The Greeks had at least six words for love, many European languages distinguish between romantic and familial love and yet English is terribly restrained and minimalist leaving us with a mere one word with a scant four letters with which to talk about one of the most complex emotions that we experience.
There are many stories about love. There is the socially dominant narrative of love, there is your own formative personal narrative (how you were loved as a child and a young adult) as well as your own romantic narrative once you began to form attachments to others.
This piece is not concerned with telling you how you give or receive love. Or how love should be. It is just my story: my own, personal, love narrative.
For me, as a child, love was very much dependent on my behaving in a certain way. As a young adult, love was either about pleasing others or about pleasing myself: relationships were often formed on a whim, unconsciously, and ended as quickly. As a wife, love was about making a commitment to a future I trusted in even though I could not see it. And, as a mother, love became about letting go of the self I had become attached to in order to help two new, and very beautiful beings, love themselves and the world they had been born into.
Now, as a polyamorous woman, I love very differently. Not better. Just differently.
As with the Zen concept of the finger pointing at the moon, when we talk of love, we are, all too often, gazing at the fingernail and then we wonder why we feel disappointed when that neither lights up the darkness nor contains the power of the tides.
For me, now, love is not the needy, clutching, do-this-stay-here-make-me-feel-good thing that we are told of by so much of the world around us. True love and loving go far beyond this.
When I say I love you what I am doing is handing that person a box, a box that contains these things:-
My acceptance of you, as you are right now
My support for you, whenever you need it
My respect for you, shown in all I do
My commitment to you, whatever form our relationship takes
My gratitude, for your presence in my life
My wonder, at the incredible person you are
This kind of authentic love can awaken you to yourself and the nature of things but only if it is love without attachment, love without fear. Only love fully given with absolutely no expectations or demands can make you feel alive.
And even if the person looks at the box, examines it, shakes it and, ultimately, casts it aside, that does not mean I was wrong to give it to them.
No relationship can last forever in one particular form. Life may only want that relationship to last for six months, or a year, or for ten. But it does want it to exist right now and this is how we should give love: just in this moment, the only one we ever have.
And, when things change, know that it was never a mistake to love. For how can acceptance, support, respect, commitment, gratitude and wonder ever be a mistake?
This is how I love now. And I can only hope that I learn to love even more openly, even more generously, even more powerfully as the changes continue to come…