What should I be doing instead of this?
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By Erma P. Sanders · April 12th, 2001 · Diva
If you want a hint of where this is going to go, think back to Janet Jackson's breakthrough album. That said, I know four people who, right now, have the same problem. For ease I'll call them Abby, Bill, Carla and Dan.

Abby and Bill just acquired a new pet. Or should I say Abby acquired a new pet? Bill has made it clear for many moons that he doesn't want a dog. For all of their married years, Abby and Bill have been dog-free. Abby wasn't happy, but in a marriage a yes plus a no equals no. So, no dog. Both parties should be in agreement in a happy, equitable relationship. This story hasn't reached it's final chapter. All three are cohabiting but I sense a smooth transition has not been reached.

Carla and Dan are going to be married, but currently they live in separate quarters. Dan has made it clear that Carla is welcome, but not her cat. If Dan had a life-threatening allergy, he never should have gotten serious about Carla to begin with. Carla and cat are a package deal. And Dan needs to ask himself if his love for Carla is greater than his hatred for the cat. The love should be the stronger emotion and prevail. This is still a story in progress, but I'm betting on happily ever after and the cat finding his niche in the new household.

A, B, C and D all have the same problem. Forget for a moment the similar circumstances and the pet analogies: The real issue is control.

Abby has gained control in what, in a sense, is a hostile takeover. Bill's status quo was ambushed. Dan is asking Carla to give up control. A lot of control. He's not saying throw out the lamp that doesn't match the living room. He's saying toss out a living, breathing animal companion who has been with Carla almost a third of her life.

I'll try to be sympathetic for a moment and see the other side. Is Bill being a jerk for denying Abby something that would give her pleasure? Again we're not talking about a lamp here. Will Bill be expected to care for the dog when Abby is not around, such as walking and feeding him? Will the dog ruin Bill's possessions and generally disrupt the household? Certainly these are things to ponder, and I'd bet Bill had already answered these questions for himself. Which is why he didn't want a dog to begin with.

As for Dan, I'm not even going to pretend I understand. If Carla gives up her cat, will that prove to Dan that she loves him best, even though she will be miserable? What kind of man would ask a woman he loves to choose?

Not that I'm in any way saying the aforementioned examples will end up this way. But every man or woman in a relationship who ends up lonely, miserable or even abused gave up something earlier in the relationship that seemed innocuous at the time but ultimately set the pattern for giving up control.

Once you sit idly by and let the first thing happen, its only a matter of time before your partner will press a little further. It's like a child pushing his parents to see how much he can get away with. If the parent thwarts the actions or punishes them then the parent regains control. But a parent should in control.

In a loving relationship, there is no control. There is give-and-take, compromise and resolution. When one partner does something that makes the other extremely uncomfortable, it is a control issue that will escalate into a control problem if not dealt with immediately.

contact erma p. sanders: letters@citybeat.com



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