This is something I’ve been working on for weeks. The concepts are difficult to articulate but I think it’s finally come together.
There are three different concepts that are inextricably intertwined in relationships in our society. The terminologies might be different, but the ideas and points are all very similar… and all very wrong. The misconceptions around these points ruin many relationships and blind us to opportunities that might lead to a happier life.
Most people don’t realize that possession plays such a large role in our romantic lives. We don’t consciously think, “She moved in with me, that pussy is mine now,” but subconsciously that’s exactly what we think. It’s what we expect. In a serious relationship we believe that we own our significant other and that they own us. This is even more obvious during marriage ceremonies where two partners vow their body, their mind and their lives to be together… forever. That partner has “rights” to their spouse’s body. If that spouse cheats, the other partner reacts like a first grader that just had their toy taken away; “No! That’s mine! I don’t wanna share!”
Jealousy is the direct result of feeling ownership over another human being, not wanting to share.
No other kind of love involves those possessive feelings. You love your brother, he starts dating, do you get jealous? No. You love your parents, are you jealous they are sleeping together? No. You love your friends, do you get jealous of their partners? No. In all those examples you should be excited for them, support them, and want them to be happy.
And yet, for some reason romantic love is somehow different. It’s conditional, it’s situational and involves this assumption that it “excludes all others forever”. Most monogamous relationships are viewed as one door opening wide and every single other door in the world closing forever. It alludes to your partners control and ownership over your body.
Now, monogamy works fine for some, and that’s great for them, but for many the feelings of entitlement and ownership drive the two apart. It breeds distrust, fear, uncertainty, and jealousy. It makes people forget that every single day their spouse/lover chooses to be with them. Married, dating, FWB, whatever, every day your partner is with you they chose to be there.
Your partner doesn’t owe you anything, you don’t own them, and every single day you should be working for the relationship. If you ever take the relationship for granted, or feel it’s owed to you, than you’re going to lose them.
Sex and love are two completely different things. People seem to constantly forget that. You love your friends, family and even pets, unconditionally and without sex. You can also have sex without love, just having a good time. Or, sex and love can work together to make something special, but they aren’t mutually exclusive or codependent to any degree whatsoever.
Sex is not a promise to love, love is not a promise to have sex, and neither relies on the other.
Personally, I believe that a connection or bond is formed with everyone we have sex with, though that depends a lot on the person and situation. There is a Native American saying, I couldn’t find the exact quote so I’m paraphrasing, “When you have sex with someone you exchange little pieces of your soul.” The idea being that if you spread yourself over many, many partners your soul is diluted.
I think that’s a bit of an extreme view but that doesn’t mean sex is completely meaningless either. If you value yourself you won’t share your body and your bed with just anyone.
Every single time your partner has sex with you, they’ve chosen to have sex with you. They have a million other people they could be with at that moment but they have chosen to share their body with you. Every single day you should be seducing your partner, pleasing your partner and making them feel special. They have no commitment or obligation to you, they have willingly decided to be with you. If you ever forget that, or take it for granted, you’re going to lose them.
Love is the most complicated thing to explain, even though it’s the most obvious feeling.
When most people think of “love” they think of the of the Disney, teenage heartache, romantic movie/novel love. That’s the kind of love the involves entitlement to, or ownership of the other person. Yours, forever. That’s a fallacy, it’s immature and constrictive. Romantic love is BS and totally unrelated to true, unconditional love. So, for the sake of this post I’m doing away with the concept of that romantic love.
The easiest way I can explain my own philosophy of love is to call it “family”.
[I shouldn’t have to clarify this, but I will. “Family” is just an umbrella term that I’m using for a support network and caring for each other. It’s a commune-style family, not an actual blood-relation family.]
When I love someone, they become family. This could be anyone; a girlfriend, a wife, a buddy, a friend or an actual family member. If I love a person, they join the network of people that I care for, support, will go out of my way for and try to make happy no matter what.
