Yes He’s My Ex, But He’s A Person First: Possession Issues

2 Jul

We label people. We do. And then we define what their relationship is to us. My “best” friend. My “ex-boyfriend.” We do it when we want to quickly explain how someone fits into our world and more importantly, how they “belong” to us. I don’t believe that anyone ever really belongs to us, though.  We can buy into the whole “Jerry Maguire” line of “you complete me” but I don’t believe that creates a healthy picture of what a relationship is supposed to look like. The moment we start thinking that we need someone to complete us, we get into trouble. The moment we start seeing someone we once shared a relationship with as “belonging to us,” we really become stuck. Then we begin to think we own them and their choices. We think they owe us something and we have, through our language of possession, created a tie that doesn’t need to be there.

I learned about this issue of possession the hard way. Several years back, I believed that one of the guys I dated could only be defined to me and my friends as just that: “my ex boyfriend.” In doing this, I made it known to all of my friends that they should not befriend him and could not “choose” him over me. If I’m honest, I hoped that they would want to forget about him all together.

While I understood that they had a friendship with him outside of me (because we were all part of the same community), I expected them to drop that as soon as he became “my ex-boyfriend” out of some kind of loyalty code that I had made up in my head to equal “friendship.”

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it isn’t fair. It is actually VERY selfish. I’m not proud of those years when I believed in this odd code of conduct and I even almost lost one of my friends over it. I thought her loyalty should be to me after the breakup because to me, my hurt was so heightened that I wanted him to hurt as much as I did. I tried to hurt him by attempting to claim all of our mutual friends for me.  By creating that unrealistic and unfair expectation, I forced my friends to choose. It put them in a completely awkward position. I was not wanting the best for the guy that I had dated or for my friends and in the end, I lost.

Luckily, I learned through this that we are not called to “possess” people with whom we are in a relationship.  Through controlling behaviors, unrealistic hopes that we can change a person, or through physical ties that connect us to a person too soon and too deeply, we can begin to believe that we can “lay claim” to a person and call them “ours.” But what if the relationship doesn’t work out? Then where are we?  Suddenly this person that I thought was “mine” was out of my life completely. The loss was devastating. I had over-shared and put too many expectations on a guy who was just a human and not capable of giving me everything I needed because I believed that he would complete me. (I’ve found the only one that can do that is God and so it became a situation of misplaced hope.)

In the end, we do not own someone who we dated and we cannot expect our friends to completely drop the person just because we are desperate for someone else to share in our pain. I am saddened and appalled that I ever believed that my friends were only real friends if they stopped talking with the guy that I dated in favor of me. When you break up, it’s not about sides. It’s about people who once shared something, hopefully learned a lot, and have decided that they are not the best for each other. It should be okay for people to part ways grieving but also wanting to want the best for the other.

In a call to maturity, I hope for a community where people can date, break up, and remain in that community cordially, while wanting the best for one another. I won’t allow myself to get stuck into a place where I have to “claim” people out of some belief that I own my friends. I won’t buy my friends’ loyalty to me in some power play intended to thwart the happiness of someone I once shared time, love, and hope with. That is not who I am or who I would want to be, especially as a follower of Christ. Surely my commitment to following Jesus, which informs all of my decisions and guides me even in my darkest of days will also inform me of how to love, even when it hurts and even when it is costly.  It is in that place of love that I learn that Jesus wants me to love my enemies, especially if in some way I’ve twisted it in my mind so that my “enemy” is now  someone I once loved…someone I somehow started believing was not a person with feelings and a soul but rather whom I too easily and selfishly labeled: “my ex boyfriend.” In the place where I can let go of labels and remember how to love my friends, the guys I’ve dated, and even myself, I find a new kind of freedom that I have never known.

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One Response to “Yes He’s My Ex, But He’s A Person First: Possession Issues”

  1. Jer July 10, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    I really loved that last paragraph. Thank you.

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