Saturday, February 4, 2012

A different kind of love.

Love songs don't work too well for Rowdy and me.  Romantic movies neither.  It's hard to pick out Valentine's cards.  All these things--pretty much any trapping of romance that contains more text than "you're awesome, I love you"--seem to define love very differently than we do.

There's so many things that get associated with "love" that aren't part of our experience of loving each other.

Exclusivity.  Both of us are sleeping with other people right now, he's dating other people, and there's not a damn thing wrong with that.  I've started to love the feeling of "coming home" to Rowdy after fooling around with someone else; it's a wonderful warm thing to be able to say "I like going off and having adventures, but your dick is where I hang my hat."

"...metaphorically."

So it's weird to me to see "I'm all yours" and "you're my one, my only" used as expressions of just how sincere and true a love is.  They can certainly be definitions of a particular couple's love, but that doesn't make it lovier.  Exclusive love isn't deeper or more serious (or worse!) than open love, it's just different.

Permanence. Stuff ends.  And when stuff is a relationship, it really only ends in two ways--you break up or somebody dies.  Rowdy and I are in our twenties, we're not getting married, and we both have a bit of the "maybe I'll move to Alaska next" wanderlust in us.  We'd like to be long-term but realistically we're not forever.

And I'm okay with this.  I don't love to think about it, but I'm at peace with it.  Which is why stuff like "I'm yours forever" grates on me as a romantic sentiment.  No.  I'm not yours forever.  I'm with you now. Now matters too.  Let's treasure today, and accept tomorrow.

Ownership. I realize that "I'm yours" doesn't literally mean "I am your possession," but a lot of romance language does come weirdly close to that.  It weirds me out.  I'm starting to think this entire post is just me being painfully literal, but it's hard to think clearly if you don't think literally sometimes, and I don't like hearing that lovers "belong" to each other.  Rowdy's not mine, nor am I his--he has no authority over me and no rights to me.  We're just two people who enjoy being together.

I know there's not much room for nuance on a Conversation Heart, but I don't want to tell my lover "be mine."  I only want to tell him "be with me."

Obsession. Rowdy isn't my life.  I mean, how goddamn boring would that be?  Rowdy is just one wonderful part of my life.  Of course I could live without him; of course life would go on; of course we're not everything to each other.  And to me, that's not less meaningful but more.  One of the most romantic sentences I know is "I don't need you; I want you."



So without these things--without every part of "be my only one forever," what's left?  Funny thing is, there's a shitload of things left.

There's simple, raw affection.  Rowdy makes me happy and he makes me want to make him happy and whenever we're together we make a little Happiness Feedback Loop.  This is the main thing and it's why I say "love" at all.  Being with Rowdy just plain feels good.

There's trust.  Trust that means we show each other all our soft vulnerable parts--the bad stuff in our pasts, the screwed-up stuff in our heads, the things that make us cry and the things that turn us on--and we know we're safe when we do.  We know it's not going to be used against us or taken lightly.

There's loyalty.  When I was sick Rowdy came and comforted me.  When Rowdy moved I came and hauled boxes.  We've cried on each other's shoulders and we've gotten each other's backs.

And yeah, there's sexual chemistry. I don't think that defines our love but it sure makes it a whole lot more fun.

How is this different from being really good friends who are physically intimate?  Honestly, it isn't.  Which brings me to the last thing our love isn't:


Magic. There's nothing special about being in love.  It's only a matter of gradation away from being very close friends.  The feelings I have for Rowdy are different only in degree, not character, from the feelings I have for other people with whom I share affection, trust, and loyalty.  Being with my friends just plain feels good, too.

Love is wonderful, but love is not ineffable.  Love is powerful, but love is not mysterious.  Love is a rock in storms and an open meadow on sunny days, but love is not a bolt from the blue.  Love is just really really really really liking someone.  And that's enough.

Maybe our problem isn't that we think love is too magical.  Maybe our problem is that we don't realize how magical every human connection is.



...Wow, that was pretty Care Bears even for me.  But fuck it, I'll be Care Bears.  Caring about someone is fucking awesome.

79 comments:

  1. I'm highly amused you put a Softer World comic at the end of this, because as soon as I read "No. I'm not yours forever. I'm with you now. Now matters too. Let's treasure today, and accept tomorrow." I thought of this comic, which is one of my absolute favorites: http://asofterworld.com/index.php?id=588.

    Also, on finding that one, i ran into this other one: http://asofterworld.com/index.php?id=609. A Softer World: awesome webcomic, or most awesome webcomic?

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    1. A Softer World is the best thing.

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    2. Also, if you are the Disapproving Capybara, nice to see you on here. :)

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    3. Lol, indeed I am :-). Hmm, i should get that picture on here, I guess. I don't comment much with this account, but it would probably be good to be consistent.

