We are social beings who seek belongingness to experience union in worthy relationships. We embrace otherness to confirm that we are existentially connected. By allowing others to love us we engage an intimate space where we can also love ourselves. In other words, interconnectedness is a path to inclusive love. But when we perceive belongingness as a condition to control others, we enter the foreboding illusion of ownership.
We can only control what we own, but since sentient beings are designed to be free, attempts to control the behavior of others becomes an invitation to enter emotional hell: Turning a gift into a curse. Thus, to belong implies union without controlling members of the union. Many relationships fail when they clip the wings of the butterfly attempting to land by choice rather than coercion.
A Harvard longitudinal study found that having someone to count on was the major contributing factor to health and longevity with subjects followed for seventy-seven years. These findings indicate reliability in a partner is one of the strongest benefits of belongingness. To commit for better or worse resolves one of our greatest fears: abandonment by those we choose to love.
In addition to reliability, belongingness offers companionship to celebrate good fortune, mutual admiration for accomplishments, facing adversity together, and coming home to a welcoming partner. But if we attempt to control these precious gifts, relationships become oppressive, and gratitude turns to resentment.
Then why do we insist on controlling others as if they were our property? Just as you should follow the money when solving a white-collar crime, look for fear as the culprit for our failures in relationships. Paradoxically, when we try to control others for fear of losing them, we hasten their disconnection and eventual departure.
The benefits of belongingness without ownership grow as relationships mature with love as the agent of bonding and trust. But this level of existential comfort can only be achieved with healthy self-valuation that confirms we are worthy of being loved. We can increase belongingness without ownership in a relationship by mutually recognizing laudable qualities, expressing gratitude for shared exclusivity, and acknowledging the strength of the word “we” when facing the vicissitudes of life.