M told me she loved me the other night. We were cuddled up in bed together in the dark and she just said it. And I didn’t know what to do. I had this voice in my head saying “But, but you’re married! You love H! You can’t love two people!” And then another voice said “Why the hell not? She’s M, he’s H; they’re two different people who both happen to be wonderful and if they can both love you, why can’t you love them both?” So I thought about it a bit and then told her I loved her too. *applause* *tears*
But what does that mean, anyway? We spent ages before that night discussing the implications of terms like ‘girlfriend’ and ‘partner’ and how the overtones of ownership in them make them somewhat unappealing. What I want to say, when I refer to her, is that this is someone who means a lot to me, whose well-being I care about, and who I am emotionally and sexually invested in, but who is free to get involved with whomever else she chooses, as am I, so please don’t come running to me if you happen to see her on a date with someone else. Yeah, it’s a bit of a mouthful.
Things get way more loaded, however, when you bring the idea of ‘love’ into it because ‘love’, as defined for us by our monogamy-based cultures, is exclusive. To love someone is to want them above all others, to want them to the point that we somehow forget that there is or was or will be anyone else on the planet. So if you are involved with more than one person, it’s a given that you’re not in love with both and probably with either since you’ve ‘wandered’ in the first place. How many movies and books present us with the impossibility of loving two people at once? Our Hero or Heroine is torn between two loves and must eventually choose one, even if that means regretting the decision forevermore, for that is what it means to… er … what? (Come to think of it, if you remove the whole either-or clause from the deal, you’d kill the whole ‘what might have been’ storyline dead.)
For me, there is perfection in every individual I meet. Everyone has something to offer, something about them that makes them uniquely them, something, ultimately, worth loving. I don’t see how that makes, or should be construed to make, how I feel about them any less valid or vital than someone who sees that something in only one person. Of course I don’t go falling in love with everyone I meet – people need to resonate with me in a particular way for that to happen – but I can often see what it is in them that another person may appreciate (and, as it turns out, relationships between people I introduce seem to outlast my own relationships with one or both parties). And while we’re on disclaimers, there are people to whom I react extremely negatively as well – life is not one big love-in and some people are more rotten than others in my book, for reasons that may have as much to do with me as with them.
In spite of all that though, I struggle with the expression of it. I am still not ‘out’ to most of my friends and one of the main things stopping me is that I don’t want them to think any less of my relationship with H. At the moment, they see us as a happily married couple who are utterly silly about each other. If I introduce another person into the equation, how will that view change? Will they think it was all a sham? Will they think I’m a horrible person for ‘doing this to H’ whatever ‘this’ is? Will they think less of H for not asserting his ‘rights’ over me? How do I convince them that he really is ok with it? I suppose I could leave that up to him with his own friends and family, but what about mine? And how do I do it without sounding defensive or like I’m apologizing for doing something that I know is ‘wrong’ by some imaginary standard?
I suppose ultimately it’s up to us to not just talk about it but to live it. Part of the reason we decided to go ahead with polyamory was that we met and spoke to people who have been making it work for a long time now and who are living proof of all that they talk about (including the bad bits). They showed us that it needn’t break up a marriage and can, in fact, make the marriage stronger because it’s less about being stuck together and more about exploring what it is that makes us want to be together in the first place. Loving M throws why I love H into greater relief, and loving H allows me to explore this new love in a manner that I can’t describe except to say that it is entirely new to me and yet entirely natural.
When I re-read that last bit, I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the seeming fervor of the new convert. From where I sit, I don’t honestly think that I’m simply getting carried away by novelty, but I guess that’s something that will only be determined over time. For now, I’m just going to call it like I feel it and hope for the best.