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    4. I was totally thinking of http://asofterworld.com/index.php?id=264

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    5. I adore "I will always love you, or anyway I will always have loved you now."

      It's also made me realize that I also believe in a sentiment of "I will always love you - which is not to say that I will always be in love with you, but I will always cherish the time I've had with you and feel warmly towards you for it."

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  2. Aww! You guys are too cute!

    Srsly, your descriptions of love are inspirational to jaded geezers like me and PhysioWife.

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  3. I read this and yelled to my girlfriend and showed it to her and was like "this is how I fell about you."

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  4. Apart from the "your man" line, I think the early Beatles hit "I Want to Hold Your Hand" gets it about right: "When I touch you I feel happy inside," etc. Incidentally, I once saw the original manuscript of the lyrics on display in the British Museum. John and Paul had written it together, and John wrote at one point (rather than "I want to hold your hand" yet again) "Please let me hold your thing." It was pretty embarrassing cracking up in the middle of the British Museum, with no one around I was comfortable explaining the joke to.

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    1. I've always thought of "Something" by the Beatles as one of the best love songs. I've had people try to convince me that the line "You're asking me will my love grow? I don't know" is insulting, but I can't think of anything better than someone saying, "You are incredibly awesome and I don't know if I'll always feel that way, but I feel it right now and that's enough for me."

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  5. Reminds me of Momus' "I want you, but I don't need you", which I quite like.

    http://www.phespirit.info/momus/19970104.htm

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  6. This is one reason why, aside from the whole "pick a spouse who has great genes" thing, I loved the wedding vows from The Invention of Lying: "To stay together for as long as you want to, to protect your offspring for as long as you can."

    When my SO was working on his psychology degree, he would talk about relationships where essentially the spouses weren't very good friends. They didn't talk through things when they made each other mad; they just got away from each other until they weren't mad anymore, and apparently that worked for them. I would just sit there baffled that anybody could be happy that way, but my SO just said, "just because it wouldn't work for you doesn't mean it can't work for other people." From his perspective, the field of psychology looks at health in terms of functionality. In other words, if it works and it makes you happy, there isn't necessarily anything wrong with it. That was an epiphany moment for me, the one that helped me understand how exclusivity and permanence were just one other variation on how we love, not the end all be all of love.

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    1. Sounds like a perfect Cosmo relationship.

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  7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KynIKjRwqDI

    I'm reminded of this song, a bit. I think the part about love being like any other relationship, developing over time is an important reality that tends to get ignored culturally. Not the "marriage requires work" cliche, that a lot of love in a relationship comes from the experience of being with someone, not just this instant Disney feeling.

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  8. This is very interesting for me to read... my boyfriend and I are kinky as fuck, and we're unconventional in a lot of ways, but I think we have a very conventional idea and experience of love. It's what works for us and makes us happy. :)

    There's a lot of "Shut up and suck my dick/lick my pussy, you worthless slut" followed by a lot of "I love you so much and you're my favorite person in the world, sweetie! <3"

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  9. This is why I love your blog: you're so good at explaining your brain in a simple and clear way. I've been thinking all of these things for years, and if I had tried to get them down on paper, the result would have been long and twisty and overexplain-y and would have made no sense to other people.

    Also:

    One of the most romantic sentences I know is "I don't need you; I want you."

    Yes, yes, yes. There's something so scary about how often even media meant for adults glorify really unhealthy codependent relationships. And it's much more fun to hang out with people who can take care of themselves, emotionally.

    Thanks for writing your blog in general, but especially for this entry. It made my week.

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  10. http://www.asofterworld.com/clean/heartandsoul.jpg

    I saw this one and thought of this post.

    I concur that "One of the most romantic sentences I know is "I don't need you; I want you.""

    Its so true. I don't want to be needed by someone I want to be wanted and desired.

    My love and I are planning a massive skype call for valentine's day with all of our friends single or not and we're just going to talk, get drunk (possibly depending on whom you are talking about), and play video games and just have fun. Like my mum has always said on the topic of valentine's day "If you can't tell someone you love them the rest of the year then why does it matter if you can do it one day a year. Especially if the rest of the year is just abuse?"

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  11. Holly, I would like to tell you that through this blog, you have done more than any other person on Earth to help me clarify my own concept of love.

    So much of what you talk about is a series of mini-epiphanies for me, where I realize that that is what I already thought but could never wrestle to the ground long enough to wrap my mind all the way around it.

    So, thank you very much. You have made my life better.

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  12. I love this post! The first part reminded me so much of shortly (like, a few hours) after I got engaged "this doesn't mean we have to stop sleeping with other people, right?" "Nope? Why should it? Seems to have worked well enough so far!" (I might have to pass along the 'hang my hat on' line to said SO when he gets home)

    It is that warm, squishy, no caveats "I like you and you like me and let's be around each other for awhile" feeling. I get that it doesn't work for everyone, but for me, it is pretty awesome.

