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.