Experiences of Loving

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about love, and how certain forms of love are valued over other forms, and how that can be really damaging and hurtful to some people.

I have always felt a lot of love for the people in my life – family, friends, people I’ve only met once or twice but care about immediately. Warm, happy love that makes me want to hug them and make them feel safe and loved and happy as well. Some days I feel like I’m so filled with love that I want to share it with the whole world, whoever I see around me.

The thing is, the sort of love I feel for people isn’t the sort of love that society places the highest value on. From my experience, there is always a point where society says “right, you need to get on to proper love now.” And that most often takes the form of love found in romantic and sexual relationships, and also, I think, in the love between a mother and a child.

For women, it seems that there are these two options for loving. Single women are still seen as deficient, as lacking something. If a woman isn’t in a relationship, it’s like there’s something wrong with her. She’s cold, a bitch, or unloving and therefore unlovable. So often I feel like the love you feel in a romantic or sexual relationship is the love, the most important love, the one that takes prevalence over all other sorts of love.

Except maybe mother love – because childless women are unloving too, aren’t they? People tell me all the time that the love a parent (mainly described as a mother) has for a child is the most powerful thing there is. That there is nothing that compares. Well, except romantic relationship love, once again.

The love I feel for people isn’t romantic, isn’t sexual, certainly isn’t mother-child love. But it’s powerful and strong and consuming. It makes me care for people, and worry about them and admire them and respect them. I’d call it platonic, but I feel like it’s more significant than that. It makes me want to hug people and be close to them and share parts of their lives. But I’ve learnt to be a bit more wary of showing that, because of the way those feelings don’t belong to the dominant paradigm of real love. Because I don’t want to send the wrong message, or lead someone on.

It’s hard sometimes, because I always feel like I’m on a different level to everyone else. I can’t lie – sometime I just wish that someone would return my feelings exactly the same way. Sometimes I find myself longing for the trappings of a traditional romantic relationship – the commitment, the affection, the cuddles, the knowledge that someone loves you and values you – but without the actual romantic part.

I’ve had problems with boundaries. Sometimes I don’t know where the limit is of how friendly and affectionate you can be with someone, and I’ve been told I need to stop. I’ve been read the wrong way before and it wasn’t pleasant, for me or for the other person.

Society teaches us that we must take either the “whole package” or leave it completely and be alone for the rest of our lives. It doesn’t consider the fact that you can have parts of the package without wanting or needing the rest. And it doesn’t value love that falls outside the paradigm.

I think there is more to love than a couple of standard forms. There is love that is romantic, there is love that is sexual, there is love that is between parents and children, and love for or between people who are neither. I don’t feel like I can give up loving people the way I do, and I don’t want to. But thinking about real love as only coming in one or two shapes and forms , and valuing those forms over everything else is marginalising and hurtful.

I don’t doubt that there are many people who do find romantic love to be the most important thing to them, something special that nothing else can compare to. But that is not the only way of loving that there is.

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13 thoughts on “Experiences of Loving

  1. You have forgotten about the only love that truly matters and that is love of self. That love that you feel for others, do you give that to yourself? I believe that when you truly love yourself then you can extend that love out to others in a healthy way. Loving yourself is not something we are taught to do in our society, it is seen as being vain or egotistical, but when we love ourself, we care enough not to give ourselves a hard time, we care about our body and look after it, we don’t judge ourselves or others, we accept that we are perfect as we are, imperfections and all. I also believe that we are all one thing so when we love ourselves we love all that exists. The love i feel as a mother is unconditional and yes its wonderful, romantic love is also very beautiful but unless i love myself then its all a bit meaningless. I have given much love and caring to everyone around me my whole life but i can tell you that it doesn’t guarantee that it will be returned. Its only as i have learned to love myself that i have found any inner peace or happiness and that love has flowed from me, around me, and into me.

    1. I’d thought loving oneself would be a given! 😛 I agree, loving yourself is very important as well. Thanks for the comment, Michell!

  2. I absolutely love the way you articulated this. I have been read the wrong way before for a similar reason and relate to feeling as if the word platonic is inadequate in describing a non-sexual, non-romantic love I have felt.

    The idea that one is supposed to find a partner and form a love that is suddenly more powerful than all of the other forms of love in one’s life, many of which have had more time to grow… Never sat well with me.

    Anyway, well said. Awesome blog post.

  3. I totally agree! Look at all the emphasis on relationships and a person’s marital status! Particularly for women, this is a huge issue. As if single women aren’t completely content being exactly where they are and as if they aren’t successful human beings. It’s a load of b****** and it’s sad to see some people succumb to a relationship or even just to sex with someone just because it’s socially acceptable and not out of genuine attraction or ‘love’ for that person. You tell ’em, Jo!

  4. Love this article. Reminds me of what I once knew but somehow forgot over the years. But I agree with michellsmusings, loving oneself is the hardest thing of all. Perhaps it’s because you can’t quit yourself, can’t distnce from yourself. It challenges you much more than every other kind of love, but perhaps – I don’t know – if you manage really loving yourself (not respecting, not accepting, not “liking”), you’re able to experience love at its fullest. At least that’s what I’m hoping for.

  5. Awesome article–you make a lot of good points. I suggest grabbing a copy of C.S. Lewis’ (yup, that guy) The Four Loves, because he talks about exactly this problem. How there are really four unique kinds of love, all worthy of our attention and that romantic love is just one of the many. The platonic love you refer to is what he calls “agape”, or friend love, a complete and total love for someone as a person. Seriously. Thank you for bringing all of this up.

  6. This is amazing and so touching. I’m just figuring myself out and as somebody who loves in much the same way as you do- and is also afraid of being read wrong or leading someone on without having any idea I am- this is amazing and reassuring to read. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  7. I saw this last night, and every time I’ve thought about it since, I can’t help but tear up. This is how I feel all the time… and to see it written on this page, well, I’m not really sure what it means exactly, but I do know it means I’m not alone. And that means so, so much.

    1. Hi Elsie, I’m really glad that this post has helped you feel less alone! It can be pretty wierd and lonely in the world of non-normative relationships sometimes, so it’s always good to know that others are out there too. ❤

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