The Reality of Love

Posted Jun 23, 2011

This article isn't about that old question, "What is love?". This article is about certain aspects of love that are often misunderstood or forgotten. We won't deal with issues of love for inanimate things. Loving your country or your motorcycle is fine, however, for this, we'll discuss love between humans. Specifically we'll focus on romantic love.

However, just so we're on the same page, I'll post one of the best quotes I've ever read answering that first question. From Jubal Harshaw in the book Stranger in a Strange Land:

Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

First, let's acknowledge the fact that humans are a social animal. Individually, our craving for interaction varies in strength. Some need a lot of companionship, while others are happier with less. But in the end, we all need a certain amount of time with others.

The most interesting aspect of this fact is that we will find friends and love in almost every situation. Even if a racist were to be stranded in a country surrounded by the exact people they dislike, they would end up in a relationship and find the ability to justify it. ("he/she isn't like the others...")

Love and the desire to be with others is something that can't be removed completely. However, there is an aspect of love that almost everyone tries to suppress, even if they don't realize it.

To explain better, let me move from romantic love, to family love.

Let's say you have some brothers/sisters. (Obviously for many of us, this isn't hard to imagine) The exact number doesn't matter. One day, along comes your mom to say that she is pregnant again.

So the question is, with the addition of another sibling, will you have to reduce the amount of affection for the others in order to have any to spare for your new baby brother? The obvious and correct answer is "of course not". No matter how many people enter your family you will love them all. Some less than others, but love them nonetheless.

With family, and almost everyone else, it is understood that love (or any emotion) isn't fixed in quantity. To suggest that anyone could not love a sibling or family member due to some head count would be laughable. Even with friendship, we understand that meeting and gaining a new friend does not reduce the feelings we have for our other friends in the slightest. Frankly, we can even gain a new enemy without losing any of our hate for those we already dislike.

In short, all emotion is essentially limitless in quantity. And yet, in the realm of romantic love, the usual rule is two people, one love. No more, no less.

This "ideal" is so ingrained in us, via stories and real life examples, that most folks never even question it. And yet, falling in love with multiple people happens much more often that anyone cares to admit. We are in love with someone, and then meet someone else that we "click" with.

So what usually occurs when this happens? We are forced to "choose which one we really love". The very concept presupposes that we can't possibly have feelings for both of them. And yet, that's exactly what did occur. You found two people you care for.

If you or your mate ends up in this situation, I truly believe the best response is to ask "Does your feelings for them affect your feelings for me in any way at all?" If they can be truly honest with themselves and you, the answer will easily illuminate the path ahead.  Once this real situation can be acknowledged, a lot of relationship problems can be fixed, because you can address the true issue that affects your relationships: Time.

When our love finds they care for others as well, it's not love and affection that we are in danger of losing, but TIME. If you love multiple people, there is almost no way you can spend as much time with each one then if you had only one lover. It is this reduction of enjoyable time spent together that threatens most current relationships, not the loss of love itself.

Some try to resolve this problem by having a group marriage. Essentially living with some/all their lovers. However, this is not always a viable solution. The problem of time can also be intensified if the objects of your affection dislike each other, because this removes any possibility of spending time with both simultaneously. To try so when they dislike each other is a selfish action on your part, and ultimately self-defeating. The potential situations we can end up in, in an attempt to alleviate our specific issues will vary so much that I can not offer much advice this. I can only highly suggest being as honest with your feelings as possible in order to achieve the most viable solutions.

At this point, we need to make sure we understand a completely different issue that appears similar on the surface. So far, we've discussed falling in love with multiple people, but what if the issue is a reduction of feelings? What if, for some reason, your lover is simply losing interest in you and by natural extension, finds someone else to fill the void in their needs? Or perhaps it is you that finds a reduced emotional tie. In order to best serve those you love, you must be honest about the depth of your feelings, as well as the reality of the quantity of them.

For example, in my own personal life, I still love many of my ex-girlfriends. I'm still in contact with them. They've moved on with their lives and have others to spend their time with. Anytime I hear that they are happy, I feel joy. I truly am glad they live good lives, even if it's not with me. And that is love. It doesn't affect how I feel about my current mate one bit.

Of course since I'm male, it is possible that I'm simply justifying my natural genetic desire to "spread the love". On a reproductive level, males are much more oriented than females toward having multiple partners. Females, especially those dealing with providing a safe, environment for their offspring, are more prone to want only one mate. However, that's not always the case. Many females are comfortable with the concept of loving multiple people.

Ironically, this leads to the conclusion that those who "cheat" on their mate, and try to hide their transgressions are not deceiving their lover, but themselves. If they are honest with themselves about their feelings for these different people, they may have a better chance at avoiding a situation that causes their loved ones needless pain. The best rule in terms of how to treat your mate may be a version of the Golden one: Ask yourself if you could be comfortable if your 1st lover went through the exact same you are doing. If they had feelings for someone else, could you find the ability to be comfortable with it?

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