You Don’t Own Them

If it hasn’t happened yet, someone may cheat on you. They might abandon you. They could betray you. And there’s nothing you can do about it. 

Where am I going with this depressing insight? I’m trying to explain why that lack of control over other humans is actually a good thing. Stick with me… 

One thing I have always been fascinated by is the set of “rules” we create for people in our relationships. We do this in all kinds of relationships, but looking particularly at romantic ones, so many of us walk around in a constant state of fear that the person we love will choose to hurt or leave us. So, how do we respond? We tell them what they can and cannot do, as a way of making ourselves feel as though we’ve protected ourselves from all potential hurt. 

Maybe someone hates seeing their partner roll into bed after a late night of partying. Maybe someone else hates that their significant other talks to someone who they have a history with. On the flipside, maybe someone is upset about their partner not doing something like texting back quickly enough. I’m not judging any of these concerns or insecurities – I share them too sometimes. What I do take issue with though is the belief that the appropriate way to respond is to try and control someone… it’s not. And it’s an impossible endeavor, anyway. Even if a person agrees to do (or not do) whatever you ask, you will still have to trust them to keep their word. Beyond that, life will always present new situations that may offer an opportunity for someone to hurt you and there’s no way you can predict all of those hypotheticals, so your efforts are likely in vain if we’re being honest here. 

With this recognition around the lack of control, some people choose to behave in even more toxic ways. They police each other’s cell phones, interrogate one another whenever there was an absence between them, give out ultimatums like candy. Ironically, they do things that create a wedge between them and the person they claim to love, which in turn just seems to jeopardize the very relationship they are trying so desperately to bubble wrap. 

So, what is the solution when something bothers you? I definitely think boundaries are healthy in life, whether with family, at work, or in this case of romantic love. But how we go about communicating those boundaries is key. Having reflected on this quite a bit, I think my own intuition is telling me that you should share how you feel and then just accept that what your loved one does with that information is ultimately up to them. In some cases, they may choose to completely alleviate your concern by changing their actions. In other cases, if they think their patterns are less problematic than you perceive, they may choose to compromise without completely changing. And in some cases, they may sacrifice nothing at all and offer zero change.  Whatever they decide is up to them. 

You still have more choice, too, of course. You aren’t powerless and you’re not a victim. That same agency I think we need to afford others most definitely needs to exist for ourselves. So, if they do opt to make zero effort to change and the issue is truly significant for you, walking away might be wise to save you (and them) from an unhealthy dynamic. Dealbreakers are absolutely valid and shouldn’t be confused with ultimatums, although sometimes that line can feel fuzzy. But if they choose to conform to what you wish or meet you in the middle, then your challenge is to let go and trust them to respect you enough to keep their word. After all, aren’t all solid relationships built on a foundation of both trust and respect? Can you not have trust in them to respect you? 

Finally, as I opened this post with, the reality is that people are fallible. While you can hope they won’t betray you, they might. Welcome to being human. Vulnerability is there whether you care to admit it or not. However, if the alternative is hovering over another fully grown person to constantly monitor their every move, would that be worth some pretend “guarantee” that they wouldn’t cause you pain? For me, that’s a hard pass. Besides, I wouldn’t want someone questioning my every move like I’m guilty of some crime. And likewise, I don’t find it particularly sexy to babysit and do those things with other people, either. Much like I pride myself on being the “strong, independent woman” that’s so often idealized in society, I would really like to be with an equally strong, independent man. So, in a way, I suppose I would rather take that risk of knowing they could hurt me if it means that I could live my life and operate peacefully from that place of trust and respect. In any case, I’d also like to think that if I chose a good person for me, the likelihood that they would hurt me would be as minimized as it could be anyway. Maybe that’s the actual starting point – find a solid human first, share your feelings, hear out theirs, examine your behaviour while they examine theirs, and take it from there. 

…Oh gosh, never mind. Forget everything you just read… There’s a lot of steps here. Still single, fam.

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