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  13. When Jimmy and I first fell in love, I thought our theme song should be "As Long As You're Mine" from Wicked, what with the whole message of "We're having a really awesome time right now and I love you to bits, so what if we're not going to live happily ever after."

    That's changed now, but I've been too preoccupied to choose another theme song.

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    1. "As Long As You're Mine" is one of my favorite love songs ever.

      I'm honestly rather creeped out by a lot of the love songs in popular culture - glorification of extreme obsession especially seems to be really common. I've taken to collecting what I consider "healthy love songs" (which is of course a fairly subjective judgement), because the love songs that most resonate with me tend to be fairly understated and focused on friendship. And even so, looking over them just now, it's rare even among those to find ones that don't use some language of possession or need or permanence or exclusivity; I never realized quite how pervasive those concepts were in our cultural definitions of love. (Myself, I've always been monogamous and had fairly traditional, vanilla relationships, so despite not buying into a lot of the common ideas of "romance" there are still rather more songs etc that I can relate to.)

      I do however want to recommend "Harbor" by Vienna Teng to anyone who hasn't heard it before; it's one of the most beautiful songs I know.

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    2. That song is absolutely beautiful and perfectly describes how I feel about someone special in my life. Thank you for pointing it out!

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  14. I'm with you, though I do want to put in a caution. For some of us, who have spouses/partners who actually do *need* us (as in, mental health reasons or physical disabilities), it can be really hard to hear the poly community seem to disparage that.

    When I first started seeing my SO I wanted to have a really "perfect" poly relationship where we were very honest with each other and ourselves about love/lust/whatever. "well love is impermanent and I love you right now, but I don't need you, etc..." but it doesn't work for zir, because ze *does* need someone (and these days specifically me) and need to have a bit of an expectation of longevity. It's been hard to adjust to that, and the message that I continue to get from books and blogs that it is unhealthy is really difficult as well.

    Its hard enough navigating the fact that friends/family think/thought that what I liked most about the relationship is being "needed" (when it so incredibly isn't... if tomorrow I could wake up and ze didn't need me for anything I'd be beyond thrilled), but adding in potential judgement from poly community makes it even worse.

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    1. Yes, this. In an ideal world we would support people with disabilities: physical/mental/emotional to the degree that they didn't have hightened needs in relationships.

      This is not that world (though I am SO down with trying to make it that world). We disparage the "co-dependent" people of the world but at the same time, full autonomy is not realistic for a lot of people and when two people who are struggling to get by alone and not fully able to cope, choose to support each other-- even in ways that result in dependence-- it is not inherently abuse.

      It CAN be, and it can lead to abuse extremely easily. However the key question is, is it benefitting both people and are they both working to make sure they are being of benefit to each other and that their individual needs are being met in a healthy way? If lifelong dependence between two people results in two people who have much happier and more meaningful lives-- then I'm not sure why outsiders should have any more business judging that then judging a couple who is happiest with polyamory, or BDSM, or a Master/slave relationship or... anything.

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    2. I think a relationship can (and in practice most do) involve both need and want. I just don't think you can sustain it on need alone, or primarily.

      It's the difference between "my partner needs me, and I stay with zir because I love zir" and "I stay with my partner because how can I leave zir when zie needs me so much?" The second--even when the need is extremely legitimate--in my opinion isn't enough to sustain a relationship.

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    3. Another angle on that: "Zie needs me, and because I love zir, I want to take care of zir in those ways." I don't want my partner to need certain kinds of help, but I don't have a magic wand that will take care of zir problems so that help isn't needed. I do have arms that can carry a load of laundry, run the washer, and then hang the clothes to dry.

      [Redbird at LiveJournal, but the system can't verify the OpenID credentials right now.]

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  15. I applaud your relationship. :) I find it interesting, though, that for me ownership *is* a part of what a romantic relationship needs to be satisfactory - or, I don't know, I *call* it ownership, but...
    Really it means that there are certain things that normally I wouldn't consider anyone's decision but my own, but my partner has a say in major modifications in my outward appearance, in the kind of work I choose or in where I live. Or who I sleep with. And he is, similarly, obligated to ask my opinion about changes of these sort.
    Because we're married, and we want kids, and for us this means planning and committing to a shared future. Also, if we have some authority over each other's decisions, we have the responsibility not to exercise that authority unless it's necessary for our mutual happiness. And I recognize that shit might not work out and we might get divorced, and that's not necessarily a bad thing; as my partner says, if you've been happy for most of the time you were together, the relationship was technically a success.
    (I'm not saying that necessarily any married and/or planning-on-parenthood couples have to make that kind of agreement in their relationship! It's just what works for us.)

