Our society is built on the desire for ownership.
We want to own things and call them ours.
This book is “mine.” This car is “mine.” This person is “mine.”
When this happens, love becomes synonymous with possession.
“I love this person, and he or she is mine.”
However, when we make a person or thing specifically ours, it takes away all the freedom and dignity.
We are essentially saying this person or thing cannot exist without us, and we cannot exist without it, him or her.
My parents got divorced when I was 18 years old.
Growing up, I used to wonder every day why they were still married.
All I saw were tragic fights ending in tears and volatile words that cut deep and left wounds on the hearts of the whole family.
It never made sense to me why they were staying together.
When my dad called to tell me they had finally decided to get a divorce, there were no tears or questioning, “What happened?”
I was relieved.
I breathed long and deep, hoping the next chapter would bring closure for everyone and help us learn to be happy with the love we had.
What I didn’t plan for were the selfish decisions and hostile digs toward one another.
Everything became a competition.
Who would get the house? The cars? The dogs?
I quickly realized divorce (and breakups in general) mean being completely selfish in the face of someone you once shared everything with.
It’s tragic to see how quickly love and intimacy can turn into complete disdain.
Watching this selfish deterioration of love taught me love cannot survive as something selfish.
To be in love with somebody means we want what is absolutely best for that person.
We want that person to flourish.
We want to see that person happy and healthy, independent of us.
The best, most wonderful kind of love is when you allow each other to grow independently.
We work together to teach one another how to be happy without the other person.
We push each other to be our best selves.
We grow, and we help each other grow.
We are not responsible for the growth, however.
We are not responsible for the other person's happiness or successes.
We celebrate the other person.
We empathetically help him or her work through challenges.
Those successes and those challenges are not ours, however. We do not own them.
Love that is truly selfless is not about us or what we gain from the relationship.
It is about how we can help the other person become completely fulfilled without us.
As is evident in a parent-child relationship, the best relationships work when the two involved spend their entire relationship teaching each other to be okay without the other person.
When the child leaves home, the parent is able to be happy for the child.
The parents relish in the child's successes of moving on and growing up.
They feel confident they have given the child the tools necessary to survive on his or her own.
Conversely, when a parent dies, the child who is confident in his or her relationship is able to mourn the loss without feeling as though a piece of his or her soul has been lost.
Growing up and watching my parents have a completely selfish romance has taught me the importance of finding a romantic partner who pushes me to always be selfless.
I want to end up in love with someone who pushes me to be independent, and happily so.
I hope my partner shows me how to be a better person through every decision I make.
I hope if I some day have to leave my partner — whether through a divorce or a death — I will be enough at peace with myself to appreciate what we had without mourning what is now no longer “mine.”
While our entire lives are inundated with messages of selfishness, love should be a place of solace.
It should be a place to completely remove the expectations of ownership.
If we can love without possession, we can love all parts of one another.
We can survive with the happiness we have found within ourselves.