I’ve had lovers tell me I’m too rational about love.
I have, on numerous occasions, been caught analyzing and intellectualizing the sex I was either about to have, was having or did have. When a guy told me that I “thought too much about sex,” he wasn’t saying that I sat around all day with visions of naked people pressing up against each other, but that I sat around all day with visions of why people got naked and pressed up against each other.
For the longest time I’ve been attempting to figure out what love is, why people think they feel it, do they really feel it, what is it supposed to feel like, what people are supposed to do with it, etc.
I’ve read Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, William Wordsworth, Junot Diaz.
I’ve listened to Marvin Gaye and Adele.
I’ve even watch romantic movies like The Notebook and Fatal Attraction (ha!); but really, all of these outlets of expression exist because it’s such an abstract idea, and with abstract ideas people can get creative with meanings.
As Diane Ackerman says in A Natural History of Love:
“Everyone admits that love is wonderful and necessary, yet no one can agree on what it is.” She then adds, “We use the word love in such a sloppy way that it can mean almost nothing or absolutely everything.”
For the longest time I’ve been grappling between the theory and the reality of polyamory, which is the idea of being in multiple intimate relationships. I remember the moment when I felt I could dive into the polyamorous lifestyle and I would come out okay in the end. It was actually while I was watching the movie Adaptation, pretty much the only movie that Nicolas Cage was good in. There was this scene and the two characters conversation went something like this:
Donald: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn’t have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.
Charlie: But she thought you were pathetic.
Donald: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago.
Something opened up for me in that concept of “you are what you love,” it was beautiful to think about recognizing when there was love and being able to fully feel it. It almost gave a sort of permission to love fearlessly. To understand that even if a relationship ended, if there was love, that love never went away, it existed somewhere in the universe forever.
But yet, even though the Adaptation quote was moving, it never quite got to a definition of what love is. And how could I truly experience/share love with one person, let alone multiple people, if I didn’t actually know what it meant?
Enter bell hooks, social critic, intellectual, author, feminist.
Even though bell hook’s book, All About Love: New Visions has an overall monogamous tone, I’d like to take a moment and discuss why her theory and definition of love could, when combined with polyamory, actually transform the world into a much better place.
In my opinion it’s important to have a working definition of the one big abstract idea that is rooted in the basis of almost all human interactions.
We have to know what it means before we can do it.
When we look at love “as the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth,” we begin to see how to better make love happen.
Love is not necessarily a feeling, but an action. Actions have reactions, consequences, the potential for transformation. If we can shift from this romanticized concept of “falling” in love we can move away from the idea that we don’t have any responsibility in the matter, when in truth we’re entirely responsible. We own it. And yes, we can control who we love. We can decide who we want to put our energies into, who we want to express care, affection, respect and trust with.
I think that’s the overarching beauty of polyamory when used in relation to this definition of love, because if one opens their world to loving multiple people, more people have the ability to reach their true potential.
I’m not saying it can’t happen in monogamous relationships, it obviously can, but with polyamory we have more people working together to help each other transform.
Let me do an analogy here. Our current basic living situations for a majority of the population consists of compartmentalized space, so either a one-family home or apartment separated from neighbors by thick walls, where life becomes individualized.
People literally shut each other out.
Now it has been a psychologically proven fact that people who are well connected to communities are happier.
So it would come as a logical solution to start tearing down the walls.
Perhaps we have to start first with our figurative walls, the walls that separate us from the ability to have true intimacy with other people. We have to learn how to not only believe in that definition, but live it day to day. We have to let go of fear, because there is no place for fear in love. When we let go of fear, we’re able to love more, whether we channel that love to one or multiple people. When we lose the fear and push each other to work on becoming our “true” selves, to grow and transform, we also transform our world, and that makes it a better place for everyone to live.
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Ed: Sara Crolick