When I was first starting a spiritual practice, my teacher asked me to define love. I pondered this for a few days and then said that “Love grows me, it is like what soil, rain, and sunshine is to a plant. It is the force that helps me blossom.” I see love as a verb not an adjective, it isn’t static.
What seemed like a simple exercise has been a template that I use to measure what’s happening in a relationship, if I want someone as a friend or how well I am taking care of my kids. I have a friend who asked her husband to open their marriage, this really destabilized their relationship. I encouraged her to keep going deeper and find out what both of them needed from their marriage and how each defined love. This provoked several profound conversations between them. In one of the conversations she said “love is about growing together”. Her husband said he didn’t “need or want to grow” in their marriage. He said, “Love is stability, its knowing nothing is going to change.” This was a turning point for both of them. It started a discussion about whether her husband had any interest in growing specifically with her? Could he tolerate changes that might benefit both of them?
I have met very nice and intelligent people who are not interested in growing with me. Sometimes I’ve chosen to be friends, with a clear understanding (with myself) of what the friendship would entail and encompass. In these friendships I was clear about my boundaries and expectations.
I find this step of defining love is essential in polyamory. If you are going to have an ongoing connection with someone, find out what makes them tick. Defining love is a good place to start. It’s like getting the coordinates on the map to find out exactly where both of you are. You may find that you are in different places but heading toward each other. Although your definitions are different, you are interested in what the other person is offering and possibly even teaching you. Seeing love from different perspectives can still work, but having no idea how the other person defines love and what they want will make for challenges down the road.