Shoving an Elephant into a Shoebox
Lately, I’m slowly coming to the realization that love has more than one face. It happened when I fell in love, and our love staunchly refused to be put into any box. The details aren’t important, but what I ended up with was a love relationship that had no name – he is and was sometimes my lover, sometimes my boyfriend, sometimes my partner, sometimes even my future, but at other times, none of those things. The only constant has been that we have always felt love, but the love has looked very different at different times. And in my futile efforts to give our relationship a name, I’ve experienced sadness, jealousy, anger, disappointment, frustration, and dashed hopes. I’ve cried, I’ve writhed on the floor in pain, I’ve regretted ever meeting him, I’ve despaired of ever being able to move on. And through it all I’ve learned some deep truths about myself and the great hole of need I’m asking love to fill.
After struggling for over a year, it started to dawn on me that maybe it’s OK for it not to have a name. Maybe, it’s OK for it to be exactly what it is, and to not have me constantly trying to make it into something it doesn’t want to be, as pointless as trying to shove an elephant into a shoebox.
In my deep, far-ranging conversations with my love about love, I realized that what we have been talking about has been nothing so much as the difference between fettering love and letting it free. True freedom, I realized profoundly from this experience, is terrifying even though it’s something most of us claim to want. And having structure, expectations, and rules is comforting, even when some of the rules can chafe sometimes. What is more terrifying than letting someone you love go to be exactly who they are? With no rules, no expectations for the future, and no right to chasten them when they show a facet of themselves that you didn’t know they possessed?
The implications, for most of us are frightening and confusing. What if he meets someone better than me and wants to be with them? What if we has more fun with someone else? What if they have better sex? Can I really trust him? Is he telling me everything? What does it mean about me that he doesn’t want to be my one and only? What if, what if, what if….???
On the other hand, don’t I want my love to be happy, no matter what? Even if it means letting him go? Isn’t that the measure of true love, in the same way a mother loves her child enough to let her go into the future, knowing there will be pain and hardship, but also knowing that clutching the child to her for too long will stunt the child? Isn’t that real love?
This is the question our culture doesn’t really encourage us to ask. As I’ve looked around me for role models for nontraditional relationships, I realize that, though I suspect these types of situations are far more common than we know, there is no conversation in the mainstream - or even most of the “alternative” media that I’ve seen - about alternatives to the “One man, one woman, one marriage certificate” type of heterosexual relationship.
In the moments when my heart has opened around this issue and I’ve let go of the clinging and the rules and the expectations of relationship, I’ve experienced a lightness, a joy, and a feeling of deep love for all beings. When I’ve felt myself constrict and attempt to hold on to a static, rulebound version of my love, I’ve experienced jealousy, doubt, and mistrust. Which of these is the better state? In which of these states do I want to live?
I intended to write all my thoughts about this in one blog post, but I realized that my questions about love are far too vast and complex to cover in one fell swoop. I’ll continue to explore this topic in future installments. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from readers about their feelings, experiences, thoughts, and questions about this issue. Post a comment or write an e-mail. I’d like to hear from you!