“Can’t You See You Belong To Me?” Being In A Possessive Relationship, Camouflaged As Love

Posted: August 27, 2019

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“Every breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.” This kind of a possessive relationship is toxic, not beautiful. Be warned.

Like every young girl of that era, I was blown away, when I first heard this song by Sting, undoubtedly, one of the most popular pop songs, in the 80s.

I used to swoon at the beat, the voice and the lyrics. My poor heart aches with every step you take… was directed in my mind, at my ‘crush’ of that time. And then later when, inevitably, my heart was broken, I would bury my face in the pillow on those dark nights, and repeatedly rewind these lyrics on the tape recorder.

I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby, please
Can’t you see you belong to me?

Tears would flow. Unchecked.

Like other girls of my age I too believed — at that time — that it’s a song of love. And that there’s nothing wrong in the lyrics that say, I’ll be watching you.

But then I got over a crush

The best part of a young girl’s nebulous crush is that it often ends as quickly as it starts. You get over the person sooner than you were made to believe at first.

Psychologists say that it takes exactly seventeen months and twenty eight days to get over a person. When you are in your teens, it takes, maybe, lesser time. Depends on the impact and intensity of that love, crush, obsession, whatever.

It’s only when you truly fall in love with someone that you learn the value and importance of ‘working’ at the relationship to keep it alive forever.

A ‘stalker’ possessive relationship

Same thing happened with this song. I realised that basically it’s a Stalker’s song and having someone singing it for you is trouble, deep trouble.

Every step you take
I’ll be watching you…

But the saddest part is that more often than not, in your obsession to make the ‘true relationship’ work, you ignore the red flags.

You ignore the evil eyes of jealousy and possessiveness that begin to jinx the bond, at first intermittently, then regularly. Like a daily routine. The insecurity of the partner, their need to possess every space, every inch, every millimeter of you starts to creep up into your Eden of love.

When a husband is possessive

When you are in a marital bond with such a partner, you choose to ignore it, most of the time. You look the other way; turn a blind eye to the daily grind of accusations, explanations, and his unfair analysis of your character.

You tell yourself: He is my husband. He cares about me, our children. He is a good provider. The sex is good. There is financial dependency.

You secretly repeat to yourself these mantras every time he throws a glass against a wall, because he ‘caught’ you smiling at his best friend.

You swallow the raging protest inside you and comply when he asks you to wipe that red lipstick off your mouth, because according to him you are wearing it to “attract another man.”

You quietly change into another set of clothes when he says not to wear that black chiffon sari with that sleeveless blouse, because he hates it when other men ogle at “his precious one”, that is you.

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me?

But you are no longer a teenager having a crush on that rugged-heart-breaker-football captain of your High School. You no longer believe that this is a song of love.

You as an adult, educated woman know that that these words portray an obsessive need to possess, where a man is so obsessed with his woman that he is constantly keeping a watch on each and every move of hers. He is unable to take no for an answer. He is unable to let her go even when the relationship has ended.

That, every smile you fake, every vow you break, I’ll be watching you… speaks of transgression.

That, my poor heart aches with every step you take is a slowly binding net around you, which he is tightening surreptitiously, inch by inch, without you realizing it.

But you are so much in love with this man.

And when he says can’t you see you belong to me, you smile and pretend that he is such an intense lover, who just can’t share you with anyone.

Who decided the parameters of ‘love’?

Don’t get me wrong. I feel that a little show of possessiveness is pretty attractive. It is heart- warming. It makes you feel cossetted and sweetly fuzzy.

Only when it surpasses the parameters of acceptance that it turns toxic and intolerable.

But who decided the parameters?

When do you finally realise that your partner is trespassing into your personal boundaries?

Remember that 70’s movie Aap Ki Kasam a Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz starrer? I can still recall that scene where the heroine spots a pair of shoes behind the curtains, which spooks her out. That was her suspicious husband keeping a watch on her secretly, while she was under the impression that he is out of town.

It’s a scene that stayed with me for the longest time. It sums up a man’s obsessive, suspicious nature and his unhealthy possessiveness.

In my personal experience, often when such red flags crop up, we bury our heads in sand refusing to see them as danger signals, or we realise it too late, and unwittingly become an accomplice to an intrusive, obsessive love. More often than not we find it impossible to break the claustrophobic bond.

Not love, a barbed threat

My partner loves me a lot. He adores me to the hilt. So much so that he hates it if I am away from his sight for more than half an hour. He insists that I tell him the details of every minute spent away from him. He says that he can’t bear to be away from me, even for a second. He sulks if I smile at another man, or appreciate another man’s sense of humour or dressing. He wants me to meet only those he approves of. Dress up the way he wants. He says all this with an expression of wounded adoration in his eyes…and it turns my heart into water. I feel lousy about feeling annoyed at his probing questions. I feel guilty about the indignation that raised its head inside my heart a while ago, when he asked me not to invite my best friend to our house, because he thinks her husband secretly lusts after me…

So many women get fooled by this extreme adoration. They don’t stop and think that- I am watching you – is actually an impingement, not passionate love. When a pair of puppy eyes follows your every move, then you are not being worshipped out of love, you are being kept constantly under the scanner.

This is not love. This is a barbed threat. You are reduced to being a specimen pinned under a microscope, helpless and psychologically naked.

Come to think of it, there is a warning hidden somewhere in this game of ‘I spy’.

It is a warning for you to pack up and scoot before the passionate bond turns into a noose that will have you flailing your arms and feet and choke you so hard that it would be impossible to break free.

The danger quietly lies here

Since I find that the breaking up is so difficult, I have compromised. I feel that by compromising with the situation I have resolved a quietly simmering conflict. I have made adjustments for the ‘higher good’ of my relationship. Such as… children, society, financial issues, love for the partner, old parents who can’t be put through so much stress at this age, and the world is a harsh place for divorced women…etc. etc.

I do feel miserable and frequently incensed at his behaviour, but I quietly let it pass. Mum had sat me down once and had told me the pros and cons of a marriage. Marriage is daily work. She had warned. So thus every jealous tantrum of my spouse is covered up by his guilty pledges.

I have no idea that I have gone for the last option and the most uncreative one in my relationship—compromise! I do not realise that compromise is an agreement to put myself through constant dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and I have done exactly that.

I have missed the abusive streak, his underlying festering resentment that is couched in his passionate overplay of attention, camouflaged behind I keep crying… baby, baby please… you belong to me.

I overlook his overriding self-interest, his insecurity and the egocentric controlling of my life, which he hides so well under the cover of “intense love.”

I have bargained to vacillate between love, dislike, hate, anger and acceptance.

 And sad, but true, I have stopped loving myself.

How do you deal with something like this?

Tips

  • Talk to your partner from an adult’s perspective.
  • Don’t just follow his diktat blindly.
  • Don’t let it fester: the anger, the rage, the swallowing of pride etc.
  • Talk to a therapist.
  • Take professional help.

When all else fails…Remember –

Love is not all poetry and song and velvet and roses. It has teeth, and claws.

Often these claws try to grab at your soul, and the teeth sink into your self-esteem.

The song of love that he sings for you is beautiful, fine; as long as he allows you to dance to your own private music. If he tries to steal your drums, and flutes and lyrics, and asks you to dance only to his tunes, then wrap up. Leave the hall.

We all know that breaking up is not easy. Too much is at stake. Too much is there to lose.

Goodbyes are hard.

But living without a soul is harder.

Image source: a still from Tere Naam

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Nazia Mallick is the author of a literary novel, "Meshes of Smoke"- (2011)

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