Co-dependency can play such a large part in most modern relationships. Couples settle down, get cozy and fulfill the assigned gender roles their parents played out during their upbringing. Monotony invariably sets in, and somewhere along the way, passion is lost. The idea of relating becomes less of a priority, but the undercurrents of possessive behaviour remain.
What’s the attraction?
What was the initial spark that made you see your partner in a romantic light? The reasons for pursuing someone as a love interest can say a lot about potential compatibility issues. There are many markers of attraction, but to avoid overcomplicating things, they can be reduced to physical, intellectual, behavioural and emotional traits.
The quality you most associate with someone not only goes a long way towards defining that person, but also you as the observer, as well as any future dynamic you might have together. Physical attraction is clearly an important factor in choosing a mate. It can often be the attention-grabber, but if that is as deep as the connection goes, there will be no meaningful foundation to build on.
There must be at least some shared ideals, common interests, goals or emotions that aren’t the result of sexual desire. When your connection is founded exclusively on sex, the potential that possessive or jealous behaviour will dictate the narrative can prove far greater. Sexual desire is a base reaction, and with the lack of any deeper sense of connectedness, it can be the source of much tension and distrust within a partnership.
Patterns and awareness
For many couples, ownership manifests simply by asking permission, and isn’t necessarily confined to specific gender roles. Each member of the couple can be the oppressor, but in slightly different ways.
The female of a heterosexual couple may seek to rein her partner in with the shame and guilt she puts on him for socializing with friends—a stance subconsciously founded in the fear of loss or abandonment. The male might also display the same behaviour, but more from a possessive and alpha-type mindset. This is often passed off as an act of ‘loving protection.’ But that’s an excuse that falls wide of the real intent.
Ego-boosting is also a trait that can have a similar influence—the classic put-down, whether used openly or in a passive-aggressive manner. In either case, it is mental and emotional abuse, and the result of the aggressor projecting their insecurities onto their partner.
In their mind, to feel a sense of worth, there must be someone ‘beneath’ them, so they create a hierarchy in which they are the dictator. This type of patterning can work its way into multiple exchanges, such as assigning blame, the need to win arguments and decision-making.
Overstepping boundaries can—and often is—done in jest, but even the most innocent jibes can wear thin after a while. Boundary dissolution is a well-worn path to a dysfunctional or broken-down relationship, yet it can so easily be solved by communication.
It does require openness and a certain amount of vulnerability. But it’s only by ‘fronting up’ about where you’re at, and acknowledging your emotional triggers, that you can work through them constructively and set up strategies to avoid being or feeling antagonized in the future.
Each of us is responsible for upholding our own boundaries, but it’s wise to address these issues with your partner at an appropriate time. To do so off the back of an emotional wave, when triggered, is usually a recipe for more drama.
Unless you feel you have the awareness to stop yourself from overreacting in the heat of the moment, it is best to wait out the rush of blood to the head before racing in with pointed accusations. No one likes to feel like they’re on the back foot, and nine times out of 10, it will only lead to defensiveness and escalation.
Identity is of a similar charge to space and setting boundaries. We enter into a relationship with the understanding that we are valued for who we are: the way we look, act and present ourselves to the world. We don’t expect to have our wings clipped, but the subtle act of forced compromise can often rear its head in unbalanced relationships.
Trying to change someone, whether to suit your own preferences or out of a misplaced sense of service, can be all too common. Whatever the intention, though, it still amounts to a violation of free will. It is simply immoral to coerce someone into being something they are not.
These pushes for compromise can be trivial at first: ‘I don’t like you wearing that. Keep your hair this way. You can’t say that.’ But these small concessions set a precedent for much larger ones further down the road, and soon the dynamic can shift to there being an unhealthy need to impress and satisfy expectations. The relationship becomes constricted, and any sense of spontaneity and expressionism is lost.
Sure, we might not approve of every single thing our partner does, but we need to accept them for who they are, and embrace them as a whole with all of their quirks—not as a set of attributes we can mold to our liking. Love does not mean you unconditionally surrender who you are.
Relationships are about building. They’re meant to be co-operative, with each half pulling in the same direction, understanding the needs of the other partner and responding with kindness. That means having compassion for where your partner is at in their personal development, meeting them there and being supportive.
Once the initial wave of desire has worn off, the flame is kept alive through acts of service that can be as simple as just showing up, being present and listening.
Once the initial wave of desire has worn off, the flame is kept alive through acts of service that can be as simple as just showing up, being present and listening. Honest and sincere interactions are the bedrock of all deep, long-lasting connections.
We ‘show up’ by earning trust, and creating a safe space in which we can express ourselves by sharing, loving, laughing and crying, without the fear of judgment. To put this into motion will require being honest about your own needs and expressing them in a way that honours yourself, but without righteousness.
Love does not seek to possess or hold anyone to expectations, and neither is it a binding contract; it is a fluid exchange of mutual affection. And no matter where we are in life, we can all afford to make greater emotional investments for the future. It won’t cost you a penny, but the payout is enormous!