Imagine being half a person, compromising who you are yourself for somebody else. Imagine not being able to say what you want, do what you want, love whom you want. It sucks, right? Imagine relying on another person to define you, to tell you who you are. That doesn’t sound like freedom to me at all. In fact, that kind of sucks. Still, many of us are in this situation. And those of us who aren’t, want to be. Why? Because I’m talking about what a relationship looks like for the majority of people.
“Austin, you’re crazy,” you think as you start to throw the magazine down. Yes, we’ve established I’m crazy several columns ago, but hear me out. When you’re in a relationship, do you not make compromises of your self? We change who we are for another person—sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Time with friends and family is sacrificed for one other person. We spend time and money and other resources (did Valentine’s day put a dent in your wallet, too?) on this one other person. Why? Well, in theory, it’s to show that we care, a demonstration of affection. But at what point do we stop doing these things out of choice and more out of a desire to meet some societal standard?
In relationships, there is this mutual control that both parties exert over one another. This doesn’t happen with all relationships, I don’t mean to say that, but it definitely does in some. Let’s say Richie and Joe are dating. Richie isn’t allowed to go the bars without Joe, and vice versa. Joe also won’t allow Richie to talk to his ex (because, come on, that bitch is a slut) and Joe can’t introduce Richie to his parents because Richie’s not out yet. Joe doesn’t like it when Richie hangs out with friends, because Joe thinks they drink too much. Similarly, Joe is stuck in on Saturday afternoons and evenings watching college football (Go Blue!) with his boyfriend, because Richie refuses to miss a game—and we have already established that Joe is not allowed to go out unless Richie is with him.
See that above? That’s messed up.
But, what if they are in love? Maybe they think they are, but is that what love looks like? Does love look like mutual patrolling and checking? Or is it about freedom and trust? I like to think it’s about freedom and trust. Obviously, the hypothetical couple above don’t trust each other. Still, as far as they are concerned, they are a perfect couple.
Never mind that Joe flirts with his co-workers.
Never mind Richie and his secret stash of Playboys (oh, yeah, in this scenario, Richie is bisexual) that he keeps hidden from Joe, who’d have a conniption if he saw them (because Richie isn’t allowed to lust after women anymore because he’s in a “committed” relationship with Joe).
Never mind that they both have Grindr, “looking for friends.”
Relationships, they say, are about compromise. Maybe. But a lot of those times, the compromises only exist because one person doesn’t want to give up control, or wants to exert some sort of control over the other member.
Relationships and love are tricky things. They can be wonderful and happy. But then there also comes the fear of losing them. And, as somebody who’s had his heartbroken, I know losing love sucks a giant wiener—and not in a good way. Folks try to avoid that hurt and loss. How? They try to control their partners by setting up rules and parameters and curfews and limitations.
Limitations. That’s a word I can’t stand. Why should we allow ourselves to be limited in anything? There is an infinite amount of happiness in the world. Why be in a relationship that stifles the amount available to you? I’ve heard the argument that says that the happiness a couple finds in each other is far greater than anything else. But it isn’t otherwise, Richie wouldn’t be on the toilet with one hand on his junk and the other holding a Playboy. Otherwise, Joe wouldn’t be flirting with the other Geek Squad techs. And, if there is an unlimited amount of love in the world, why do we settle for exchanging it with one person? Is the human heart so limited that it is incapable of loving deeply multiple people? No, of course not. And no, loving one person alone isn’t somehow more virtuous. No, loving more than one person doesn’t mean each beloved is getting only a fraction of your love. To say that’s true is to say that you’re capable of a limited amount of love. Now, I don’t know about you, but the amount of love available to me knows no bounds.
And let’s face it… humans (at the very least not all humans) are designed to be in possessive relationships like this. One, if we turn to the animal kingdom and look to our closest animal relatives, apes and monkeys, we see none of them are engaging in monogamous relationships. Two, isn’t it something like fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce? The boundaries, the limitations imposed by those relationships obviously are not working for at least half the population.
Is being possessed and controlled by your lover worth the sex and the (pseudo-)security? Nah, I don’t think so.