Possessive Love

A few reflections arising from a recent workshop discussion…


Possessive love – a theme much explored by writers!


Possessive love is always destructive in the long run. It is sometimes incredible to me that so many “romantic” songs involving one person “wanting another”. Of course there is the lustful wanting of another where a fantasy involving imagining sexual relations with another person turns into a wilfulness that can be enjoyable as fantasy, and dangerous as obsession.


To “want you” to “be mine”, even “forever” (to paraphrase many songs) has both a stirring intensity that can even inspire on the one hand, and be dangerous and close to aggression and domination on the other. Sometimes the one “Possessed” is allowing it for many different reasons. it can be from trauma or guilt from their own past. It can be because they feel “lost” in their life in the present and seek someone “strong to tell me what to do.”


You cannot ever possess another, even if you try, though you can keep them physically and even emotionally in chains. I recently heard Brian Keenan (one of the Beirut hostages, held for 5 years) talk in very similar ways to Vaclav Havel about his discovery of his free, untouchable spirit, whilst in captivity. This spirit was his “true self”, his “real voice” that could never be held by another. In the moment of realisation of the part of himself “my captor lost his power over my body and mind”.


Possession in love can be very similar to demonic possession. The demon will not let go. They try to create a situation where the other is so possessed that they have entirely lost the strength to become free.


One can also be overwhelmed by possession, even addicted to it, fascinated by it. Possessors become eloquent after-dinner speakers at the banquet of their own pain.


As mentioned in a related article, they display “cult-like” properties, threatening violence, destruction and all kinds of hellfire and brimstone. Meanwhile they parade their “property” in public like a trophy.


But there’s also a gentler, simpler side to this. Possessive love is, quite simple, uncreative. It stifles creative potential. We are here to unfold our gifts, and we can’t do that if our inspiration comes through the possessive lens of another.


Winston Churchill said “the best way to keep power is to give it away.


If a possessive lover truly would like to, – note this phrase: – share freely – in the creative love of another, then they have to utterly risk letting go. They have to set the other person free.


If that person has been possessed for a while but still wants the chance to heal with the possessor, then true, creative, FREE space is needed. The possessor has to stop issuing emotional entreaties, threats, commands and demands, and let the other person go, for a significant period of time. No calls, no emails, in fact no pushing of any kind.


They have to withdraw respectfully. In Churchillian terms, it is their best chance in the long run of not losing the one they once possessed. But they also have to live with, and accept the possibility, that, once free, the other person may USE their freedom and move away completely. And isn’t that right? Isn’t that OK?


The best test of a relationship to see if it is or isn’t possessive (if you think it might be), is to allow it space. Real space. Respectful space.


To harm another, physically, emotionally, or even spiritually, in the name of love, is always wrong. Even abusive and, as a good friend of mine once said, “There is no excuse for abuse!”


Of course many possessive lovers react with anger to the idea they might BE possessive. It’s a hard thing to accept. Here are a few signs that you are attempting to possess another:


– You are unrelenting in pursuit of them in a way which you can see, wears their will down;


– You invade their privacy and limit their freedom of expression;


– You attack and threaten people close to them who you see as a threat, you even start to imagine those people to be a threat of some kind (you develop strategies to harm or get rid of them);


– You start of control the behaviour of the other, telling them what they can or cannot do, who they can or cannot know;


– You use emotional bribery and blackmail when they go against your will.


It requires a high degree of humility and self-honesty for a possessor to admit any of this, which is tragic, as the possessor is often only at a terrible crisis point when they finally do.



All of this, even in the name of “love” causes horrific damage to the other person who, once possessed, will forgive you, explain away your behaviour, and even praise you for it.


If you are a person of conscience, as a possessive lover, you will find yourself becoming ill in one way or another, either emotionally or physically (or both). However, many possessive lovers simply become selectively cold in their conscience, being, on the one hand, externally good friends and generous givers to charity but, internally, they are scheming, strategising, plotting ways to keep the ownership going.


The workshop discussions have always concluded the same thing. Possessive love needs some strong antidotes:



– The one possessed HAS to find a way to break free (it’s actually the only true gift of love they can give to the possessor);


– The possessor has to get some of professional help IF they cannot let the other go;


– Both have to get some professional help together (the roots of the possession have to be explored with skilled help).


Your thoughts welcome on this as it is a theme cropping up more and more in my work.

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