Friday, September 5, 2008

Love--Choice or No Choice?

Gillette posted today on What is True Love? and it's got me thinking. Actually, I think about love all the time. It's one of my most favorite contemplations. What is true love as opposed to just love? True love implies that there is a love that isn't true. Perhaps a tainted love? I doubt that. And what is the difference between simply loving someone and being in love, or falling in love? I had this conversation with a friend awhile back and his idea was that when we fall in love we have no choice in the matter. Love just arrives and sweeps us off our feet so to speak. That rings pretty true for me. And yet, sometimes love grows slower. We meet someone, we like them (or not), we have a sexual attraction (or not), we spend more time together and sooner or later we realize we are in love with this person. Even when we fall in love at first sight, the love still grows, deepens, and changes as we actually get to know the person and hopefully become friends. Unfortunately love and attraction does not always a good relationship make.

Several months ago I got involved in a discussion on a blog about true love, actually the discussion was about finding the one and only special someone and some people had the idea that when you find the one, you will desire no other. They were adamant that true love and monogamy go hand in hand. The proponents of this idea held that there is this special something that two people share that makes it untenable to have sex with any other. I found that theory odd to say the least. I experience a very profound special something with my husband but I am still capable of desiring (and having) sex with another. I'm also capable of loving another. My husband experiences a special something with me and desires (and has) sex with others too. But according to these folks, we don't have the right special something because that special something makes you monogamous. They are correct, I do not posses that special something. Nor do I care to.

I'm in love with a man (not my husband although I'm certainly in love with him too) and I don't know how to not be in love with him. There isn't a switch to simply turn off. Sometimes I think I'd much prefer to just love him as opposed to being in love with him. I don't know if that would help or not but it seems to me that there is often something else that's getting in the way, something that is attached to the love in the in love. When a relationship isn't working out the way we'd like it to, we sometimes try to tackle the problem and get rid of whatever is getting in our way of being happy and satisfied in love. We all know that people are often head over heels happy when they are in love but it's also common for the in love experience to wreck havoc in people's lives and they can sink into the deepest pit of despair. Is it actually the love that is causing the pain and suffering? I think not. Is it that we just don't know how to handle being in love or is it that we have these crazy ideas that we attach to love that make it so messy? And I guess those are pretty much the same thing--there is love, and then there is all the other gunk we attach to our idea of love and we think they are one and the same but they aren't really related. Take jealousy for instance just to name one thing that we attach to love and makes it messy. It's the gunk that we don't know how to handle that is getting in our way of experiencing love in a way that makes us happy.

I think of my family and other friends that I love dearly but that I'm not in love with and I know I'm capable of suffering from the pain of those relationships when they aren't going the way I would choose. So attaching gunk to love isn't exclusive to being in love.

My in love relationship with the man that isn't my husband is currently a mess. At least in my mind. I must have lots of gunk attached to it. Shortly after meeting this man I told him that I wasn't interested in messing around and wasting my time. I quietly and clearly stated that I was devoted to serious relationships with people who were committed to showing up and telling the truth. I said I was interested in exploring the depths of love and creating intimacy. Now love and intimacy can take many forms and I was open to whatever might evolve. I make an effort to not be demanding in my relationships, to be fairly low maintenance with a sincere curiously and desire to know the truth of who and what a person is, whatever that may be. I want to receive the gifts of another that they freely and willingly offer me. What I was looking for and what I thought I was getting myself into was easier said than done--just because you fall in love with someone doesn't mean they will show up in the way you want them to. In this particular relationship, this man shows up big time and then simply disappears. This yo-yo effect on my open heart makes me crazy. I noticed the red flags waving but I was showing up regardless. I was like a moth to the flame but I wasn't naive. I noticed his relational patterns right away and I didn't turn a blind eye to his mixed messages. Just a few weeks after meeting him I took to calling him my ego buster, inspired from Aimee Mann's song Deathly, which I've posted from You Tube below. I knew I couldn't afford to climb aboard him but it was a done deal from the get go. No choice. I had fallen hook, line and sinker in love.
Now that I've met you
would you object to
never seeing each other again
cause I can't afford to
climb aboard you
no one's got that much ego to spend

So don't work your stuff
because I've got troubles enough
no, don't pick on me
when one act of kindness could be

Cause I'm just a problem
for you to solve and
watch dissolve in the heat of your charm...

What arises for me right now is the issue of trust. I do not trust this man that I dearly love. I cannot count on him to take care of my heart and yet the strange thing is that my heart easily opens and yields to his presence. It is extremely paradoxical. I do not trust him to keep his word to me. He has broken many promises time and time again. And yet, underneath all of his thoughtless, uncaring behavior that breaks my heart and makes me cry, I trust in the love that we share. I don't really understand what that means but I do know that it is profound. He has fallen exceptionally short in some of my expectations of him in regards to the simple considerations of how a friend treats a friend and yet he has also given me so much and touched me so deeply that I refuse to turn a blind eye to this beauty. I adore him. It's an odd situation. Is it true love or a pathetic, delusional attachment? Sometimes I do believe my attraction to him is related to a deep wounding I have around love. Perhaps it's a pathological need to be abandoned. I suspect that this love I experience with him is in fact true love co-mingled with my twisted need to be hurt by the one I love. I've definitely been through a few rough times with my husband but ultimately his love is so sweet and gentle, so attentive and caring that he could never play the role of abandoner and hurt me with this level of intensity. Thus I've attracted and fallen in love with someone who can provide me with the pain I crave. I say this sort of tongue-in-cheek but not really. I will not negate the deep spiritual connection I share with this man but I must also call a spade a spade. But really, who knows? This is only one of my ego's puny little stories.

