If you want to read Part 1, go here.
In part 2 of her coming out poly, Rachel talks about the limits of language. She said, "In retrospect, I can see that it's problematic to use the single word love to describe both things--my feelings for a new interest and my feelings for a long term mate." I so understand this need to differentiate loves. A new love can be giddy and exciting, while a long-term love banks from a depth of emotional investments, time, memories, and shared experiences.
A while back I meant to investigate why people cheat. I never got around to that again. In some cases, in many cases, I think people find themselves falling in love, and drawn to the new love over the old love. Because we live in a monogamous world, they convince themselves they no longer love the first person, or they accept having two loves, but don't believe they could ever keep the first relationship if they confess the new love. They try to have both worlds, so they cheat. Therapists would say that is a red flag, that something seriously needed fixing in a relationship, or an affair wouldn't happen. Maybe. Perhaps sometimes the thing that makes it so difficult for these accidental cheaters is that completely unexpected crash into love. Love can be quite overwhelming. They don't say "swept off her feet" for nothing.
It says something about Rachel and her relationship with her husband that she could look within herself and accept that she loved two people, and that she could tell him and they could move forward from there. Still, it would be important for him to preserve what they have as special, as love, and view her new feeling as something else....or it could be threatening. (I don't mean to imply I have Rachel and her H figured out, but think of them more as a springboard for my thoughts.)
There is power in words, an unspoken hierarchy in words, unconscious sway from hidden words. Something exists before the words, but putting that something into words gives it a life, solidifies it, makes it somehow more real. (Whatever real means.) When it comes to love, I have experienced the monstrous tornado before any words, and I could not put any other word to that swirling giddy maelstrom. At the time, that first time, I could not withhold the word. It spilled out, it could be no other. Confession: the recipient of that feeling disdained it, saying it was silly, like a high school infatuation. Perhaps that has shaped my reluctance to use the word. I did have crushes in high school. They were nothing like this.
Before that, I did give shape to love through the word. I loved my first husband, not in that whirlwind way, but in naming it so, it became so. It was not enough of a love to weather this maelstrom. After that too, I experienced the edge of the brink of love, the readiness to tip over, and I slipped into the space of love when I named it, when I said the words, "I love you." I expressed it in a poem, as lovers do:
as soon as the words
flew from my mouth
like little incandescent
i knew it was true.
"i love you"
and i felt the love
where a moment before it had
only been a thought.
So much of this love thing cannot be named, cannot be contained or held in a complete thought, perhaps that is why we try to express it so much in poetry and song, more than any other inner feeling. That first time I truly fell in love, it wasn't just falling in love, it was awakening to my full capacity to love, awakening to the full potential of this space of love. I knew that, even as I felt pulled to that particular person, I knew it wasn't just about him.
So too with cheating. Undisclosed feelings separate us from each other. Keeping a piece apart, a web woven of undisclosed words can create an insurmountable wall. Hidden truths and lies can tear apart a fragile love.
In my first post on this space of love, I didn't wish to dilute different flavors of love by labelling them crushes. As I try to wrap my words around this entity, this space of love, I am also trying to say that encouraging this word, love, for these connecting feelings, this breeds more love, bigger love, all-encompassing love, thus greater kindness, compassion and caring. I am not making the word smaller, it doesn't make my love for Steve smaller, or the same as my love for others, but I am making my love for others bigger. (this must be why some say god is love. if anything i would say love is god.)
I found it so intriguing when I read Wendy-O Matik's book (thanks for the comment, Wendy!) that she gave expression to the very same thoughts I had experienced in my polyamorous relationship. She said,
When you have love for someone, you are inspired to do things for them, purely as an act of kindness and not because they owe you something in return. Love has no guarantees, no return-policy, no cash-back, no refunds, no price tags, no guidelines. That's what is so problematic about love. It's a wild ride on the beautiful side of life but completely in the dark.
I say when you love like that, the possibilities completely open up. If you don't expect exact returns, well, you are free to love however much you can produce. What does it cost, really? After a while, you get used to that wild ride. It's not so dark. It's easier to roll with the dips and swells. If there is a cost in anguish, it is made up for with new capacities for compassion. When polyamory works, when people get through the transition from monogamous mindsets, when they've had a chance to experience it when settled, I think there is an almost universal experience of this opening up to a greater capacity to love. The word changes shape, changes its meaning, becomes more inclusive. If we let it.
There is yet another inspiration from Rachel, these words, "this space of love," helped give shape to this understanding of love, helped put words to an inner landscape that is evolving in me. Coming up next, where she found "this space of love." Go here for Part 3.