I’ll use my divorce as an example.
When we were getting divorced, Cat was a friend and the mother of my daughter. Getting divorced was a tricky thing since I really wanted to maintain a good relationship with her. I decided then that she wasn’t going to be my “wife” anymore, that she was “family” instead. She basically switched places in my head from spouse to a kind of sister/best friend. That meant that when she got remarried I gained a brother-in-law. A while later, I gained a niece (and sister to our daughter).
My family didn’t shrink with the divorce, it expanded. I didn’t lose a wife, I gained a sister/best friend and two more family members. We all care for each other, support each other and go out of our way to try and make each other happier.
There are so many different ways the divorce could have gone, but this was by far the best possible result. I absolutely want them all to be happy, healthy and will support them in every way possible. That’s unconditional love. And that’s what I think of when I mean “family”.
When we were together I tried explaining this philosophy to Ann but I’m not sure how good a job I did. So, I’ll use Ann as an example here.
Ann is now part of my family. She isn’t my girlfriend, my lover, she’s family. I don’t own her, she doesn’t owe me anything, we support each other and want to make the other person happy. If we date other people that doesn’t change our relationship, we’re still family and we want the other person to be happy. If we’re in the same place, having wild sex all the time, that’s awesome but not required for us to support and love each other. If she met the man of her dreams tomorrow and we were never going to have sex again, that would be fine. I would be happy for her and support her in whatever way I could. Just like I would with any other family member.
The Zen Happy Place:
Ok, so those are the three concepts and misconceptions. If you can understand those three, accept those three and bring them into your life there is a special relationship level you can reach. I call it the “zen-happy place”.
I’m sorry, I can only dwell on deep subjects for so long before my natural goofiness pops up.
If you can accept that you don’t own your partner, that sex and love are different things, and that love is unconditional, you can reach the zen-happy place. It means that you’re secure in your relationship, your love for each other, in the communication, in the honesty… and you can completely open your relationship.
Now, you don’t have to have an open relationship but it opens up the option.
If you had ten best friends, would you choose one over all the others? No, because each is an amazing individual and you love them all differently. They don’t get jealous of your other friends, they share and support each other.
If you have ten family members, would you choose one over all the others? No, you love them all equally and differently. They’re family. They share and support each other.
Those are examples of real love and if you can apply that love to your romantic relationship it can be an absolutely amazing thing.
If you get to the zen-happy place you could have ten lovers. You don’t have to choose one over the others because you love them all differently, you all share and support each other. Each lover is so confident, so loved that they don’t feel threatened by the others. None feel possessive over you. Each one is unique and special and cared for. Loving one does not take anything away from the others because you can’t love two people in exactly the same way, each is unique and extraordinary. Your heart and your family gets bigger to encompass them all.
There’s that term again, family. Love is unconditional, it’s a network not a hallway, and given the opportunity to grow and expand it will. There’s no limit to how much, or how many people you can love. Rather than a “partnership”, it’s a family, and there’s no limit to how many people you can have in your family. Real, unconditional love has unlimited potential.
Monogamous relationships are seen as one door opening wide and all other doors closing. If you reach the zen-happy place one door opens wide but none of the other doors close. You don’t lose options, you gain a partner who supports you, loves you and the options aren’t limited whatsoever. You might choose to act on the options, or you might not, but at least those options are there. You aren’t chained down by your partner, you’re skipping happily along, holding hands and smelling the roses.
Obviously, people are complex creatures and the more people you add to your life the more complex it gets. And a lot of people can’t get to the zen-happy place, they can’t accept sharing and unconditional love. Those people close their own doors. That’s why honesty, communication and support are so vital. There is always the potential of introducing problems into the relationship, but if the partners are open, supportive, honest and willing to work together than the sky is the limit.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to restrict yourself to be in a loving relationship, a truly loving relationship will actually be the least restrictive.