Belonging and not ownership is something I’ve been contemplating lately. I have come to the conclusion that belonging comes from a place of love and ownership comes from a place of ego.
Now don’t get me wrong, that ego can be a loving, well-meaning force but it is a force nonetheless which sometimes doesn’t leave a lot of room for the others who don’t live up to the owner’s expectations.
I recently finished reading Rising Strong and Braving the Wilderness both by Brene Brown. These two books have got me thinking about my roll in different groups and relationships: where I fit, what I bring, what are my strengths, what are my weaknesses and so on. As is so often in life, the dose makes the poison and I have come to realize that what is one of my strengths can also be my greatest weakness at times. I am a strong-willed, stubborn, fighter. While those characteristics can be a great asset at times there are others when they also can breed resentment and animosity when administered in too large a dose or in the wrong place.
Many of the difficulties the Mr. and I experience are related to the mismatch of expectations and reality. Almost all disappointments in life seem to be related to this discrepancy but inside my relationship with the Mr. this can lead to epic arguments. I feel like these arguments happen because the Mr. is a safe space where I can lose my cool and ultimately he’ll still be there in the morning but in the moment those arguments are not productive and I have seen them effect the Munchkin. And ultimately, I realize, these arguments could lead to the Mr. choosing differently one morning.
I feel like the arguments with the Mr. can be especially wicked when I’m attempting to maintain ownership over some situation and my ego is in control. I’m trying to get things the way I want things without necessarily taking the time to really come up with a compromise solution. I want it the way I want it and my head (ego) is telling me that “you’re right, stick to your guns and WIN!” Thanks ego, that’s really what helps in a relationship.
Ahh….the almighty idea of “winning”. When I am owner of something I am trying to win. I am trying to make it into the best version it can be ON MY TERMS. Take, for example, cleaning the house. When I “win” we clean for 15 minutes to half an hour a day maintaining some level of clean. A routine is kept, things happen, and the chaos doesn’t explode around me. But sometimes my need for “winning” outweighs my belonging in my family. Sometimes the toddler has other ideas; sometimes she’s had a long day and we’re in the middle of mid-afternoon meltdown, sometimes she just “needs my attention” and wants me to play with her, sometimes she’s not even home and the Mr. and I get a few precious moments to ourselves. When I’m beholden to winning and owning, I can get tunnel vision and those around me be damned.
Winning and ownership result in me seeking to bend the Mr. and the Munchkin to my will instead of understanding and appreciating them for who they are and where they are in the moment. Belonging, however, allows me to share my feelings and concerns while being open to theirs as well. Belonging is a give and take with a root in love whereas ownership is generally a one way street.
Belonging doesn’t mean I have to give up or “cave”. Belonging isn’t about fitting in, it’s about still being who you are but being courageous enough to also stand in your bullshit and realize when you’re owning something so hard that no one around you could even begin to live up to your expectation. One of the telltale signs that I’m owning something is when I start telling myself: “I might as well do it myself because otherwise it’s not going to get done RIGHT“. The “right” is the big piece of that puzzle.
When I start picking on the Mr. about how he cleans, or anything else, because he’s not doing it “right” it’s when I know I’m attempting to own instead of belong. The Mr. is a functioning adult; he knows how to clean but when I start getting on his case about doing something “right” then I’m not allowing him the space to truly belong in this partnership with me. It’s like the age old fight of re-arranging the dishwasher because whoever you’re fighting with didn’t load it “right.” At the (almost) ripe-old age of 38, I have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really matter how the dishwasher gets loaded, the dishes (for the most part) always come out clean and if you’ve got to re-do a couple, that’s better than having to wash all of them by hand! Those of you that don’t have a dishwasher may never have experienced this particular fight but it’s a lot like the Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss.
By picking on the Mr. about the “right” way to do something I am undermining his sense of belonging and therefore my own since I am in this with him. It suddenly becomes a hierarchy instead of a partnership which then continues to breed resentment which further degrades our relationship with each other. All because I felt the need to do something the “right” way when, in fact, there are many ways, to come to the same conclusion.
Belonging allows me to be open to alternative paths to the desired result. It allows space for me to be vulnerable and cared for while I let someone else take control for a little while. Ownership shuts that vulnerability down and forces me to always do the caring, always be strong, and always be in control. Ownership leads to exhaustion and resentment where belonging leads to rejuvenation and happiness.
I have, luckily, been able to identify this pattern. Of course, sometimes it’s in slow-mo as I’m doing it. Almost like when you know you’re falling but you can’t quite stop yourself so you might as well prepare to hit the ground? Yes, I continue to hit the ground, sometimes it’s so bad it’s a faceplant but, as G.I. Joe said: “knowing is half the battle.”