Thoughts about that word.

November 28, 2011 at 10:40 am (Polyamory, Relationship) (, , )

There’s one word in the English language that we treat with a strange mix of fear and excitement. One word that we prize above others, that we wait with baited breath to hear. One word we use casually and carelessly about objects and interests, but when applied to other people it’s handled with care, loaded with meaning and profound, dramatic emotion.

Love.

We think we know what it is, what it feels like. Sometimes it’s a physical ache from your chest, your core, a tangible yearning. Sometimes it’s a radiant warmth from the eyes, a blush of the cheeks, an involuntary smile at the thought of someone’s face, or a from moment’s lingering eye contact.

It’s a desire to see someone happy. It’s a hope to be a part of that happiness, or to influence it. It’s a longing for connection, for intimacy, physical and emotional. It’s the pleasure of seeing another’s genuine self, vulnerable, imperfect, but no less wonderful. It’s that delight in another person’s existence, in their companionship, their strength, their openness to you.

But we lock this word up tightly and use it so sparingly. We debate long and hard before we speak it to another about them. We worry that it’s too soon to use the word. We wonder if it might come back to haunt us; if it might build up expectations we can’t meet, set standards too high, and become a crushing weight, a word to regret. We take it very, very seriously and use it at the end of a practiced speech, trying to make what was carefully rehearsed sound natural and sincere. Or else we blurt it out in a moment of passion, or in a state of intoxication, and regret it later.

When I start thinking about love as a word, I’m reminded of a passage from Anne of the Island, one of the Anne of Green Gables books. (I’m a sap underneath all this misanthropy, really.)

“You love it, “Said Miss Patty with emphasis. “Does that mean that you really love it? Or that you merely like the looks of it? The girls nowadays indulge in such exaggerated statements that one never can tell what they do mean. It wasn’t so in my young days. Then a girl did not say she loved turnips, in just the same tone as she might have said she loved her mother or her Savior.”

What good is a word that is used to express love of turnips, mothers, Saviors, and romantic partners all? If there were better distinctions, different words for different kinds of love, it might make it easier for us to express our feelings without the fear that surrounds the use of the dreaded L-word.

It can be kind of fun, in some ways, to challenge myself to express emotion using any possible combination of words except that one. But more often than not, I dislike the fear that surrounds it’s use. I hate playing it cool, doing the dance of detatchment, wondering who’s going to slip up and say it first. What if he doesn’t say it back or what if I change my mind or what if it’s really just that I want to get laid… Ugh. Enough with the nonsense.

I’ve tried using the word limerance, and to a degree, it works. It covers that initial rush which is mainly about the longing for both sexual fulfillment and emotional connection. But at what point do you acknowledge that you’re past the stage of limerance and into real love?

And what is “real love” anyway? Do you love a person the same way forever? As an emotion, love changes; it deepens, broadens, forgives, glosses over, sees more clearly, adds reinforcement; changes texture, weight and color. I don’t love my husband today the same way I loved him five years ago, yet I still love him. And it’s still the same word.

Where I’m going with this, is this – I don’t want to be afraid of a word anymore. I’m going to use it with greater freedom. There is love in so many moments that get left behind because of this fear, and I don’t want to keep doing that. I can’t prevent others from reading different meanings into the word when I use it; but I can do my best to put the word in context when I use it. Using a few more phrases seems better than not using one word at all. It’s about communication, really. Something I don’t think love can exist without.

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3 Comments

  1. Jane Doe said,

    What an egotistical & presumptuous blog post. Remember, you have to love yourself first.

    • Alice Digitalis said,

      Thank you for reading. I’m not sure what is egotistical about my post, except that it is written about my experience, which is kind of the nature of blogging anyway. And as for presumptuousness, I find it presumptous of you that you assume I don’t love myself. The topic of this post was love for another. Loving one’s self is a different journey and a difference experience, I think.

  2. lvelif said,

    I use the word love perhaps far too often – with great pleasure though. May have to try out limerance for the occasions it suits.
    Then there’s all the Greek terms for love… perhaps in English context and inflection counts for a lot?
    Great post Alice, sounds like Jane needs a little love.

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