Trying to Possess Someone

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“Caring for but never trying to own may be a further way to define friendship.”
– William Glasser

Glasser makes the incisive point in one of his books that if you think of your longest lasting and healthiest relationships they are probably with friends, and what separates the way you relate to friends with the way you relate to family members is that you don’t feel a sense of ownership towards your friends.

If you can take the friendship attitude and apply it to your romantic relationship good things will happen. The desire to possess is the desire to turn a living, breathing person with individual wants and needs, with individual rights to growth and self-actualization, into an object that only exists for you. Ownership is one way to combat existential anxiety because it gives you a false sense of security and permanence. If you own something it is less likely to slip through your fingers.

But when you try to own someone he or she is quite likely to slip through your fingers; the very thing you fear will come to pass, because at a fundamental level all of us yearn for self-expression and for an environment where we can become who we really are. When we are denied this right we chafe under our bondage and either rebel or become spiritually sick. Either one of these results will make your relationship suffer.

The bitter irony is that the people who are most concerned with control, with turning those closest to them into objects, are the ones who would never allow themselves to be controlled or turned into objects. They are highly concerned with freedom, but only for themselves.

When we are surrounded by people who want us to grow in our own unique way we feel free and light; we are drawn to these people and want to spend more time around them. Conversely, when we are surrounded by people who want to control us for their own existential ends we feel burdened and heavy and we want to escape. If you know this is the case in your own life then why wouldn’t it be the case in your romantic partner’s life too? The primary reason that people allow possessiveness into relationships is a bad one; it’s that both the feeling of subsuming another and the feeling of being subsumed temporarily lessen existential anxiety, depending on whether your life attitude swings towards sadism or masochism. But the very energy that makes a relationship vibrant and healthy is sapped, and if you can fully realize this fact you can fight the temptation to try to turn the people you care about most into objects whose only real purpose in life is to serve your needs.