Love should never be an excuse. It should not be an excuse to control the other. Limit him or her. Generate guilt. Manipulate … Love is free or it is not. Unfortunately, the line between love and possession is often so fine that it is not difficult to cross it.
For this reason, when someone justifies his possessive behavior by saying that he or her loves us a lot and even assumes the power to make decisions in our place, affirming that he or she does it for “our good”, all the alarms should go off.
Possessive love that arises from the ego
When someone tells us that he or she loves us very much, his or her words generate an emotional resonance, so that we overlook the fact that it is a poor excuse. We do not realize that possessive love can become a straitjacket that, although it can be sweet at times, does not stop restricting and limiting us.
Possessive love is the expression of an ego that tries to satisfy itself through the other and the relationship. The problem is that the ego usually has a very limited vision of the reality, it only accepts its point of view and its way of loving.
The ego wants things to go according to its plans, the world to bend to its wishes, and if something doesn’t meet its expectations, it is likely to throw a tantrum, like a small child. That is the reason why the ego will try to control the loved one.
The control mechanism he resorts to is love. He or she uses love as a throwing weapon to adjust the relationship to his or her schemes because, deep down, he or she believes that everything is valid when one loves. Thus he or she ends up using love to justify his or her possessive behaviors and in some cases even becomes a commodity of change.
That possessive love can be presented with different masks in a relationship between two people:
• He or she needs us to satisfy his or her wishes while ours are continually relegated to the background
• He or she resorts to manipulation mechanisms such as emotional blackmail, threats or even the use of silence to get what he or she wants
• He or she pretends to be a victim, making us feel guilty because we don’t love him or her as much as he or she supposedly loves us.
• He or she develops controlling and vigilant behaviors, to the point of wanting to make decisions for us, arguing that it is for our good and the relationship.
Possessive love does not respect the other or seek hiso r her fulfillment, but wants to hold him or her hostage to satisfy the demands of the ego. Therefore, it is not surprising that different studies have found that in love, possessive behaviors and jealousy often lead to an unsatisfactory relationship and destructive behaviors.
Learning to love
In life, quantity tends to be preferred to quality. It is easier to count than to appreciate. Talking in terms of quantity is easier than diving into the rich universe of adjectives that we could use to qualify things. That is why many times we end up prioritizing quantity over quality. However, love is not measured, it is felt.
Love is not a competition. We do not win someone’s affection by loving him or her more, but by loving him or her better. Loving better means opening up to that sea of small qualitative details that enrich a relationship beyond the restricted terms of “much” or “little”.
Loving better means being able to deactivate our ego to allow the other person to love us with total freedom. Loving better means supporting the growth of the other, encouraging him or her to fly with his or her own wings. Loving better means leaving room for spontaneity and authenticity, rather than wanting to control everything.
Mature love is one that is offered freely and respects the freedom of the other, so that each personal project has a place in the relationship. It implies recognizing that connecting emotionally with someone does not mean having power or rights over that person.
Leaving possessive love behind for developing mature love
Most of us experience some fear and insecurity in our relationships. As soon as we have something, we are gripped by the fear of losing it. These feelings can arise from deeper struggles or even from our childhood. A study carried out at the University of Houston, for example, revealed that people with an anxious style of attachment tend to be more jealous, trust their partner less and are more prone to practice psychological abuse.
Low self-esteem, low self-confidence, fear of rejection or even a weak ego that needs to continually reaffirm itself can be at the base of those emotions that generate the desire for controlling. However, some people, instead of exploring where those feelings come from, simply project them onto us and begin to control us, hoping to alleviate those painful feelings.
Unfortunately, because those feelings are ingrained in their life history, they rarely, if ever, manage to obtain the reassurance that they seek by applying those defense mechanisms. Instead, they limit themselves to repeating maladaptive patterns that they have learned and that carry over into their current relationships, quitting the psychological oxygen to their partner, friends or children.
Realizing that these insecurities come from the past is an important step in shedding their burden so that they no longer guide decisions and behaviors. But it is also important to develop personal dignity; that is, be aware that we are all worthy of being loved. When we love each other enough, we don’t need to bind anyone with a straitjacket. Then love takes the qualitative leap and we stop thinking about how much we love to focus on how we love.
Rodriguez, L. M. et. Al. (2015) The Price of Distrust: Trust, Anxious Attachment, Jealousy, and Partner Abuse. Partner Abuse; 6(3): 298–319.
Elphinston, R. A. et. Al. (2013) Romantic Jealousy and Relationship Satisfaction: The Costs of Rumination. Western Journal of Communication; 77: 293-304.