Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Love and the Committed Pagan

   If you search the word "love" on Dictionary.com, you'll get definitions like "a profoundly, tender passionate affection," "a feeling of...deep affection," and "sexual passion or desire." Merriam-Webster gets a bit closer to the complexity of the word by covering all types of love, including love of your old schoolmates, love of your children, love of baseball, and love of the sea. Love is defined in many ways by many people, and since it's a descriptor of the immaterial, no one can really proclaim that one is right and another is wrong. But for the purpose of exploring love in the context of a committed relationship to another, some sort of definition is in order. We know that we're talking about a romantic relationship. We're talking about a relationship with someone who we hope to spend some significant part of the foreseeable future with. We experience some kind of warm feelings of affection for this person, we find sexual satisfaction and pleasure with them, and we act as one another's companions. If this is the relationship, what is this thing we're supposed to be looking at, "love"? Is it the feeling of affection? The companionship? For this month's series, I am going to define love as "devotion."  I think this is the most meaningful definition for a committed relationship because I believe that love within such a relationship is both a choice and an action.

  First, let's talk about "choice." Oftentimes, individuals don't consciously choose the initial feelings that they have for their partner, so the idea of choice with regards to love is pushed aside altogether. This initial chemistry may be the result of endorphins, pheromones, common ground, and who-knows-what-else, but the simple fact is that feelings are constantly in flux. Some individuals gauge the strength of a relationship (and whether or not they should remain in it) by their feelings toward their partner, but it is my belief that it's impossible to maintain a long-term relationship with this standard.  Emotions are changeable even from minute to minute. If we don't accept that keeping a relationship strong long-term involves making a "choice" to love our partner, we will inevitably feel forced to exit the relationship at some point out of the belief that we are not being true to ourselves. I'm not talking about anyone forcing themselves to stay in a relationship that is extremely damaging, either physically or emotionally. No one deserves to be berated, cheated on, physically abused, or miserable forever. What I'm talking about is maintaining a relationship between two people who are both willing to work to keep that relationship strong, in spite of the ebb and flow of your emotions toward one another.

  The second part of our definition is action. If we think about love as an action, your interpretation will be a little different from mine and mine will be a little different from the next person's. That's because it will naturally be based on our life with our individual partner, and what we know about them. If your guy loves jogging and has always wished you'd come along, suggesting a jog could be a way for you to actively "love" him. If I suggested this to my guy, on the other hand, he'd think I was trying to think of ways to actively torture him. This kind of love is about doing things, big or little, that will make them feel appreciated, loved, or happy. Because these things could involve compromise, this kind of love might be seen as "selfless." That's not my favorite word because, as a pagan, I'm not really for denying the self. But it is about using moments to really try to care for your spouse, making that moment less about you and more about them.

  With this definition, we have a foundation to work upon. We know that love can be both a choice and an action, and these identifiers will be useful to us as we work to strengthen our relationships. Next week, we'll consider the pagan community's outlook on the ideas we've looked at so far, and ponder whether or not there is a place in our community for this type of discussion (see An Unnecessary Silence: Why Pagans Don't Need to Keep Quiet About Monogamy). Until then, happy loving, and can you guess what tomorrow (Feb. 6) is? (I'm not telling you. You have to wait 'til tomorrow!)

Marienne's Bookshelf: I'm currently reading The Real Witches' Craft by Kate West.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment...