For a long time I’ve been trying to figure out just why the way I feel love doesn’t fit in to the usual social ideas of love. Ace Admiral had a post that got me thinking about this again, and mentioned being interested in people talking about the shapes their love takes, so I figured I’d try to explain. Part of my disconnection with the usual cultural narratives about love is polyamory related- I don’t feel jealousy, and don’t seem to get the possessive aspect of love. But I think it’s worth elaborating on that.
This is partly related to empathy or compersion. My experience with love has been the opposite of the usual models. Typically love is presented as a finite resource- you have a set amount and you run out. I’m the opposite. The more I love any one person, the more I love every person. This creates weird situations where, after I have a moment where I realize I really enjoy someone’s company, I’ll want to tell every person I know how awesome I think they are (I’d even tell them all how much I love them, if it wasn’t weird to use the term love in that way). Likewise, when I find myself disliking a person- I end up disliking everyone more.
Instead, I find love is something that is practiced and built up. You learn to love a person here and there, and try and do that more and more often, and eventually you find yourself strong enough to love the entire world.
Add to this that I tend not to have specific needs that I need fulfilled by specific people, and it starts to create a much more loose form of love.*
But the problem is, this isn’t how things look in the cultural context I live in. Instead, people see my lack of needs from potential partners, and the lack of jealousy that goes with it, as a sign that I don’t care. And to some degree that’s true- I don’t care if a potential partner is a romantic partner, a friend, or so on. But that’s not out of coldness or a lack of caring. It’s because I want them to go do whatever good thing it is they do, and I want them to do it well.
Likewise, when someone tries to push me towards only feeling close connections with one (or a limited) number of people, that also ends up toxic to me. If I try to love one person, I end up loving no one. But the fact I don’t want to limit love is also seen as a sign that I don’t really care, and is yet another way I find that the usual cultural narratives portray the way I feel love as being cold and heartless.
Generally the only time I see this kind of love represented positively, it tends to be in religious contexts. And that doesn’t help- because it is put on a pedestal (and possibly even seen as arrogance to suggest that it’s how you feel)**. Otherwise, the closest I’ve found to discourse that allows for more loose and broad notions of love have been within the polyamorous and occasionally the asexual communities.
*I do have specific needs, and I like specific people, I just don’t have the feeling where I need those to line up in some way.
**Also, I’m an atheist. So that doesn’t help either.