We and our media often talk about the “one” - our “one true love,” the person we’re fated to be with for the rest of our lives. We have this idea that “true” love is rare and hard to come by - it’s special, something we need to pursue doggedly when we find it. You’ve seen enough romantic comedies to have more than a few examples of what I mean in your head. Love is a major life event, something that must always inspire action - or is it?
The idea we often have about love is that if we feel it, we need to panic. What if they don’t love me? I’ll probably never love anyone else in my entire life and now I need to do something about it!
But hold on a minute. Has that ever been true for you in practice?
Despite that narrative, love actually happens more often than we’re willing to admit. Some of us love easier than others, some of us love more than one person at a time, and some of us do take time and effort to feel love for someone. There are many ways to experience love, but it’s usually not anything akin to being struck by lightning.
It’s easy for me to see all of the amazing things in a person, all of the things that should be celebrated in a person. People are great! But this has actually caused a lot of problems for me. Because I thought “I love this person! I need to do something about it!” I dove headfirst into relationships where my relationship style was not compatible with the other person’s. It has lead to months and even years of strain and emotional hardship because I thought, “I love this person! We need to be together!”
But the thing is, you don’t. You can love someone - you don’t need to stop loving them! - and not be in a relationship and not treat your feelings like fate, because they’re not. You can also allow yourself to feel love for people that you’d deny feeling that way about because they aren’t “relationship material” whether that’s because they’re not interested in the same kind of future as you’re not sexually attracted to them.
The problem here is that we usually couple the gut-fluttering, sweaty-palmed feelings of love with the rational decisions of commitment - these things can totally come together, but they are not a package deal. Love does not equal commitment, and if we’re able to learn that, we can avoid a lot of pressure, stress, and expectations. These are things that ideally would not be part of love, but they’ve become so interwoven that we link irrationality and stress with love - when it’s really due to a commitment incompatibility with someone you love. It doesn’t need to be like that.
Love does not automatically mean commitment. Keep reminding yourself this. Why? There are a lot of benefits.
For the person doing the loving, it’s less stressful, less urgent, less scary - less “life or death”. Very importantly, it leads to fewer expectations, which is good for both you and your subject - you aren’t as terrifyingly attached to the idea of being with them, and you feel less hurt and lost if they don’t feel the same way about you. Most importantly, you won’t be so dependent on another person and won’t have this feeling like you need to stick with them no matter what happens - even if they’re abusive, even if the relationship isn’t working.
For the person being loved, the emotion feels more like a gift than a rabid, ravenous attack. Rather than being begged to return the feelings, they can feel however they want and appreciate the feelings being directed at them rather than scared of them. Why? Because when you love more casually, it’s like saying “I think you’re really awesome, I care about you, and I don’t expect anything from you in return” and truly meaning it.
Even better, when you love casually, you love more often. You allow yourself to be open to your feelings without attaching an outcome to them. Love becomes more about appreciating a person than a painful self destructive spiral where you doggedly pursue something irrational.
A lot of the thoughts here are based on an amazing blogpost from Carsie Blanton about this very subject - I’d recommend giving it a read, too.
Caitlin is a writer, sex educator, consultant, and product reviewer who focuses primarily on issues of sex toy and accessory safety, pleasure, sexuality, gender, and more. You can learn more, or ask any questions, at their website- www.sex-ational.com.
© Javier Delgado and Daniele Devoti via Flickr
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