I had a mild disagreement about love recently. No biggie, nothing to fall out over, but it got me thinking, and that, eventually, got me writing.
I think (hope) it goes without saying that love is important, and that life is better when you have somebody to love, and to love you back.
I'm not sure that it's important what kind of love it is; traditional "romantic" love, familial love, the platonic love of true friends, even the brainless adoration of a pet, but I am sure that some kind of love is important.
But, and here's where the disagreement came in, how do you let them know?
My friend maintains that you can only say "I love you" so often before it loses its sheen, and start to sound like emotionless rote, a box ticked in the daily routine. My friend believes her partner knows she is loved by my friend's actions, the little things she does extra, but I think that they can become just as habitual as the perfunctory phrase.
So, what I do with my wife and sons is that, at least once a day, I stop what I am doing, stop them doing what they are doing, give them a hug, look them in the eye and tell them that I love them.
They seem to get the message.
But what about my friends?
That's a different matter. Partly, I don't have many actual, close friends. I care about them, and their well-being, but that caring doesn't really cross the line into full-blown loving. Partly, though, it is frankly embarrassing to turn to somebody you are related to and say "I love you". It's the word. Love. To most people, it's a deep word, full of commitment and responsibilities. It's not a word you say to your mates over a pint.
There ought to be extra words in the English language, to differentiate the different kinds of love. The Ancient Greeks did - the non-romantic love, between close friends and companions was known as "agape". That's more like it, I definitely have friends that fall into that category, but it's an awkward word to use.
"Dave, I have feelings of agape for you."
Hardly rolls off the tongue, does it?
I can't think of a better word, though. Can you? If you can, the comments are open below.
Since I'm waffling on the subject of love, I can't help harking back to another discussion I had with the same friend, about the exclusivity of romantic love. Here in "the developed world", romantic love has strong monogamous overtones. We are expected to be able to romantically love, to be in love with, only one person at a time. If we don't, if we fall in love with a second person at the same time as another, then we are seen as betrayers, selfish, evil. Groups that think otherwise, that condone or encourage polyamorous relationships are seen as weird, fringe even cults.
For most people, maybe the vast majority of people, monogamous romance is their natural state. I, though, think that polyamoury is both possible and natural, as long as those involved are honest about their feelings, and willing to put in the work required to make the overlapping relationships work. It would be hard work, because though A may be in love with both B and C, B and C may only feel agape towards each other, which would make the physical expression of romantic love awkward at best.
I have been happily, monogamously, married to the same woman for over 23 years, and was with her for four years before marriage. For the purposes of writing this blog, I tried imagining my reaction, should I find that my wife had become romantically involved with another person. I was surprised at what I found within myself; I honestly do not think that such a revelation would end our marriage. I don't mean that I would be instantly happy with the new arrangement, or that I would not be hurt, but I also would not expect to go through the clichéd process of her breaking off the other relationship, going through some sort of counselling or reconciliation programme, and then going back to how things were.
Instead, I see within myself the ability or potential to be polyamorous. I think I would end up, eventually, welcoming the other person into the family. It would scandalise both sets of our parents, cause a lot of gossip, but I would prefer that to losing my wife, and to forcing our sons to have to share their time and affection between us.
Of course, that scenario has an incredibly small probability of occurring, since my wife is strongly monogamous, and we are both in love with each other.
Still, it's an interesting thought experiment.
I wonder what your results would be?