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    1. I think there's a subtle difference between openly welcoming and wanting to consider the opinions of your partner vs. your partner having authority over your decisions. I think it's subtle, but really really important.

      And maybe this difference is really just codified in the fact that once we call a relationship "serious", we assume an implicit agreement to grant each other authority over one another.

      At the very least, it seems like it would be better for that agreement to be explicit, rather than assumed.

      I'm a fan of freedom, choice, and doing what makes me happy. If I have a partner who I love and value, then *my* choice to consider their opinions when making decisions is a choice made out of desire and happiness to do so, not out of a sense that they have authority over me.

      I don't really believe strong, trusting relationships can be built from obligation, fear, guilt, shame, or duty. I think they have to built from freely giving to one another out of love.

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    2. Dave I think you make a good point that agreements about giving partners "authority" over each other should be voluntarily negotiated as an alternate form of relationship and not an assumption. Because in the BDSM community there are a lot of negotiations like this made in the bed room and in other parts of the relationship, I don't think they inherently have to be a bad thing. They SHOULD however be engotiated from a shared vision both partners have about what makes them happy in a relationship.

      And in a case like this where a marriage involves making statements of "authority" or ownership over each other; there should always be a safeword. If two partners were both really into a certain relationship dynamic at the start (authority or owndership over each other in this case) but that changes for one of them and not the other, then you can renegotiate whether the partnership is working and, you know, get a divorce if both people need to move on to something that meets their needs better.

      But no, it shouldn't be a set up that people enter into out of obligation, fear, guilt, shame, or duty. Any relationship should be set up because both people feel mutually excited and happy about the dynamic they are entering into and are part of it for their own mutually consenting interests.

      For some people, they may genuinely feel happy with feeling like their partner has a sense of "ownership" over them and vice versa. This can make people feel secure and a sense of permanence and build trust. Many people like it and so long as both people are in it BECAUSE they both really like it, then there's not much to judge any more thn judging someone for wanting to be their partners voluntary slave in the bedroom or setting up a Dom/sub state of affairs that transcends the bedroom.

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    3. ...I think our safeword is "I'm unhappy". XD

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  16. This resonates a lot with me. I've always found it odd that traditional couples seem to think they can only be emotionally intimate with romantic or sexual partners, and I've always liked being emotionally intimate with any close friends, so for me the distinction between friends and lovers has always just been one of physical intimacy.

    This helped me notice what the distinction was for *other* people, though, beyond being emotionally monogamous with lovers only: expectations, cultural assumptions about what they should get or give to their partner - things that seem more harmful than helpful to fostering trust, desire, and the idea of "I don't need you, I want you".

    In essence, our culture advocates co-dependency.

    Your post also made me want to show you a couple things. First, a non-traditional Valentine:
    http://www.etsy.com/listing/92176762/valentine-for-a-biochemist

    And then, a very honest song about relationships:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KynIKjRwqDI

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    1. Some people aren't comfortable being emotionally intimate with more than a small group of people (or even just one person), though. And that's okay.

      I'm just thinking about my case: I'm married. My husband and I own a house together, our families know each other, we have a joint bank account, cars and debt and pets together; at this point, neither of us can just up and walk away. If he left me, I wouldn't jump off a cliff, but it would hurt, a lot, and I wouldn't just cheerfully move on to the next person. I guess that is codependent for a certain value of the word, but I don't necessarily think that's a horrible unhealthy thing.

      IDK, I'm just getting a vibe from your comment of 'traditional couples: totally don't understand how to do love properly', and it's really rubbing me the wrong way. If a particular arrangement is working for somebody, I don't think that it's necessary for people outside the relationship to critique it or to assume that they know better.

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    2. Some people aren't comfortable being emotionally intimate with more than a small group of people (or even just one person), though. And that's okay.

      My confusion and concern about the inability or discomfort of people to be emotionally intimate with more than one person is not a judgement of you are anyone who feels that way, it's more a judgement of the culture we live in making it so difficult to foster strong, supportive connections with people who are not a romantic partner. I believe community and family to be important to the well-being of individuals, and having one person in your life to support you emotionally is very fragile.

      Perhaps your other comment was to Holly, but I'll answer it anyway: I don't think traditional couples don't understand how to love properly, but I do worry how conscious and thoughtful *any* kind of couple is (traditional or un-) about the choices they are making and that they are even making a choice when they choose a certain relationship style.

      It's very easy to just do what seems to be the default thing without thinking about it. It seems likely people will have far more fulfilling relationships if they are consciously choosing whatever way they are doing it, the whole way.