So, back to having no choice. My experience is that I have a choice to be loving or not and because my intention in life is to be a loving person, I tend to choose to love more often than not. Sure I get annoyed with people, I dislike the personalities of some, and some I am just more naturally drawn to than others but ultimately I try to let go of all of that and simply love. When someone I love loves someone, I move in the direction of loving them myself. If I love you, I love whom you love pretty much across the board. Unless of course I perceive that person as somehow harmful for you, if they are abusive or taking advantage of you and making your life difficult. Also, if that person is jealous and wants you exclusively--doesn't want you to share your love with me, well, I struggle with that. Their desire for you to love them exclusively brings up jealousy in me. But I digress...

Choice, no choice? It's interesting. So I choose to love or not love but what is this phenomena of being/falling in love? I am currently in love with two men in my life. There is a certain energy attached to being in love with someone, having a certain someone being the object of my desire. It's a longing, a yearning, an attachment. I want this person in a way that no one else can take their place. But then, I love my mother and my children and my best friends in a way that no one else can take their places. Am I in love with them? I remember feeling in love with one of my children when he was a baby. I loved all my babies. I was deeply bonded with each of them. But with this one child, I would lay and gaze into his eyes and be filled with this in love feeling.

My husband and I had a lover for several years. She was my best friend and soul-mate lover, while being his physical lover. Eventually she "left us" to be monogamous with another man and my heart was broken. I was jealous beyond belief. I was in love with her even though the two of us weren't directly sexual with each other. I was extremely jealous of the new love in her life even though I also loved and appreciated him for loving her. Plus I genuinely liked him as a person. I was jealous, not because he loved her and she him, but because he demanded sexual exclusivity from her and put her in a position of choosing him or us. Part of what he wanted from her really did take something away from me and the loss and grief I experienced was enormous. She was experiencing a lot of pain around it also but he didn't seem to care, or to care enough to not demand it of her. My husband and I would of course continue loving her regardless of whether she continued being sexual with us or not and I was furious with him for putting her in that position. I've let that go now, not that I like it but I understand it's her choice and I want her to find her way to happiness, whatever road it takes her on. Oh, the things we do for love. But I don't think it's love that demands these things of us, it's the silly little stories we've made up about love that make these demands. Likewise, I'm not sexual with the man I'm in love with because monogamy with another is the path he has chosen and I'm okay with that. I want him to find his own way to his happiness. Besides even if sex with him were an option, it would probably be a very poor choice on my part considering how he chooses to do relationship with me. But sex with him isn't an option. Even though there is an obvious sexual attraction between us that we have discussed, I doubt that he would choose to take that path with me even if he didn't have an agreement to be sexually exclusive with another. He hasn't chosen that path and I've been available for quite some time. Besides, now he has chosen to disappear. Again. This isn't new. So be it. Sometimes love hurts. I don't really believe that. A more appropriate way to explain my experience would probably be...I'm involved in a love relationship with another and sometimes I don't know how to handle my ideas of love combined with his actions and the confusion this creates triggers intense pain in me.

As Gillette says, It's tricksy.

I've had the experience that love is always available but sometimes I just can't seem to find it, like when I search everywhere for my glasses and they are sitting on my head. Sometimes love just takes me over and has it's way with me and I seem to have absolutely no choice in the matter. I'm its tool, it's toy and it uses me at its will.

Is being in-love a deep connection with another or is it a yearning for deep connection? What about, like Aaron Neville sings, there's no guarantee that the one you love is going to love you? Can we really be in love with another who isn't in love with us? If that's the case, where is the connection to love occurring? Is it simply inside of us and we project our desire for relationship onto another, making them the object of this desire? It certainly feels great when two people project the feeling of love on each other at the same time but when I've made you the object of my desire and you've made someone else the object of yours it's not so fun. Polyamory does seem to help alleviate some of that mess. At least there are more options because we can certainly experience more than one person at the same time as being the object of our desire for intimate relationship. Boy do I know this one. Women have sexual fantasies of being double penetrated. I've had my heart double penetrated and it is intense.

Is sexual attraction always, or just usually, a part of being in love?

Well, so much for now for contemplating what true love is. Gillette asks lots of good questions in her post. I've asked more and they just go on and on.


Greenwoman said...

I have so much going on about this same subject that its hard to just make a little comment here or at Gillette's post...I think it calls for my own post. *wanders off muttering to self...*

You two are really good for me. *smiles*

runzwithknives said...

Like Gillette's post, there's so much here to digest...

I just don't know where the line between "In Love" and total surrender to a "Loving" relationship begins and ends. I've found more and more the past few years (since my divorce) that the lines blur. I frequently go back and forth with the "In Love" part because there is such depth, so many layers in each of these three relationships. Interesting as well for me is that my feelings are wholly accepted as a normal part of our relationship despite the fact that two of these three men are "taken" in some way. And one of the two...well the attraction is not sexual anymore..and probably would never be a good fit....yet...we love each other with a tremendous ferocity. I will see him wed next weekend. And that makes the love deepen at his happiness...weird...a few short years ago I probably would have been insanely jealous over the whole thing.

I too am glad I fall outside the "norm"...that I have come to see intense and deep love with and for more than one.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Adrienne Parker said...

Love to you Greenwoman. Lots going on about this, yes I bet you do. Obviously me too. Looking forward to your posts as usual.

Runzwithknives, you are welcome and thanks for your comment. The lines sure do blur, don't they? It's very interesting for me when a true lover is not a physical lover. Yes, loving more than one is a dream come true for me.