Possessive Partners are Everywhere

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Many readers of this column perhaps are aware of my keen interest in the subject of jealousy between partners. My interest in the subject led me to author a book on morbid jealousy. So, you can understand that when scanning a daily Indian newspaper I saw an article with the title, "Possessive Husband," I wanted to soak in every word of it. The story was about a highly controlling and possessive man, who we will call, "Mr. P." Mr. P, strangely enough, told his would-be bride that after the marriage he would not want her to have any contact with her relatives and friends.

Here is how Mr. P tells his story:

"Before I said "yes" to this relationship, I met my wife and her parents, and made it amply clear to them that I would not like my wife to go out with any of her friends or relatives except her parents. And, that I would personally take her to all the places she would want to go. I also told them that I would not allow her to take up any job or training courses.

"I am a family man. But, my wife and I are living apart for the last two years. She and I keep having dialogues, but we do not come to any conclusion." (I suspect all his "dialogues" are monologues and by "conclusion" he means that she has not yet agreed to go back to his jealousy jail).

"I have been secretly following her wherever she goes. And I know that she has not been going out or meeting another man. But, I do feel suspicious. I want to be obeyed. I want her back. What should I do? Do not ask me to say sorry to her. I will not. I am the man and she must learn to respect my wishes."

Obviously, this man is certain in his own mind that he is in the right and his wife is in the wrong. He is the man of the house and she should respect all his wishes without any reservations. He owns her and therefore she should not have any relationships, ambitions, or desires of her own. So, after twenty years of marriage, twenty long years of a chokehold, she managed to struggle free, just enough to catch her breath. But, is she free to live her life the way she wants to? Not yet.

Mr. P’s admission that he has been secretly following her makes me uneasy. It’s not a major problem at this point because she is not seeing anyone. I wonder how he is going to react when and if she does decide to meet someone and have a life of her own. It is obvious that he will not accept it without a fight. His anger may turn into rage and rage may turn into violent actions towards her. Research has shown that women face the greatest danger when they decide to leave their violent partners.

Why did she get into this relationship in the first place? The signs of his possessiveness and controlling nature were obvious from day one. He didn’t try to hide his penchant for control from her or her family. He told them before the marriage that he would not allow her to have a career, social life or education that could pose any threat to his control over her. And yet, she went ahead with the marriage. Why? My guess is because she and her parents took it to be a sign of his passionate love for her rather than a sign of his obsession with power and control.

My interest in the subject of lovers’ jealousy gave me an opportunity to study the lives of hundreds of couples from a wide variety of cultures. Insanely jealous, possessive, and controlling partners exist in all cultures. And they exist in all strata of a society. Likewise, there are susceptible partners everywhere who are flattered by an extraordinary amount of attention and control their obsessed lovers display during the courtship. Thus, pathological jealousy is mistaken to be a sign of passionate love. Their aggression and contempt for others is taken as a characteristic of maleness. "Blinded by love" would-be victims fail to see that some time later similar rage and aggression will be directed towards them.

Even more blind-sighted are partners who try to fight their own insecurity by exerting power and control over their partners. They fail to see that the more tightly they grasp their partners, the more their partners will want to get away from them. Even a mother, after a while, tries to peel her clinging child off her. Not because she stops loving the child, but, she just gets tired of being pulled and pushed and needs a break from it.

Possessive individuals want exclusive rights to their partners. They confine them and they watch them. If their partners try to run away, they lock them up. If their partners succeed in running away from them, they chase them. They can never win. You can coerce another person to do a lot of things, but one thing you cannot make another person do: you cannot make the other person love you.

All of us tend to be attracted to people who are self-assured. After all, who wants someone who is acting out of desperation?

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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