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The film adaptation of 50 Shades of Gray, the E.L. James kinky best seller and global cultural phenomenon (over 100 million copies sold) has made its way to the world’s movie screens. The steamy tale details a masochistic relationship between Anastasia Steele, a beautiful, curious college student and Christian Grey, a billionaire businessman, who desires extreme intimacy. The movie brings to the forefront the often confusing messages we often see in our society. Pain equals pleasure may work as an effective mixture to some, but the bigger issue is that it is often symptomatic of a deeper problem. Pain associated with pleasure is in many cases a result of unresolved inadequacies, insecurities or trauma. The emptiness that is felt from this pain is often replaced by a need to control others because a person’s life feels so unmanageable.
In the movie, 27-year-old Grey, despite the embellishments of success, his multinational businesses and vast wealth, is consumed by the need to control everything. Grey seeks to gain control because his present life (and past) feels so out of control. Although this perspective may sound confusing, this experience is real for Grey and influences the ways he engages in relationships.
Of course, the interest or need for a person to be controlling in a relationship is not gender-based. In a relationship, why would your spouse try to tell you what to do? The inherent problem may “lie” in the belief that it’s okay to manipulate another person’s behavior. If it’s manipulation, is it really out of love? Or, for self-benefit or gratification? Engaging in behavior based on your own discretion is quite different than being talked into doing something that is simply “not a fit” based on your belief system.
Forcing one’s belief upon another in a relationship is a recipe for big problems and this approach back fires, big time! Noticing what’s in your hands and what’s not in your hands is so important. You may be able to have your spouse do what you want in a particular moment in time but realize that if the person has not really “signed” up for this change there will be problems down the road. In particular, there is often resentfulness and feelings of lack of respect.
The other option is simply to respect boundaries. Are you clear of your boundaries are in your relationship? If not, establish them so you can create a clarity and respect. Are you open to understanding a view that may different then your own? Accept that things may not (and often don’t) unfold the way you want them to. If you or your loved one is struggling with controlling thought or behavior begin to address the cause together. Or, seek advice from a relationship expert. Once these issues are addressed, your relationship will be able to prosper.
Often, the best way to begin the change is to look at the reflection you see in the mirror. Are you honest with yourself about what you are seeing? Change is always possible. The key is being able to be let go of what’s no longer working and create room for things to be different. Just like Steele found out in the movie, she rediscovered her independent spirit, beauty and brilliance once she was honest with herself. Once you change yourself, everything in your world begins to change.
Unfortunately, love isn’t enough to change the person you love. It’s begins with loving yourself and treating the other person how you want to be treated. In 50 Shades, Grey’s insecurities and unresolved past interfered with his ability to show love in a healthy way. His unhappiness created a world that he believed would make him happy. In the end, it was really the illusion of happiness – a world that revolved around him and his own needs. Anastasia’s awareness of this reality took a while to surface but one it did she realized the only person she could change was herself. A great lesson to learn from – the power in each of us to create change in our life and relationships.
Are you feeling stuck in your relationship? Your invited to Ask Dr. Jeff your burning relationship question today. Ignoring the problem is simply not the answer. Finding solutions that work is the key to moving past the pain and growing your relationship.