I think many would agree with songwriter Neil Young that you “lose your love when you say the word ‘mine.'” We want to belong but we do not want to feel owned nor burdened with a sense of ownership. I wish I had known what a delicate dynamic this was earlier in my life. I would have tried to be more graceful about giving and taking in my love affairs and worked harder to keep possessiveness in check.
Here is a quirky truth I stumbled upon recently. If you flip your perspective around and focus on the word “thine” instead of “mine” it works much better. In his book on love, Deepak Chopra talks about the idea of surrendering to the beloved, and it makes sense, especially, and perhaps only, if both people do it. If I focus on giving myself to you, and you focus on giving yourself to me, then neither of us needs to grasp onto the other for the other is freely given.
It’s a very good approach and one I look forward to attempting the next time I have the chance. At the same time, it’s tough as hell to do it consistently. Selfless giving without resentment takes patience, discipline and a great deal of trust. It works best if you imitate the Buddhists and take action without attaching yourself to any particular outcome. You only give what you can offer freely without any expectation of getting something in return.
This process can work quite well between two people. It becomes trickier when others enter the dynamic and possessiveness becomes part of the mix. Recently I witnessed a friend so tormented by jealousy that it made me feel grateful for my dormant love life. Her suffering brought to mind all those times when I wanted to put a stretchy leash on my significant other and reel him in. That’s the problem with the whole sense of ownership in love. If you own something, you have to guard it from others. It’s easy for Sting to suggest that “if you love somebody, set them free!” (and how appropriate coming from a touring rockstar) but not so simple when you see your beloved across the table at a holiday dinner (as I once did) tickling a pretty woman’s nose with a candy cane. That searing sensation of hurt, fear and rage is something I definitely do not miss.
So, here’s what I suggest to those of you who may be lamenting the lack of a significant other during this sentimental season: Keep in mind how challenging it can be to enter the couple’s dance of grasping and letting go, and allow yourself to breathe in the happy sensation of freedom from possession.