Social Question

janbb's avatar

How would you define "ownership" in a relationship?

Asked by janbb (52834points) March 26th, 2010

Someone I respect told me yesterday that “ownership” is always bad in a relationship. It was in the context of a discussion we were having about trying to change someone’s behavior toward other people, not necessarily as it affects oneself. Got me thinking. In what ways would you define ownership in an intimate relationship? Sexual possessiveness? Criticism? Enabling? Do you think it is always a negative? Can you be intimate with someone and not have it?

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31 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

The concept of ownership in romantic relationships is what, in my opinion, leads to conflict and cheating. I do not have possession of my wife. She is free to be who she is and do as she pleases. She can go out with whomever she wants, eat whatever she wants, dress however she wants, etc. In many relationships, people think they have the right to tell their s/o what they can and cannot do, even if it’s passively, as if they have some sort of power or ownership over the other.

I want none of that in my relationship. And I think the fact that we do not see each other as possessions has alot to do with how great we are together.

Berserker's avatar

Personally I can’t help but to think of this in a totally negative light…ownership shouldn’t exist in a relationship, not for things like you mention.

Although I am quite partial to being ’‘owned’’ during sexual intercourse, but that’s not really the same.

I realize you’re asking about things which are a little more subtle than whatever technical issues of ownership, usually defined around dominance, may imply in a relationship so I’ll try to go with that line…

I mean following an example, I wouldn’t wanna change my lover’s behaviour, nor have my own changed…some things can be worked on I guess, but unless your partner ends up being a complete abusive psycho, wouldn’t you accept them for who they are? Part of a relationship is about learning to know the person and all so it doesn’t always work, but I personally think that trying to change, over criticizing or deluding oneself through faulting the other party entirely is like crushing your experience in the ground…
So to me ownership doesn’t really sound right, as things should be shared, both good and bad. Nobody owns you or your mind, and you do not own anyone nor their mind, no matter how close you may be, or no matter how much you think you’re entitled to.

On the other hand perhaps I totally don’t get what you’re asking. :/

zophu's avatar

People don’t function well when they feel owned, usually. I think the only time in a relationship where it’s okay for one person to “own” the other in anyway is in fantasy, or in the rare cases where one is and truly needs to be dominant for whatever reason. Still not a sign of a sustainable relationship. I don’t know, these things are beyond my experience.

syzygy2600's avatar

Personally I will not be in a relationship with someone who was not sexually exclusive to me. I don’t consider this ownership -you can do whatever you feel like, but if you feel like sleeping around, I don’t feel like being in a relationship with you.

As far as what she eats, wears, does with her free time, ect. I don’t see why any of this should matter or should be in anyones control. As for who shes friends with, the only problem I have is if she would be friends with criminals, racists, or other undesirables, but I wouldn’t date someone like that in the first place.

I don’t think anyone has the right to control or own anyone but people do have the right to be forward about what they don’t like, deal breakers, ect.

escapedone7's avatar

The closest thing I experienced to a problem with this was when I went out with a very narcissistic, outgoing, attention seeking “ham” that loved to tell very very private matters at parties, on his blogs, to his friends, on the phone, to my mother….

We fought because I wanted to have ownership of my own privacy. I felt humiliated in some contexts. Does everyone need to know very painful or private stuff? But he kind of ended up using that against me in a very nasty manner to control me. Whenever I didn’t go along with whatever he wanted, he would publicly start announcing very embarrassing private things and watch me blush, squirm, and even cry.

Does everyone need to know about what faces I made if I tried anal?

We would get in these cerebral debates. His story was my story when we had a shared experience. He felt it was his “right” to tell his story, if it got him a few laughs, some attention, (or power over me)). And I felt I had a right to keep my privacy private. He said that people like me contribute to society’s sense of shame over things that should not be shameful, so he was educating me and the public at the same time.

Did he have a right to tell his experiences if he found that enjoyable? Did I have a right to beg him not to? Do I own my privacy? Does he own the right to tell his experiences?

It was his way or the highway. He would not compromise, empathize, or even discuss it after a point. Obviously, I chose the highway. Yes, highway looked nice.

I am still deliciously single.

syzygy2600's avatar

@escapedone7 I’ve had some problems in my current relationship with my girlfriend being a little too open about matters that I consider to be private…but christ it’s nothing even close to that level. I can’t imagine what kind of thought processes that guy must have been having.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I think there may be an ownership side to the relationship, but it’s owning the relationship, not the other person. The relationship has to be something important and valued. It’s what keeps us faithful to the other person and makes us go out of our way to show the other that they mean so much to us. It also is what makes us want to help the other partner blossom in the relationship, ie the synergy. Owning the other person is wrong.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I haven’t a clue, I’ve never thought of “ownership”. I’m a serial monogamist, most happy and productive in an exclusive loving serious relationship but ownership hasn’t been an element of any of that. Actually, there is an ease and openess once I reach a level of trust and intimacy with a person where stinginess, possessiveness, paranoia and controlling behavior seem silly. It’s called something, let me think… yes, it’s called security and comes from learning, acknowledging and respecting the boundaries by both parties.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Ownership,BAAD! said in the voice of Frankenstein

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Who’s wearing the locking collar and gag?

Owned.

janbb's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I was hoping for a somewhat more nuanced discussion of the issue – I get the big concept. ~

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@janbb nuance? You want nuance? I gotcha nuance right here.

