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February 24, 2017

Do You Own the People You Love?

Do I own my partner? Do you own yours? The obvious answer is no, but our thoughts and actions seem to disagree. We love them, yet the longer we’re with them, the more we wish they would do what we want and to do it our way.

We may not own our loved ones, but we want to own their actions.

This realization gave me clarity. I’ve written before about my intention to limit criticism and be a more compassionate person. But it’s not enough to create space for listening if we’re disapproving of what it is we hear. How do I quiet the ever-present judge in my mind?

In the process of creating a Valentine’s gift this year, I came across this quote from Rabindranath Tagore:

Love does not claim possession, but gives freedom.

This brought me to the title of this post. Do I own the people that I love? Obviously not. Do I treat them as though I do? That’s a trickier question to answer.

Having ownership is a form of freedom. Being owned is not. Over the course of a relationship, I (maybe you, too) tend to make increasing demands. I want my lover to adapt to my desires so that I can more freely enjoy life. Each time I do so places a limit on their freedom.

This may be a new way for me to think about the issue, but the fundamental unfairness of this situation has long been clear. The challenge is expressing my needs and desires without them being restrictions. How do I give my partner the freedom to live within the confines (perhaps not the best choice of words) of our relationship?

A trip to the library this week brought me to the book Wabi Sabi Love: The Ancient Art of Finding Perfect Love in Imperfect Relationships by Arielle Ford. The idea is taking the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, roughly defined as finding beauty in imperfections, and applying it to love. The goal is learning to love, rather than be annoyed by, the imperfections in your partner.

In the process of learning to love what annoys us most about our loved ones, we learn to accept the entirety of who they are. We give up our ownership over who we think they should be, and we give them the freedom to be themselves.

I want to own less of my wife and to give her more freedom to be whomever she wishes to be. And for my baby boy, who’s climbing my leg as I write this, I want to do the same.