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    3. @Dave: As somebody who's in a relationship that's non-traditional in many ways but pretty traditional when it comes to the romantic stuff - it's not that I'm *unable* to be emotionally intimate with anyone else, it's that my relationship involves a different *kind* of emotional intimacy than what I might have with a close friend. Holly talks about love not being qualitatively different for her from extremely deep friendship - and if that's what makes her happy, awesome! - but for me, it is something qualitatively different.

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    4. Hee! I thought of this song as well, almost immediately!

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    5. Rowdy and I saw Tim Minchin live in concert. It was completely awesome :)

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    6. @Anon: Hm, I suppose how I connect emotionally to anyone will differ somewhat qualitatively and certainly it could have different aspects to it with someone I'm also sexual with.

      For you, what makes an emotional connection with a close friend qualitatively different than with a lover? Is it the depth? The vulnerability? The trust? Something else?

      Since I don't feel like I differentiate much myself, I'm curious in what ways other people have such connections differ.

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  17. I totally sent this link to the leader of my local poly group, since it is right up their alley. They are having a discussion group on the defining poly relationships and the concept of poly vs mono love and monocentric ideas of love.

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  18. Note to basically everybody - please let's not make this into a poly supremacy thing.

    I think all couples should be able to say "our connection is more important than whether or not we sleep with other people," but it doesn't follow that they therefore all should sleep with other people. Even if it's not as important, it's still damn important to some people and that's okay.

    My only point here was that monogamy doesn't say to me that you have bigger or better love; but not that monogamy can't be an aspect of your love.

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    1. Yes. If nothing else, the default-monogamy narrative makes it easy to assume that if two people agree on monogamy, that will necessarily give them a useful emotional commitment. I've seen monogamous relationships that don't have that commitment (as well as both mono and poly ones that do).

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  19. This is very much how I think about love. Thanks for posting.

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  20. My partner and I adopted a very vulnerable 10 year old (now 14).

    It wouldn't work for us to be any less than *very* solidly committed to keeping the family and relationship going, because nothing less is going to meet our child's needs. The truth is, I need him as well as wanting him. If he died tomorrow I would be in deep shit--I would have to deal with my grief and my child's emotional collapse both at once, and also my resources are not adequate for single parenting. I think he is in the same position, with the added issue that I'm the employed partner.

    There are things you can't do without very high levels of commitment; without being willing to say "Even if this makes me deeply unhappy for a long time, I'm still in it for the long haul." I am by no means going to argue that everyone should do those things. Sometimes I wish I hadn't. On the other hand, my son needed parents, and nothing less than an extreme commitment was going to work.

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    1. Mary, I feel the same way. I think many people are not as good at single parenting as partnered parenting and I think it's perfectly acceptable for two such people to make a commitment to be there fore each other not only because they love each other in that moment but because they want to ensure the family can thrive and support each others well being and positive parent. Sometimes people could be ok with drifting out of a relationship because it's lost it's luster, but they also could thrive within it if they choose to commit because they feel it serves a bigger purpose and that is meaningful to them.


      Again, it's still a voluntary commitment (divorce is a legal option, no one is forcibly trapped) but I think for many people wanting to serve the family is actually a big part of the commitment to a lifelong partnership. Most of my poly friends do not have kids so I haven't had many conversations with poly parents about how that works for them, but I have known online a few poly parents who had a very firm commitment to staying together and assisting each other with the difficulties and joys of parenting for the well being of all involved.

      Romantic love is one purpose of partnerships between adults, but for many people parenting involves a further commitment to the well being of the family as a whole and that includes continuing to participate in a positive way even if you aren't as enthusiastic as you once were or you catch sight of greener pastures eslewhere. If I were ever to enter into a partnership I would hope to have a partner who shared this same vision of their own desire, and who would want both of us to be committed to working through bumps along the way with a value of being there for each other through it even when we aren't particularly feeling fantastic about things.

      (An abusive partner, or a devastatingly dysfunctional relationship can of course require a divorce and I think individuals should have the legal and moral right to assess their own situations and what is best for their families)

      For me, the commitment is big. My parents had plenty of bumps along the way in their marriage but they are ridiculously happy with each other now in their 60s and I think it's a beautiful thing. I hope I should be so lucky as to grow old with someone to share life with. Friends come and go, lovers can to. To have someone who is in essence more than either of those things-- a friend even when the romance isn't so hot, a love when the mood is right, a companion when the friendship isn't stellar-- and basically, a family member that you love through thick and thin the same as you do your children-- it's something more beautiful to me than I can speak in words.

      All forms of love can have such meaning and beauty and I think the world is a better place when we choose not to debate "whose love is better" but celebrate honest love and compassion in all the ways they mean wonderful things to individual people.

      With that in mind, I celebrate the love you have with your partner Holly and I think it's beautiful that you have found someone meaningful to share part of your journey through life with.

