In monogamy people can conveniently blend friendship, respect, admiration, lust, legal and financial co-dependence, passion, ownership and sometimes even actual love – under the word ‘love’. They can do it because there is no social need to distinguish.
Only individuals need to tell the difference – and they need it badly. When you become a couple, your environment assumes that you do all the usual things. This way it is easier to classify you. But do you really do all the above in your relationship? Are you friends or just a couple, who would never see each other when the romantic relationship is over? Do you respect or just own each other? Is it happiness or is it just relief that you finally managed to secure a partner that is approved by everyone? Do you even want a relationship? Exactly this way? With these rules? Right now? Or do you just want relief from social pressure? Is it attraction or just financial relief? It should matter to you, but society doesn’t care.
When you allow all these things to be mixed under the word ‘love’, it ceases to mean anything. Whatever happens in a relationship is not love.
When we fail to make the distinction, ‘love’ resembles the sentiment my grandmother felt for her chickens: She ‘loved’ them: we tend to them now, and they’ll make a great soup one day.
Whatever people do in relationships (or marriage) is hereby called ‘love’ – and then we are surprised when distinctions surface. Our sexual desire doesn’t fall on the same person as our respect, friendship and love? We go and seek professional counselling. We read magazines and learn that it happens to everyone. Is that supposed to be consolation? Is it a reason to continue?
We all struggle with the same issues – and yet we think the problem is in us. No one dares to blame the notoriously under-defined, one-size-fit-all concept of relationships and what it implies to be ‘love’.
By redefining love to cover whatever ambivalent feelings we may have is an insult to the concept of love.
Many have experienced that it is possible to love more than one person at the same time. And yet, instead of acknowledging it, they deny the feeling and think there is something wrong with them. If society says love is exclusive, then so it must be and I must be wrong.
‘Love’ is also used as a synonym to ‘ownership’ – like my grandmother and her chickens. If I love you, you ought to perform certain tasks in my life, and refrain from doing so in anyone else’s. Belonging equals possession. And we call both ‘love’.
Polyamory makes a few distinctions here. Love is not ownership, it entails admiration, respect, friendship and lust in different measures, and most importantly, it is not necessarily exclusive.