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Synthesis Rough Draft (need to finish conclusion and add bibliography)
“The ol’ ball and chain” is an overused nickname for an overbearing wife. Although the line is basic, there may be some heavy rhetorical truth to it. Relationships of all categories from mild acquaintances to fiery marriages are all present in humans’ lives, yet, they all have the threat of becoming exhausting, annoying, and even abusive after some time. This begs the question, when is this line crossed? When does, a relationship become unhappy, unhealthy, and expire? One of leading reasons this happens is when one side wants to take all control, and becomes possessive of the other, like chains around an ankle. In the wide spectrum of human relationships, possessiveness is a thriving trait in all of them. Humans have always had a nasty habit of demoting others as possessions, and this trend can rear its head in places like friendships and romantic partnerships, eventually leading to an expiration date.
If this is an issue, then why do stable people feel a desire to build and possess relationships in the first place? What is all the work for? It is scientifically proven that there is an emotional and physical security in relationships of all sorts. As Robert Waldinger explains in his Ted Talk “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on Happiness” that a 75-year study conducted by Harvard reports that the happiest and healthiest of the 724 recorded participants were those who had “Good relationships” (6:16) He stated those who, “are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community are happier, they're physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected”, compared to those who lack these connections. (6:34) As the study proves, those who actively make attempts to connect with others in friendships, to family members, and to the larger social groups have longer and more healthful lifespans. He points out that people live longer, they have better memory spans, they report higher mental health, and are overall just “happier”. It explains why people strive to build relationships with others, and it highlights what is at stake if they do not make them.
However, there is a catch. Waldinger points out that it is not the number of relationships gained but rather, “… the quality of your close relationships that matters…” and that a connection in “conflict” is “bad for our health”. There are several reasons relationships between friends and spouses that could spoil or become toxic, but one of the most dangerous and soul-crushing forms is possessiveness.
In friendships, possessiveness can manifest in jealousy, manipulation, and guilt. One possessive type is that of an energy vampire, aka a friend who sucks the energy of the other without returning any of their own. Life Strategist Valorie Burton in her article for the magazine “Ebony”, illustrates the struggle of one of her clients “Stephanie” as she deals with a toxic friend “Angela”. Burton writes that Stephanie went out of her way to be Angela’s “…personal crutch for every crisis…”, such as driving her to work for three months, being her emotional support for four breakups within one year, and being pressured to help her find a job in Stephanie’s own company, with no return whatsoever. Angela did not pay gas money, spaced listening to Stephanie when she needed it, nor realize that finding a job was her responsibility. When Stephanie finally does confront Angela about how draining their friendship was her friend’s response was that, “...(she) felt entitled to Stephanie's pity, in part because Stephanie had a happy marriage and a job she loved.” Angela’s reasoning was: because Stephanie seemed happy, Angela now has the right to use her. She dismisses her friend’s health and true happiness and uses Stephanie for her own benefit. The friendship is one sided and Stephanie is no longer an equal, but a tool, a crutch, for Angela’s happiness. Stephanie felt pressured to help, and belong to Angela to be a good friend. Unfortunately, she was an energy vampire. This toxic friendship between the two dissolved, luckily before Stephanie felt any more strain of being possessed.
Entitlement to another can also be present in romantic relationships, not just platonic. In fact, it is magnified because, in most romantic relationships, there is the truism of monogamy and devotion to one partner at a time, so all that energy must go into one person rather than shared among friends. Helen fisher explains in her Ted Talk “Why we Love, Why We Cheat” that love is, an intense craving to be with a particular person… an obsession” (3:44-4:12). There, in effect, sets the standard that one partner has to spend time, energy, and emotional output on this person more than others. She explains that the increase in dopamine that comes with romance intensifies feelings. It also makes people, “become extremely sexually possessive” of their partners. So when one strays, the feeling of jealousy, pain, and hurt are also intensified. Perhaps this leads people to feel that they need to tighten their leashes.
Helen Acton writes in her analytical paper (title) about jealousy in relationships, and how jealousy is, “concerned with something one does have and fears losing” compared to envy which is focusing on what one does not have. Acton’s client, Nico, is filled with attachment to his girlfriend’s life, saying, “‘I love Sarah, I want her to be happy. But she’s mine – she’s just for me – I can’t bear the thought of her out there having fun with other people. She might meet someone. It makes me sick with jealousy.’” (pg 115) Out of context this statement’s intensity is is almost frightening. It sounds like a line muttered by a stalker. Yet possessiveness is almost common place in most relationships, and sometimes praised. This may be attributed to the fallacy that because Nico is so insistent on Sarah being his, there is no way he would ever stray or have an affair.
Yet, this Nico’s habit of being obsessive and demanding ownership will ultimately lead to his relationship’s demise. Sarah, or a similar person in this case, will ultimately feel smothered and without freedom to breathe. As Acton writes, “It seems to me that Nico is seeking here to possess or, certainly, to control his girlfriend Sarah’s freedom”. (line # or page #) For people plagued with this dilemma sacrificing their freedom is a heavy choice. This would entail that she could not “have fun with other people”, she could not “meet” others, she could not be trusted to be an individual. Often to regain freedom, the one being smothered has to step away to keep these things.
A relationship, whether it is platonic or romantic is a two-way street. Even in a parent-child relationship, where one does have the right for dominant power over another, there is a line drawn. Good parents know there is a difference between keeping a child safe by preventing them to go out late, drink, or be around certain people, and being possessive by choosing what a child’s hobbies are, by preventing them to choose their clothing, and not allowing them to socialize with others. A parent’s goal is the health, maturity, and happiness of their child, not emotional dependency. If it does become this it will become toxic (need to add more to this paragraph)
Relationships are indeed necessary, and have benefits. They add happiness, fulfillment, and it is near impossible for a human being to go through life without making connections with others. Yet there is a line that cannot be crossed when these relationships are formed. Becoming possessive of others is a leading cause for these, ever-so-important, relationships to fail. Even if it can be a mild annoyance, these problems can grind on those being possessed, and will eventually casuse them to wish for the end of the relationship altogether.
Waldinger, Robert. "What Makes a Good Life? Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness." Ted.com. Ted Conferences LLC, Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2016.. Stephanie felt pressured to help, and belong to Angela to be