An acquaintance innocently declared "she's mine" recently, referring to his girlfriend, and that sparked a bit of a discussion. I think he meant it in an endearing way and there is probably nothing wrong with that, but still that woke up the relationship zealot in me. As I see it, the issue is that this kind of statement relates to a deeper issue where having a relationship with someone is conceptually tied to the idea of owning someone.
I know a lot of relationships are based on this dynamic of control, but it's just plain wrong and unhealthy.
The first problem is that such a relationship is reductionist. Instead of being the romanticized sum of the two of you, what happens instead is that you're both limited by what your partner lets you do. Since you're limited by them, and they're limited by you, in effect you have a common-denominator relationship. Everything that you both tolerate is kosher, and everything that one of you doesn't tolerate is not kosher. This implies that everything only one of you enjoys is out the window. You know how that feels. You get into a relationship, and eventually there are all these things that you used to believe or enjoy that are now unacceptable. In worse cases, you become less than the person you used to be because you've been trimmed raw to only the traits that the other person tolerates.
That can make for a pretty frustrating relationship, one where you feel stuck because you're so tightly bound by this intersection of the two of you. This "you're mine" attitude opens into the whole can of worms that is the question of control in a relationship. And this can of worms is a realm with a lot of very deep rabbit holes. (How's that image for you?)
Recently I read a fabulous and amazing and mind-altering (OK, maybe not mind-altering) piece about this, penned by Franklin. He refers to this as the "ownership paradigms".
If you haven't already, go read his piece now. Or later. But you absolutely must read it. To me it was mind and eye-opening. I read it a month ago but it has really stayed with me. I really think it's profound and that many people need to read this. It is a higher level of consciousness of what a relationship can be when it's based on, yes, trust.
And it's not because you're in an open relationship that you're immune to this problem of ownership. If your partner says you can have sex with other people but only without penetration, that's not you making a choice, that's your partner telling you how it's going to be. It really is control. Most people don't mean it to be bad, but it's driven by a lack of trust and boundaries.
In the parlance that I've used for many years, it's a lack of differentiation. The idea is that there are things you don't want your partner to do, so you cross the emotional boundary between the two of you, and you literally go and adjust the figurative knobs and controls inside the other person to the settings that you want.
The thing is, there is a big difference between saying "I don't want you to do x" and saying "I am uncomfortable with you doing x". The first one is an order, it's control. The second one is a revelation of personal feelings that come without any obligation. It opens the door to the recipient making a choice on how to acknowledge and react to the received information. It lets a real discussion occur, one where the two people are not playing attack and defence, but instead are trying to understand how they feel personally and how they can arrange something that works for both of them.
It's the notion of trust and choice. If I know you're not comfortable with x, and that you trust me (because you're not forcing me to agree with you), then I can make a choice. In such a dynamic, there is no control, only differentiation. I'm my own person, you're your own person, and we figure things out.
Again, it's the power of choice. (Now where did I hear that recently?)
Anyone who is interested in this should most definitely listen to Dr. David Schnarch in this interview by Tami Simon. (Transcript here if you prefer to read.) It is filled to the brim with bits of wisdom that make so much sense and that everyone should absolutely hear. It's time people have relationships as adults, not as 5 years-olds who complain that the other took their toy away.
Be your own person.