Have you ever heard the saying, “A candle loses none of its light by lighting another candle”? It’s a beautiful quote, author unknown, that speaks volumes to me about community, helping our neighbors, and giving for the sake of it. But that’s probably because I’m a bleeding heart who works in the non-profit sector.
But what if we applied this concept to Love? I would argue that right now, we don’t. The model we’re peddle from day one thanks to companies like Disney is that somewhere out there this is a magical person who is your missing other half and all you have to do is find them! There are only 7 billion people on Earth, so how hard can that be? True love awaits!
If you’ve been reading my blog for more than 5 minutes, then you already know I think this idea is bullocks. There are just too many people in the world and too much love to be shared to say that we each have ONE person who’s our soulmate, ONE person who will be right for us for our whole lives through and ONE person whom will provide us with everything we need. It sounds like a fairy tale because it IS a fairy tale.
People ebb and flow in our lives. Some leave as quickly as they arrived, others stay in it for the long haul, their involvement in our lives varying over time as we grow up, grow apart and come back together again. I think of parents, for example. No one would deny the important of their parents in their lives (for better or for worse), but most of us don’t talk to them every day. We might even have friends that are our parents’ ages. Does this mean we’ve replaced our parents? Does this mean we don’t care about them or love them? Of course not. When you’re 5, you spend every waking moment with your mother. When you’re 25, you’re probably dodging her Sunday morning calls so she doesn’t know how hungover you are. Our relationships change and evolve over time, but they are not somehow less important because they change.
So back to my original question… what if we shared our love freely and weren’t ruled by ugly emotions such as envy and jealousy? Why do we hold onto this concept that by virtue of sharing our love, it is somehow diminished?
It’s a insidious little thought, one that permeates every part of our culture. The whole concept of “purity” or virginity is based on this idea– that you should only share yourself with ONE person, and if you share yourself with more than one person, you yourself are diminished– you, yourself, are worth less than you previously were. Well I call shenanigans on this purity bullshit and all it entails. Whatever higher power gave me this body also imbued me with bodily autonomy. As long as I am sharing my love, and not hurting anyone, as long as I am consensually giving of myself, how am I diminishing myself? The more I love, the stronger I feel, it just doesn’t add up.
So if you’re a purist or a fundamentalist, if you think a woman’s worth is directly related to her virgnity, this is simply where we part ways. I will never believe that a person’s worth is in any way tied to their virginity, regardless of gender, and frankly I find any other assertion disgusting. We are more than the sum of our experiences, more than a series of actions taken or acted upon us. Human beings are beautiful, complex creatures and I can’t think of anything much more meaningless than the number of people you’ve had sex with. Like most numbers, it’s just used to shame. Throw it out! Love all, shame none. This is a SHAME-FREE ZONE.
Over the years I’ve had run-ins with polyamory, as it were. I used to say I just kept falling for people who identified as poly, but at some point I have take a closer examination of the fact that I keep gravitating towards people who identify as polyamorous. Note: polyamory as in “many loves,” not polygamy as in many spouses. (Which isn’t to say I’m against polygamy, but it’s not quite what I’m talking about. Culturally speaking, polygamy is often tied to certain religious beliefs, while polyamory is basically the creation of many thoughtful, ethical sluts.)
Recently I met someone who just awes me in so many ways, perhaps most profoundly in how much love he has to give. He is, indeed, polyamorous and he has complete understanding of the idea that one relationship need not take away from another. We are force-fed the idea of of monogamy (along with the marriage and picket fence end game) and the concept of relationship hierarchy. And this is where I see a lot of new-to-poly folks fall into a trap. They might’ve gotten rid of the monogamy thought, but not the hierarchy, and that will cause serious problems if you are juggling more than one romantic relationship at a time. Trust me.
But what if we throw both ideas out? No more hierarchy, no more “primary partner” or “one and only”, just love. Just love given freely. It seemed so simple when it first hit me. That jealousy is beyond pointless. That I can love someone and have a deep and unique connection with them– and it doesn’t diminish what we have for me to love others, or for them to love others. If anything, you’re just making the pie bigger. More love, no shame, no jealousy, no competition. I’m not saying it’s easy, especially when we’ve been taught the only way to be special to someone is to segregate them from all others. But that’s not the way. That sounds more like keeping a pet than loving a person, to me. I mean, heck, even my cats are allowed to socialize.
So I ask again, how is my Love diminished by sharing it with more people? Knowledge is strengthened by spreading it around, I don’t see why Love is any different.
Just use a condom. Seriously, be safe.