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  21. Lots of good food for thought here. I've been struggling for a long time to come up with a definition of romantic love that fits my personal experience. The closest I've ever managed to get was something along the lines of "a combination of intense friendship and intense physical attraction". I'm very sure that love and friendship are closely linked - I've never fallen in love with someone who wasn't a close friend first (and the number of my best friends that I've fallen in love with over the years is kind of ridiculous), and I have a number of close friends who I'm very emotionally intimate with. But that definition has always felt like it's been missing something, and its inadequacy has become even more clear recently since I started a fwb relationship with a guy who is a very close friend (and for that matter I would say I very much love as a friend) and have all kinds of chemistry with, but am quite distinctly not in love with.

    To me the possession thing is not about someone having authority over you or you owning them. Rather, it's about being claimed, about being told "I want you, despite all your flaws, I want to be with you and commit to you and be seen with you". To me it's less about possessing than being possessed. It also feels like a bit of a kink to me and I'm not at all sure my experience of it is the same as what is meant by the makers of the little conversation hearts and in popular culture in general.

    "One of the most romantic sentences I know is 'I don't need you; I want you.'"

    I think part of the issue with love being expressed in terms of "need" is sometimes it's used to mean "am dependent on and/or can't live without" and other times it's used hyperbolically to mean "really intensely want" - which are two distinct concepts that probably really shouldn't be conflated.

    I do have to say, I've never been able to listen to the Beatles song "You Really Got A Hold On Me", with lines about "I don't want you/But I need you" and "I don't like you/But I love you" without being struck by how unhealthy and unpleasant that relationship seems.

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    1. I kind of love the Beatles, but it starts to make my skin itch when people quote their love songs. Never mind "Because you're sweet and lovely, girl, I love you" stuff [though it does amuse me to imagine John singing it to Yoko], how about "I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to see you with another man..."

      flightless

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    2. "I'd rather see you dead, little girl, than to see you with another man..." was supposed to be a love song? I'm actually very fond of that, but always thought it was meant to be messed the fuck up.

      (In terms of Beatles love songs in general, I think they had some that got it very right - and some that got it very wrong.)

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  22. In my marriage I'm more of the kind where I know my wife is the one for me, but I still agree with much of what you wrote, because that is exactly it, love and relationships in general are just not one-size-fits-all. There are millions of ways to love someone. And we can only benefit from discussing how we love and how we prefer our relationships to be.

    I love this stuff. Thanks for a great post!

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  23. I've been reading your blog for a few months now and always want to comment just to say, "I fucking love this blog". It always feels like the wrong time to jump in with my first comment, especially when it doesn't add anything constructive to the conversation.

    But, I fucking love this blog.

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  24. Holly, do you think all those traditional love songs and movies that don't work for you and Rowdy are about an illusion, a social construct fantasy that doesn't really exist? Or are you just pointing out that what you and Rowdy have is also a beautiful and worthy love?

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    1. I don't know. I've only ever been me.

      I've learned that it's generally a bad idea to tell people "your experiences aren't your experiences," so based on the comments here, it's fair to say that some people do experience love very differently from me.

      Delete
  25. love is not a bolt from the blue
    Sometimes it is, actually. Yes, seriously, one minute "this girl I've just met seems nice, and kind of cute," and then we touched for the first time and ZAM. Love. Like Cupid had gone and shot us, seriously.
    Well, okay, ZAM, extreme mutual infatuation, but in retrospect (years later, still together) there was actual, real love underneath that pretty much from the beginning. Like a fairytale. Like magic.

    Suddenly a thousand stories that I'd always laughed off as unrealistic romantic tripe suddenly seemed more plausible.

    And now most of them drive me nuts even more than they used to.

    Because somehow in those stories of Magically Falling In Love In One Night, nobody ever is sitting there TERRIFIED, freaking out because they're suddenly in what they are really hoping isn't actually love and will wear off in a week or two because they don't even KNOW this person, they might make a TERRIBLE match, but damn, this feels like love and not just infatuation but that's not supposed to happen so fast. The stories I've read don't have the scene where the lovestruck are frantically asking their friends if it's possible someone slipped them drugs and whether that could be what's going on, and generally flipping out over their emotions being hijacked by the Magic Love Whammie.

    I mean, within a year things had settled down a bit and it turned out hey, we DID make a good match and had that comfy friends who really like each other thing going on, and it wasn't a very different result from the couple times in my life when I've sauntered gradually into love over the course of a couple months instead of taking a swan dive into it. So things turned out pretty well. But I can't imagine people WANTING that to happen to them. (Especially if they also believe in the true-love-is-forever thing- good god, that would be like... like... arranged marriage, except instead of parents who might have a clue it's Mysterious Forces or possibly just wonky body chemistry who are setting you up. NO THANK YOU.). And I hope to whatever god-like beings may or may not be out there that next time I fall in love it happens the slow sauntery way.

