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Possessiveness and controlling behavior in a relationship

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Relationships are hard and finding the right person is even harder. At times a healthy relationship can be worth it and can positively influence your life. However, poor relationships that involve abuse, toxicity, or even violence can significantly impact almost all areas of life. Unfortunately, abuse in a relationship can come in many, and often subtle, forms. One such subtle form of abuse can be possessiveness or extremely controlling behavior. By understanding what possessiveness is, you can hopefully try to avoid it in a relationship.اضافة اعلان

The form of possessiveness that qualifies as abuse goes far beyond standard possessiveness. Most all relationships are monogamous (i.e., single partner) by nature and as such, there is an expectation of belonging to someone. The level of fidelity varies from couple to couple as well as other factors such as religion and culture. Even in the most extreme cases, as long as the level of fidelity is equal and consensual between partners then it can still be a healthy relationship. An example of this would be both partners agreeing that conversing with the opposite sex is forbidden and both follow this rule. However, possessiveness that qualifies as abuse carries with it many destructive behaviors that can be unhealthy for everyone involved. Possessiveness stems from a basic fear of loss and in order to minimize this fear, the perpetrator will attempt to exercise as much control as possible. This controlling behavior can result in significant emotional abuse and negatively affect the victim’s well-being and quality of life.

This type of behavior is unfortunately common in Jordan. A 2009 study conducted by the World Health Organization assessed the prevalence of interpersonal violence perpetrated against Jordanian women who have been married. This study found that 97.2 percent of respondents reported their husbands being controlling in some form that amounted to emotional abuse. These forms of control ranged in severity, but some of the more concerning forms included restricting the ability to see friends (10.4 percent), physically locking the respondent in the house to restrict movement outside (9.1 percent), and often suspecting infidelity (4.2 percent). Additionally, this form of abuse not only affects women, but also men. A 2021 study looked at the experience of emotional abuse of Jordanian men by their significant other. It was found that isolation was the most common form of emotional abuse and done so in a way to psychologically control.

Possessiveness, at its root, is the fear of losing one’s significant other. Naturally, this can lead to feelings of fear, anger, and sadness along with a constant worry that their partner will leave them. However, these feelings later devolve into excessive jealousy, abuse, and paranoia. The initial feelings can make it hard to distinguish between normal affection and controlling behavior until it is too late. However, there are some signs that may suggest your partner has controlling traits. One of them is the feeling that the relationship is moving quickly. Normally, courting your partner is a process that can take months and will transition through phases as it evolves. For people with controlling behavior, some of the natural phases will seem rushed or even skipped altogether. As it relates to Jordanian culture, this may be reflected in the aforementioned 2021 study. It was noted that love marriages were more commonly associated with isolation than traditional arranged marriages. Additionally, emotional abuse was reported higher in younger men than in their older counterparts. What this suggests is that moving into relationships too quickly is often associated with controlling behavior. Another sign of controlling behavior is keeping track of schedules or invasion of privacy.

Although a healthy relationship requires little to no secrets, there should still be boundaries. There is a fine line between being open with your partner willingly and being forced to share everything. Relationships require trust, and if your partner demands to know where you always are throughout the day or what you are doing, then this can put a great strain on your relationship. Lastly, controlling your time is a strong indication of controlling behavior. Like personal boundaries, your time is something you should have control over, even in a relationship. Although a healthy relationship requires you to share it, it is done through mutual respect of each other’s time. Much of your free time will likely be dedicated to your partner, but it is equally important to maintain relationships with family and friends. When these other social relationships become neglected, it can worsen feelings of isolation.

The fear associated with possessiveness stems from insecurity. As a result of this insecurity, one of the most common causes is a concept known as self-abandonment. Self-abandonment is a pattern of self-destructive behavior that often contributes to mental health disorders. As it relates to possessiveness, the individual no longer takes responsibility for their own feelings of safety and self-worth, and instead place that responsibility on their partner. It is nearly impossible for your partner to make you feel completely safe and improve your feeling of self-worth. As a result, this behavior often creates a vicious cycle — as the partner is not able to meet these expectations, the controlling behavior worsens.

Provided that the possessive or controlling behavior is unprovoked (e.g., previous infidelity), managing with a partner who displays this behavior can be difficult. On the one hand, the 2021 study found that as the partners aged and the length of the relationship increased, levels of emotional abuse, including isolation, decreased. The study went on to note that this trend is likely due to trust being built over this time. As a result, it is possible to continue a relationship, if improvements are made along the way. Reassuring your partner while also establishing boundaries is the most effective way to improve the relationship. This can be as simple as dedicating a day of the week to hanging out with friends or family. Provided that the relationship is not abusive, reassurance is often enough to help build trust and reduce controlling behavior. On the other hand, if these boundaries are unable to be established or if the relationship becomes abusive, then intervention will likely be needed. It is important to understand that the behavior and insecurities are not the fault of the partner being controlled. The partner that displays this behavior will have to change and will likely need therapy.

If you are a person that has possessive or controlling tendencies, there are a few goals that can be worked towards. The first goal is improving your own sense of self. The fears associated with losing your partner often stem from the feeling that your life is intertwined with theirs. By enhancing your own sense of self-worth, you feel more independent. Even if your fears come true, you will still be able to manage. Additionally, it is important to find ways to manage your own anxieties relating to the relationship without involving your significant other. Therapy can greatly help with building a new frame of mind as well as finding techniques to cope with your insecurities.


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