December 24, 2009

I’ve recently been thinking about love – the word, its many uses, and the different types of love. Before I think about the myriad uses of the word ‘love’, I must answer the most basic question: are there actually different types of love? Is love universal or is romantic love somehow different than love felt in friendships? The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that they are one and the same – love is love.

I definitely feel that there are different degrees of love, and that the love I feel for my long-term romantic partner is much vaster than the love I feel for a casual friend. But I strongly feel that love itself, at its core, is one and the same. We are taught, however, that love between siblings or between a mother and her child is very different than the love between romantic partners. And we are often discouraged from using the word to describe the relationship between non-romantic friends.

It is often our social conditioning that instructs us on how to interpret the words “I love you”. For some, the words have such potency that they must be reserved for the special few in their life. For others, the words are contextual and their meaning is derived based on who utters them, to whom they are spoken and the situation in which they are used. It is also interesting to me how uncomfortable or how soothing the same words can be depending on the level of trust and on the clarity of the intent.

When I am connected to someone especially in emotional situations, I feel love for them with an intensity that may sometimes be simultaneously uncomfortable and overwhelmingly desired. Desired because being intensely loved is a rare but beautiful phenomenon that we all require; uncomfortable because intense love is relatively rare within our rigid society and also because it has the potential to be easily confused (either by the receiver or the giver) as romantic or sexual feelings.

Pure love and the romantic and sexual feelings have been so muddled together within our society that I can understand why innocent feelings of love can morph into these other feelings – or why the fabric of love feels so warm and pure in the moment it is bestowed but can feel so confusing later on. Recent conversations with a few people have sparked this question and I understand that due to our cultural and societal biases, care must be taken to avoid the morphing of love into something unwanted.

I firmly believe that decisions about romantic, physical and sexual relationships are made between people with our conscious minds, but until we are able to maturely differentiate between the universal love and these other feelings, we must be open and honest with each other. We must expose our feelings to the sun where they can be assessed in a mature and healthy way. Posturing in this case is the enemy of love.


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