“You are mine,” is something we hear from our partners that often leaves us feeling good. But, if you look closely, it can fall into a subtle form of control rationalized by “love,” or as we call it hear in Egypt “7ob El Emtelak.” Possessive love, in all its forms, is dangerous, whether its secret searches through cell phones, or taking charge of our partner’s actions. We see its forms in the Egyptian Ramadan series ‘Le3bet Newton,’ featuring different dynamics between characters, that all fall into the form of possessive love. In one relationship it is aggressive and obvious, and in another it is subtle and deceptive. But in both cases, it leaves both ends as shadows of their partners, dependent on each other to the extent that they won’t know how to exist outside of the relationship.
We see this primarily in the relationship between Hana and Hazem, a married couple who own a business together. Hana agrees to travel to the United States with Hazem’s “permission,” as an opportunity to give her child the American passport. He always makes Hana feel like she can’t manage to do anything without him, and we see this control and over-protection in every detail of their relationship. The highlight of this is when Hana was checking in at the airport, and she had her headphones in so that her husband can talk her through what to do next. Hazem wanted to control every aspect of his wife’s life, because he felt like she belonged to him, and, we see that he defends all his actions underneath the notion of love. He was always short with her, shouting at her, treating her like a marionette who couldn’t survive without his strings. Even when she wanted to divorce him so she could marry her later love Mo2nes, he refused to do this so he could continue owning her. Finally, in their confrontation, he asks her “howa lamasek?,” showing us that for Hazem, the only way to love his wife was to posses her in every way possible.
This possessiveness is seen again in the relationship between Hana and Mo2nes, a lawyer who was helping her retrieve her child after he was taken away from her. He uses his connections and abilities to help Hana in her personal life, as leverage to control and keep her to himself. Unlike Zi, the drug dealer who helps her without using it against her, Mo2nes uses Hana’s vulnerability and need for his help as an opportunity to exert power over her. Although it is very subtle, it is this very manipulation, this very illusive understanding of “because I love you I will control you,” that leaves many lovers destroyed.
Despite the exposure of such toxicity in possessive relationships, we are happy to see other character dynamics that offer the show’s audience a different perspective on love. 3am Badr, who was a partner with Hazem and Hana in their factory, meets a woman named Amina. Their relationship was kind of absurd, as they lived together with no romantic strings attached, despite the fact that Badr really loved her. Despite his love for her, however, he not only decides to let her go, but he did everything in his power to help her retrieve Hazem, whom she loved. By sacrificing what he wants for his partner’s happiness, Badr shows us a level of sacrifice that is in fact, what actually falls under the umbrella of love.
There are many subtle and not-so-subtle ways people attempt to control their partners under the notion of “love.” But, when you truly love someone, you set them free, irrespective of whether or not it aligns with your own needs, preferences, and way of living. When you truly love, you trust. When you truly love, your connection to your partner is not based on control, because feeling connected to someone does not give us the entitlement to own or control them. Yes, “enty beta3ty,” might feel nice, like we belong to someone. But, we must always remember the difference between belonging to someone, and being the basis of their existence.