How is it that jealousy seems, to so many people, a natural component of “love”. Why? Perhaps because it is such a normal response to egoic attachment? Could it be that we’ve somehow confused love relationships with slavery?
I used to be very judgmental about proponents of polyamory and open relationships. My knee jerk reaction was: “You can’t really love someone and not care if they’re in love and/or sleeping with someone else.”
Sometimes folks get upset when their partner doesn’t show any possessiveness. The desire to be possessed is about wanting a sense of security: “Oh, she wants me all to herself – which means she won’t go looking for anyone else.” Except, very often, people do want you to themselves — and they want other people too. I asked a friend of mine to share his thoughts:
“I could see it if it’s a casual thing. But if you’re with a woman and the idea of her being with someone else sexually doesn’t bother you, I don’t think you really have deep feelings for her. There’s going to be some insecurity. You’re going to worry if the other guy is bigger than you. If she likes him better.”
“Yes, you’re right,” I said. “There’s definitely going to be insecurity – and I think that’s natural. But – if you really, really, really liked her – if she was your dream woman – but for whatever reason, it made her happy to be with someone else, wouldn’t part of you, even if it’s just a tiny part of you, want her to be happy?”
He paused. We both took a drag of our respective Arturo Fuentes.
“I don’t know. It would be really tough. Really tough.”
“I’m sure it would.”
* * *
I’ve heard people in the polyamory scene talk about how such an openness to relating provides opportunities to work with difficult emotions (i.e. like jealousy) and to learn about unconditional love. But that all seemed like weakminded bullshit. Monogamy is hard, I thought, but it’s the morally superior order of things.
I hate to keep coming back to this Eric fiasco (I know.. might as well rename this blog after him) but this situation has really forced me to get real about what I mean about love. To be honest, it almost feels like the love I’m learning about has nothing to do with him in particular – as if our interaction is just a vehicle for me to get a better handle on this love thing. We don’t have to be together for me to learn the lessons – and in fact, it seems that not being together right now is required for me to really get it. I wouldn’t be able to clearly distinguish between real love and hormone-driven delusion if I were still wrapped up in the warm embrace our being together.
I’ve said that I never felt like I loved anyone before I met him – which is true. My past romantic entanglements were extremely egoic – but in the ordinary way that most people’s relationships are really based on bullshit masquerading as love. This encounter felt different and it felt like I was getting to know Love for the first time. But how could it be? I didn’t know him. But I had a feeling – like our meeting was special, like there was a sense of familiarity, like I couldn’t help but completely adore him.
As we started seeing each other, it was all a heady elixir. I would say he seduced me – which is true – but I responded in kind. And then all kinds of things came up for me: clinginess, insecurities, possessiveness, anxieties, the loss of all objectivity. I found myself wanting to define our relationship only weeks after we started dating. I freaked out. He freaked out. We both got uncomfortable for different reasons. I really wanted to run away and protect my ego, but there were two problems: 1) I found myself unable to forget about him the way I’d done when things didn’t work out with guys in the past. There was something different here. 2) He kept insisting that we could find a way to maintain and deepen our friendship. But the transition from “lovers” to “ambiguous friends with uncertain futures” was really quite brutal for me – as anyone who has read this blog can attest.
If you had asked me a month ago if I wanted to be monogamous with Eric, the answer would have been an enthusiastic yes. But — why? I told myself that I ‘loved’ him – and I do – but the love is not what was making me want a commitment. I also told myself that it was a matter of propriety. We should be monogamous because it’s a dangerous world out there! As if pretensions of monogamy ever protected anyone from anything. And it could not be true that I wanted monogamy because I didn’t find myself attracted to other people. I chose to be with Eric at that time, but if we’re being honest, I had my own qualms about curtailing my romantic options so soon.
No, the cold, hard truth is that I wanted a commitment because I felt overwhelmed by my emotions, wanted to control him and have a sense of security about the relationship. Why did I need security — and so prematurely? I was terrified of being hurt. I saw how hard I was falling in love with him and had already had my fair share of heartbreak in the past year. As we became closer to each other, I was both happy and increasingly stressed. It felt good to love him, but it felt terrible to fear the pain of vulnerability. Yes – fear the pain, because I didn’t really let myself feel it.
Brief, torrid affair that it was, I would never want to be in a relationship like this one again. Yes, I’m glad that it happened as it did, because I am learning more about love in a few short months than I have in many years. But I would never again want to be so afraid of my own feelings, so manipulated by my ego’s insecurities, that I miss an opportunity to grow in love, slowly, deliberately – anchored in my own power, fully capable of abiding my passionate heart with courage and grace rather than fear and anxiety. I’m not saying it isn’t normal to freak out and be a mess sometimes – we all are whatever we are in the moment – but I know I can do better than the mess I was with Eric. And I want to be ready the next time I meet another soulmate.
* * *
I’ve learned that it’s easy to say you love someone. It’s better to prove it. And the proof is not trying to possess your beloved – or being possessed by them. It’s taking your love and peeling away the layers of egoic attachment and expectations, like an onion. Each time something arises that can’t be love – you say “Oh . . . this doesn’t belong here.” You inquire. “Is that Jealousy? How did you get in here? What are you here to teach me? Compulsive-Need-To-Control? Where’d you come from? What are you trying to protect me from?” You learn what love is by seeing clearly what it is not.
Apparently, love is not:
- “I want you”
- “I’m attracted to you”
- “I like the attention/feeling of importance you give me”
- “I think the stars aligned the day we met”
- “I would like to own you”
- “I would like to be owned by you”
It would seem that love is:
- “I want you to be happy”
- “I want you to be happy”
- “Oh yeah, and I want you to be happy.”
Because, if I were taken out of the equation, and I weren’t here – and my beloved was on his or her own – I would want them to love and be loved by whoever their heart desires. So why wait to die to have that kind of transcendent, unconditional love? Why not try to exercise it now?
With regard to Eric, I’ve become aware of both my egoic reactions and my loving reactions. I don’t pretend that there are not two sides of the coin. There are. But – crucially – because of the light of my awareness, I know the difference between them. Every time I miss the intimacy we had and rue the “ambiguous friendship”, I try to say “Yes” to what is going on now and embrace the happiness available to each of us in the separate lives we lead. Real, unconditional love doesn’t require anyone to be in my life in the way my ego demands. My ego has clearly demonstrated that it doesn’t know what’s good for me. But God knows. The Universe knows. And something within me trusts that Divine Intelligence is not just in control sometimes – It is pouring forth in every moment.
Whoever and whatever needs to be in my life right now is already here. And that’s what love is, too: total acceptance and surrender to what is.