When we think about a dating relationship, we try to imagine the perfect partner. They have charm, wit, a good personality, can get along with our friends and family, and they treat us like an equal. That would be a “perfect world” type of relationship, one where we can brag to others about how happy we are, and they can see the bliss we feel when thinking about this person. Of course, this begins to sound like a Disney movie when we compare the ideal with the reality of modern dating.
In reality, we dream about being with the perfect partner, but end up with someone a bit less fulfilling. Sure, they may have some of the qualities listed above, but who can really hope to find someone that fits every nuance of their idealized relationship? Each of us has different wants, needs and interests, which further complicates the expectations we have.
In this day and age of internet memes, social media abundance, and reality show inundation, we have learned to pare down our expectations in lieu of someone that will merely date us. Sometimes we’re looking for someone to give us affection; sometimes we’re merely interested in eye candy. And while no relationship can ever be 100% perfect all of the time, we should have goals in mind for what an ideal partner is like.
This brings us to the idea of “ENTITLEMENT,” a big word that implies a sense of superiority, inherent deserving, or the right to do and have whatever we want. When we enter into a new relationship, it’s expected that both partners will work together. No one person can make all the decisions all the time, have all the control, or get to claim ownership over their partner. It should be a 50-50 situation between two dating partners, regardless of gender, background, dating experience, or any other factor. Of course, this takes both people in the relationship having similar beliefs and an understanding of equality.
Unfortunately, there is this intrinsic belief in our society that one person is entitled to being ‘The Boss.’ It has to do with the way our world values those in power: the biggest, the richest, the loudest, the strongest get to make decisions, and the rest just fall in line. We see this in politics, in organizations, with celebrities, or even within relationships.
When we think of ENTITLEMENT in a dating relationship, some may feel like they can control where their partner goes, who they talk to, or even who they can have as friends (in person or online). They may tell their partner what they can or can’t wear; what they can or can’t eat; what kind of make-up is acceptable; or how long they’re allowed to spend away from the partner without checking in.
This might sound ridiculous, but for too many people out there, this is their reality. They’re stuck in a relationship with someone who believes it’s their right to dictate these decisions.
Too often, entitlement rears its ugly head in regards to sexual intimacy. The fact that we live in a society that paints women with a broad expectation for being sexually pure, while objectifying their bodies in TV, movies and even commercials; there begins to be an expectation that women are available and able to provide the same sort of sexual pleasure within a dating relationship. Partners begin to look at women’s bodies as something that can be controlled: from what they wear, to when and how they express their sexuality. This is not something a dating partner should be able to control, but these misconceptions about women (sold to us through the media) corrupt our sense of equality.
If a person views their partner as someone that “belongs” to them, just because they agreed to be together in a relationship, then that is entitlement coming into play. When a person demands their partner be sexually active (either because they’ve done it before, or because it’s the expectation they have for a boyfriend or girlfriend), this is laying the foundation for sexual abuse. No one is entitled to demand sex or intimacy from anyone, regardless of their relationship status. Even when two people get married, they are not entitled to be sexually intimate at the beck and call of their husband or wife!
The opposite of entitlement is equality. When we view a partner through the lens of equality, we view them as their own person, readily willing and able to make their own decisions, even if it counters what might be expected or hoped for in the relationship. When we view a dating (or married) partner as an equal, we respect their ability to make decisions for themselves, just as they would do for us. We value their opinions, even when we disagree with them, and would never use our status to force their hand.
We all deserve to have a healthy, fun, exciting, or “perfect” dating relationship. What we do in that relationship depends on our choices and actions, and the decisions we make together with our partner. We must learn to equalize the playing field with those to whom we enter into intimate relations.
Entitlement, control, or ownership should never be seen as desirable traits for anyone.