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    1. Oh god THIS. I absolutely hated that first infatuation - it didn't feel like magic; it felt like a chemical compulsion to be someone who wasn't myself. Which, really, I suppose it was.

      The "complacency" people complain about when relationships settle down? That felt like a frickin' godsend. Because he still made me happy (and does to this day!) but it no longer feels like my brain is hijacked by Yeerks.

      Delete
    2. So regarding the idea that "love is/is not a bolt from the blue" - I think it certainly can *feel* like it is, but I've often been curious to figure out why it feels that way and what it means when it does.

      And maybe it's enough that it feels that way, but my desire to understand how people work means it's not enough for me to just stop at believing that. So in my investigations of trying to determine what that bolt from the blue actually is, I've come to hypothesize the following:

      Much as new skills at first seem like grueling amounts of work and practice, but eventually become so intuitive that it's difficult to even explain to other people how we do it, that "bolt from the blue" kind of love is when you get to a place of noticing/having so many differently interweaving connections with another person that you don't notice them individually or consciously, you just have this sensation of "wow we just *get* each other".

      And that's a super amazing and wonderful thing to have, but the downside of believing it really is a sort of other-wordly magic is that it might blind us to the areas of disconnection with that person.

      I find that Clarke's quote: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" applies here - once a process leaves the realm of conscious, rational analysis, it becomes intuitive and therefore magical.

      Magic is great, but if it is just really advanced technology (or a super-complex process), then it might still have bugs!

      Delete
  26. my valentines day card to my boy last year had puppies on the front and the inside said nobody cuddles like you do. Which I like because it really is so true, and it doesn't have the denigrate my past relationships or my platonic current ones either.

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    1. See, this is what an advanced-level pedantic literalist I can be: I would never send that card, because maybe somebody does cuddle like him! How can you know if you haven't cuddled with everyone?

      I need a card that just says "you cuddle very well."

      Delete
    2. What are the odds, though, that someone else cuddles EXACTLY like him?

      flightless

      Delete
    3. Without cuddling a representative sample of the population, how can I calculate those odds?

      /neeeerd

      Delete
    4. Better get started!

      flightless

      Delete
  27. All I can think of is this:

    http://www.xkcd.com/968/

    And also a little of this:

    http://xkcd.com/449/

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    1. and http://xkcd.com/420/

      flightless

      Delete
  28. "It's only a matter of gradation away from being very close friends."

    "Maybe our problem is that we don't realize how magical every human connection is."

    Wholly agreed. This is why I've always been bothered by the qualifier "just friends." Okay, we're friends, but there is nothing "just" about it. Our friendship is just as special as a romantic relationship would be.

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  29. All I can say to this is D'AWWWWWWWWW!

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  30. You keep reaching into my brain, Holly. Stop that :/.

    I have no idea how long my current relationship will last. Like you, I hope a long time, but I know probably not forever.

    I've always also been uncomfortable with "you complete me." I am not some half-person waiting to be whole. We are two complete galaxies gleefully orbiting each other. With my also-very-literal-brain, I think that 0.5 and 0.5 together only makes 1, so that's not fun. But 1 plus 1 is 2=tons of fun.

    I'm committed to my partner having an extraordinary life that she loves, whether that's as her partner, lover, friend, or person-to-hang-out-with (and I am all four at the moment), for as long as she'll have me. And believe me, she'll have me at the moment, and me her. It's so wonderful to be wanted, no?

    And this is Jenna from the letter, by the way :).

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  31. I don't really understand why anyone would be in a romantic relationship with someone they really really like and have sex with, rather than just being friends with benefits. My reaction is to shriek "No, you're doing it wrong!", but that's no different from people who think a relationship is completely broken and loveless if it lacks jealousy. I get that how my relationships work isn't the One True Model of relationships. But still... *nothing* extra, either in romance or in friendship, just generic affection turned up to eleven? That makes me a little sad. My love and my friendship are as unlike as cheese and chalk. I would *hate* to be served really really chalky chalk instead of cheese, or write on a blackboard with really really cheesy cheese instead of chalk.

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    1. Don't be sad; I'm deliriously happy with my chalk.

      I don't know what there even should be extra. If there's some mysterious other emotion, I've never felt it and don't know enough to be missing it.

      Delete
    2. There's the general bedrock of affection, and then there are extra emotions for friendship and extra emotions for romance. (They can coexist, but that makes my head explode.) It's hard to describe emotions because language sucks, but they're not especially mysterious. And I *know* they aren't the Most Important Core Of Human Feelings, but they're important to me and I'm vulnerable to the human tendency to believe everyone is either exactly like me or tragically broken.