Maybe later, okay?

janbb's avatar

@CyanoticWasp Just put on this collar and leash a minute….

wundayatta's avatar

I guess there’s a fine line between respect and honor, on the one hand, and ownership, on the other. When we marry, we make agreements. Usually things like fidelity and honoring and obeying and such. This is all done voluntarily.

Ownership raises its ugly face when one or both parties start to take these things for granted, instead of being voluntary.

janbb's avatar

I guess I’m thinking of more subtle things like, “I don’t like your hair that way” or “why do you have to talk so loudly in public?” I’m also thinking of close friendships as well as marriages. My SO and I have things pretty well-honed; I don’t think we trample on each other’s space; I’m just questioning intimacy in general.

downtide's avatar

Ownership and relationships just never mix, in my opinion. Ownership isn’t in the picture at all. The only thing we can own is ourselves – everything else is a gift.

davidbetterman's avatar

Ownership is great, so long as referring to owning inanimate objects or pets. As far as owning people goes, ARE YOU INSANE??!!!?!?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I am against ownership in relationships – the person should be free to do with their body as they please, that’s one – if something they’re doing is incredibly unhealthy (like shooting up cocaine), however, I will let them know it’s a problem because they have a responsibility to our children and to our love, so that it may last longer. The person is free to be with anyone they want, because to me, jealousy is a low emotion – if my husband doesn’t find me to be the person for him, he should be elsewhere and let it be so – that he might find someone fun or sexy or want to sleep with them, so what? they’ve got nothing on us, on our depth, on our relationship – no one can be better for him and if someone can, then I should let him go…that’s how our open relationship works…we work at being the best for each other…nobody from the outside comes close to touching what we have together…that’s why it’s irrelevant if we meet others.

janbb's avatar

@davidbetterman Guess you didn’t bother to read the details or my further explication a few posts above yours. C’est la vie.

davidbetterman's avatar

Okay @janbb…Let me put it this way. Ownership in a relationship indicates codependency. Master slave stuff. Otherwise a relationship is between equals…and as such there can be no ownership.

janbb's avatar

That’s a clearer answer, but I still think what I’m getting at or looking for is not so much dominance issues, but thinking you have a right to ask another person to change things about themselves. Maybe ownership wasn’t the right term to use; it just struck me because that’s what the person said to me.

davidbetterman's avatar

Why would you want to change something about a person you decided was right enough to live with in the 1st place?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@davidbetterman Well we don’t always know everything about a person we decide to live with and besides, we change – what we like changes – it works both ways.

escapedone7's avatar

What about when the other person’s choices do effect you though?

If my husband were a politician on the campaign trail, and I decided to dance naked on a table in front of news reporters, that might mess up his public image a little bit, and cause a scandal he’d rather avoid. Whenever everyone does whatever the heck they want without regard for how it will effect the other person, toes will get stepped on. Sometimes rights clash, as in my right to privacy and his right to share.

What if he decides to put my nude photos on his facebook without asking me? What if he just decides to quit his job because he wants to get the band from Jr.High back together, and I end up paying all the bills by myself while he plays teenager in someone’s garage all day?

It’s one thing to say, everyone has a right to do what they want, let them be free! Free! Look at my name. I want everyone to be free. I’m tired of being controlled. The theory that everyone has a right to do whatever though, sounds so very pretty in theory but looks really messy in practice. When two people are together, sometimes each person’s free choices may have an effect on the other person in a big way.

Of course we can always choose to pack a bag and run like hell. That’s about the only thing I know how to do though.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@escapedone7 Well we let them be free but we have chosen them as our loves and therefore have some kind of an awareness about who they are as people and whether they would purposely do something to create tension with us. A relationship is about giving each other as much freedom as possible, to me, but we are aware of making the ‘us’ part of us work, as well.

liminal's avatar

@janbb I like the word belonging, as in another having a place in one’s life and visa versa. Each relationship has it’s own little garden club. For me, all my relationships parental, romantic, friendship, etc… have a quality of exclusivity where there seems to be an inherent uniqueness of connection that can not be replicated elsewhere. I think this sense of belonging is dynamic and sometimes the rules of membership can change. Depending on what the rights of intimacy are, in any given relationship, I may feel a certain freedom to suggest things like “you would look amazing with pink hair” not because I own them, but because they have given me a place to express such.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

There are changes I would and have asked of partners but it not to do with ownership but to healthiness of the relationship. I have asked my current partner to take better care of himself and I work to do the same, for us as a couple in order that our future be as positive and fulfilling as possible.

janbb's avatar

I like what you said @liminal . I am looking to explore what the notion of intimacy is, have never meant to imply that I thought ownership was a good concept. But having a connection and freedom to say certain things because we have established those rights makes a lot of sense…..

liminal's avatar

@janbb I have seen you write other things enough to know you aren’t talking about ownership of person. I also think it is a valuable question for many of us to think about, I am glad you asked it. Some people need to know that being owned is a damaging thing.

I think part of the vulnerability of intimacy is that it has the power to open the doors to our depths. Often it is when one tries to own and dictate another’s intimacy things lead to unhealthy and tragic relationships.

Giving my intimacy to another is one of the most delicate and dangerous gifts I can share. I am very careful with how much I give of myself and to who. If someone feels like they are entitled to take, what I am not offering, then they are not the sort of person I want near my depths. The closer one is to my ‘center’ the more freedom they have to ask things of me.

janbb's avatar

Part of what I am thinking about is the concept of enabling. If you have a partner or even a close friend whom you see engaging in self-destructive behavior, is it right to call them on it? If they’ve given you permission? Or does it always create an unequal “parent/child” relationship that is unhealthy?

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