Don’t let love—or society’s idea of love—fool you. You are in control of it, not it of you.
What is love?
- Lady don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more
- A feeling based on a reality (you meet a person and get to know them) and a perception (this person is great for me!) (Martha Kirshenbaum–excellent book, I recommend it)
- “Three elements: intimacy, passion and commitment. Intimacy involves closeness, caring, and emotional support. Passion refers to states of emotional and physiological arousal. This includes sexual arousal and physical attraction as well as other kinds of intense emotional experiences. Commitment involves a decision to commit to loving the other and trying to maintain that love over time.” (Sternberg, 1986, Psychology Today)
- A potent hormonal cocktail
- A long Wikipedia read
There are probably as many ways to define love as there are people in the world. For me, love is a deep feeling of care and commitment to the well-being of a person. The lines between friendship love and romantic love are getting a bit blurred for me right now, but that’s actually something I want right now.
We live for it. Some people die for it. Many of us basically arrange our lives around finding and keeping love.
I get it. Love is awesome. It makes you feel wanted and desired and cared for. It brings you close to another person in ways few other feelings do. It’s empowering and beautiful.
There’s this thing about love, though. If you listen to the messages around love in TV, movies and popular culture, something comes out really strongly:
If you’re in love, you MUST do everything you can to be with that person FOREVER in a normative move-in-marriage-kids-retirement life.
When I am in love, an entire culture is telling me that I should basically tie my life irrevocably with that of another person for the sole purpose of reproducing and raising children.
When you are in love, that’s the subconscious command that all your years steeping in Western media and Christian patriarchy are giving you.
Resisting this command is difficult. I remember wanting to move in pretty much right away with anyone I was in love with. I remember imagining marriage and children and vacations and retirement. I remember building an entire life around what was, really, just a feeling.
Breaking up with M., getting involved in the kink and polyamory communities, and steadfastly holding on to my independence as a value for my life has made one thing clear:
Love isn’t a command for anything. It’s not an obligation to get married or make babies. It’s just something you feel for another person, and what you do with it is YOUR CHOICE.
I can love and want to live alone. I can love and choose not to have children. I can love and make career and life choices that exclude long-term commitments. I can love more than one person.
The feeling of love is not diminished by the fact that I don’t subscribe to our narrative of the monogamous couple. My love is just as genuine, deep and caring as any other kind of love.
In fact, I feel more free to love, since it doesn’t come with any obligations. I feel more free to express and explore all kinds of different loves. I feel more free to let relationships take their own shape instead of trying to make them fit in a box that doesn’t suit me or my life, or my partners’ for that matter.
I love many people. I love E., and I love S. I loved N. I loved M., too. I can love, even for a few moments, the top that beats me in pick-up play. In different ways. For different reasons.
Love is connection. It doesn’t have to be a life-long connection. It’s all valuable. It’s all beautiful. It’s all fucking meaningful.
Love should fit the life you want, not the other way around. Love should make you feel empowered and connected, not miserable and hurt.
When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily. –Not actually Buddha, but still a good thought.
You owe love nothing. You owe your loved ones nothing, except your love.
Love is a feeling, not a command.