      Delete
    3. For me as well, romance is an additional thing. I have strong affection for my husband, and I am also sexually attracted to him, and I am also *romantically* attracted to him on top of that. Romance for me isn't just the combination of affection and sexual desire. But of course lots of people are not like me.

      Also: for me romantic feelings unlock my capacity for intimacy. I can have some emotional intimacy in a platonic friendship, but not as much as I can have in a romantic relationship. Romantic feelings give me the openness and energy and desire to make increased intimacy happen. I wouldn't be comfortable with really high levels of emotional intimacy in a platonic relationship.

      Delete
  32. Just one thought. I wish the Rolling Stones song had been:

    "You can't always get what you need.
    But sometimes, if you try,
    You get what you want."

    And most of the time, that's enough.

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  33. When my second wife and story we were both In the middle of protracted divorces. All we wanted was a friend, a companion and yes a fuck! It was great. There was no discussion of exclusivity, it just kind of happened that way. We talked eachother through our fears, the ways we were maimed by past relationships and became best friends who fucked like mad. One day it became a mutual agreement not "I don't want to share you with anyone else" but Il"I don't want to give this part of my life to anyone but you". My highschool sweetheart, first love and former fiancée is one of the best friends both of us have; the girls compare notes on me. Part of what I believe eliminates jealousy is the idea neither of us wants to give that part of our lives to others. As corny as it may sound, one of the nice things about that kind of exclusivity is the added intimacy. Even though it is very conventional, few things are as dominant as "I am filling you with my genetic, biological ooze" or as submissive as "I accept said ooze in whatever orifice you please and will endeavorto hold it in me because it pleases you and makes me feel claimed by you".

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    1. "few things are as dominant as "I am filling you with my genetic, biological ooze" or as submissive as "I accept said ooze in whatever orifice you please and will endeavorto hold it in me because it pleases you and makes me feel claimed by you""
      Um, um, um, I found that really problematic and triggering.

      Delete
    2. @ Annonymous 11:24- please do explain why this is troubling to you; I am genuinely curious.

      Safety is not an issue for us, we are monogamous, clean and have been together for years.

      Pregnancy is a non-issue I have had a vasectomy; condoms went bye-bye for us a long time ago.

      The idea expressed, as adequately as I could explain a combination of actions, speach and discussed emotions came up after marvelous, but vanilla sex.

      Delete
  34. Lord Domly Pants's BaneFebruary 16, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    I love the phrase 'biological ooze'. I don't at all get the whole D/s thing with semen or the trigger factor with it. I associate it with babies! yay babies!! intended, much beloved babies :):) ! Now that I have enough and have had a tubal I just can't see biological as a play thing(not a criticism btw)just kinda a natural one.

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  35. Lord Domly Pants's BaneFebruary 16, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    Oops sorry about that. That should be "biological ooze" not just "biological"

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  36. A related bit of language that you find in a lot of wedding ceremonies is "the two becoming one". When I was married we explicitly rejected all such language; we were a team standing side by side to face the world together, not a weirdly combined Frankenperson.

    There is also a subtext to that language that isn't spoken aloud: "the two become one and that one is the husband". Just say no.

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  37. You are so interesting and I have no explanation for why. I've stumbled across a few people's blogs and such where some people think of them or their way of living and seeing things as very strange at first, but then after you wrap your mind around the fact that people are different and do things differently, its just like..wow. You're really fucking interesting, different, and cool. I love it.

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  38. I don't know if anyone has said this above, but one of your points reminded me of Dalai Lama's quotation: "The best relationship is when your love for each other exceeds your need for each other." (Or something to that effect). Thank you for a very good post!

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  39. As usual, this is a wonderful and insightful commentary on both our society and human nature... but I have to disagree with you on one point:

    "It's only a matter of gradation away from being very close friends"

    No. No no no no. Being friends IS loving someone. You can love them only a little, you can love them with all your heart, but it's still love and can be every bit as powerful as any other. The idea that friendship is a second-rate relationship, that it somehow doesn't count unless you're fucking each other, is incredibly harmful. I'm probably overreacting to your comment since this is a particular problem for me - being asexual, it's very frustrating to have all my relationships dismissed simply for not wanting to bump bits. There are people I cherish, that I want to be with forever and share my life with and who have been there when I needed them no matter what.... and if that's not love I don't know what is.

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  40. I've run into problems with cards myself (same ol' non-monogamy, plausibly impermanent thing). I and my boyfriend almost always make our cards or buy blank cards with cute animals on them and write love-notes inside. In fact, we do it quite frequently (for random number of months anniversaries, or for I haven't seen you in a while, or for because). Just a thought.
    btw, just found your blog today (via MIT Sex Positive), and I love it.

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  41. Just a note on cards: blank cards are great!
    Also, just found your blog today: loving it!

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