was used to having vile things said to her.

Sadly, people mistake a drama-filled relationship for a passionate one, which only happens because they feel insecure. But love does not flourish where there is a battery of rules and restrictions. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, love is the chain whereby to lock your lover to yourself – not threats, manipulation or possessiveness. A controlling relationship ruins your confidence and belief in yourself. It should build your character, not destroy you.

Controlling people do not always come across as mean at first. They overwhelm you with kind words, gifts, and intensify the “honeymoon phase” of the relationship by talking about marriage and growing old together within the first few weeks of dating. And then, once in the relationship, no matter what happens, you are the one who faces the blame for everything that goes wrong. A controller never takes responsibility for their poor behaviour, they believe it is never their fault.

These people might not act with physical violence but the violence with which they strike the soul is almost irreparable. A lot of people who manage to escape long-term possessive relationships struggle to trust people afterwards, even those close to them.

What surprises me is that there are men who think that it is okay to be possessive and there are many women who accept this behaviour and live with it. It is crazy, really. Is it because these guys do not trust women? If you think you are not able to trust somebody, why be with them?

But I do not think it is a matter of not trusting them. It is a case of not trusting yourself to keep them. The behaviour confirms to the controlling person that there are people out there who are better and can take your lover away from you.

A fear of being alone has caused a lot of people to end up staying in bad relationships. Do not be afraid of being alone. Being single is not a curse.

The clingier you get, the looser your grip becomes on the one you are trying to hold on to.

A man who is insecure about a woman and constantly checks her whereabouts deserves to lose her. Nobody owns your life and therefore no one has the right to control it but you. Do not abdicate the responsibility you have towards your heart to someone who does not have one.

§ 2 Responses to No one should possess you

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