Sunday, April 27, 2014

A little bit of love

I read an interesting article today talking about Casual Love.  The idea is that we should remove the requirement of reciprocity from love and be comfortable with people being in love with others even when the feeling isn't mutual.  I like the idea in principle, but I like it in the way that I like communism.  You know, it has great taglines and a cool concept but isn't practical outside of a very small set of specific people.  Living in a society where nobody would be upset about being in love with someone who does not feel the same way would be great.  It would be a relief to be able to tell people I love them without that powerful sense of obligation, without fear, without feeling like I have dumped a major decision on them.  Unfortunately I think parcelled along with love usually comes a very big helping of wanting love back and I don't see how we scrape that out of people's minds and habits.

I do wish we as a society could dump a lot of how we view love, especially the ideas that it must be exclusive, singular, eternal, and come along with a domestic arrangement.  People can love many other people, it can come and go without anybody needing to feel like a failure, and it doesn't have to be a within a marriage.  Love can be great and wonderful in all kinds of arrangements and configurations as long as the people experiencing it are made happy by it then we really don't need to police the structure they use.  Love five people or none, have sex with them or don't, live with them or not, wander in and out of love as you will.


I don't think that expecting everyone to evolve to the point where they don't expect and desperately desire to be loved in return is going to happen.  People, even if they don't expect permanency and exclusivity, want very much to be loved back.  Obviously sometimes they will be satisfied or even perfectly happy with a one way love but that isn't going to be the norm.  It would certainly be good for us as a society to be more accepting that these things happen and not immediately attract creepy labels to them but there just isn't any good reason to think that we are going to get to the point where people normally say I Love You and honestly are okay with any response at all.

We can be pretty flexible about how we are loved but we do by and large want to be loved especially by those we love in return.


  1. Speak for yourself :P

    I really do think that the need to have (all) loves reciprocated is just as based in culturally ingrained scripts about love as monogamy is. And I mean, hey, I am speaking as someone who is love with someone who rejected me as a romantic partner. So here's my thing:

    It is possible (and even healthier, including in cases of reciprocated love) to throw that energy into simply caring about the other person's happiness, trying to be a positive part of their life, and sending good vibes their way. The part of us that is so invested in being loved back, (or being loved back exclusively) is a very insecure part, generally speaking.

    The problem for me only really comes in in two cases. First, is where the love-object doesn't care about the lover at all, not even as a friend. That kind of imbalance is unhealthy, but then I would argue that kind of love in unhealthy in the first place, so. Second would be with someone for whom none of their loves was reciprocated. This would ultimately create an unhealthy imbalance as well. In these situations, it is better to try to cauterize the wound.

    Honestly, I think your major problem in conceptualizing this whole thing is that you've fallen into the trap of interpreting "love" as only romantic love, when it can obviously be so many different things. I can happily and unpainfully be in love with someone who really clearly values my friendship and my presence in their life, and be content with knowing that my friendship makes their life better (as theirs does mine). I'm doing it right now, even :P

    But, it is important to note that for me, part of what makes this possible is the fact that I have a great support system in my life, that I am surrounded by people who really care about my well-being, whether their feelings about me constitute romantic love or friend-love, or whatever else. I can afford to deal with a little imbalance in some of my relationships, because *on* balance, I am in such an amazing position. I know that I am cared for, and enough people have got my back that I won't burn out my self-worth. It just isn't a thing.

    TL;DR it is possible to be in love with someone without tying up any part of one's self-worth into that person's feelings for you - and I do think this is the source of a lot of the pain of unrequited love.

    1. Cripes, and know I've written a comment as long as the original post. I have feelings!

    2. " I can happily and unpainfully be in love with someone who really clearly values my friendship and my presence in their life, and be content with knowing that my friendship makes their life better (as theirs does mine)."

      I think this gets at the root of it. The degree of love doesn't have to be reciprocated...but the fact of love does.

    3. I don't think it is a problem in conceptualizing that led me to talk about love here only in terms of romantic love. Non romantic love feels different and has a very different social and cultural script. We generally accept that parents love their children even when the children don't love them back for example, much more easily than we accept romantic love that is not reciprocated. Part of that is of course the cultural obsession with monogamy but I think part of it really is that we think about romantic love differently.

      I am really not trying to say that nobody has unreciprocated romantic love. They do. I do! You (Val) do. I just don't think that the assumption of that being normal and all fine is actually a thing we can or will see across society as a whole. Much like communism, which works fine as a general organizing principle in my household but not at all as a society wide governing structure, I think accepting unreciprocated love works on small scales with some people but not with others and as such does not work across everyone.

      So many people are without support structures, lack people they can be truly open with, and struggle with intimate relationships that there is a huge chunk of society that desperately needs to be loved back. Just like you say, when you are in a good place, well loved and appreciated, it is relatively easy to love someone one way. So many people are not in that place that I don't think they can do that. I would like the world to be different than that but I do not think that it is nor that it will be.