We can love an infinite number of people. There are no limits to our capacity to care emotionally for another person, to accept and express our feelings towards others. Love can find many and varied expressions. The smile we give a waiter, a friendly greeting for a shopkeeper. We can feel love when we stroke a dog, when driving a car and we express it. We love both our parents and we can love more than one child. We can feel love for many men and for many women and we can live this love.
Society, history, culture, habit, our hopes, our dreams and wishes condition the way we love and have introduced limits to our positive expression of love. In most cultures it has become customary to love only one man or woman as a partner and lover. This is called monogamy and is related to monotheism, the prescription of one god, and the patriarchy, the male hierarchy. The woman should bear one or more male successors and the blood of the child must match that of the father. My land, my woman, my child – my possessions.
Over the centuries the woman has gradually won recognition and equality, and this is now anchored in the reciprocal betrothal of loyalty. When a man or a woman then also loves another man or woman this goes against custom and practice. If such a conflict should arise then the future for both partners depends very much upon the vision and needs of all involved. If the person who commits adultery needs to feel and experience the love he or she has, then it can be a solution, or even a release, to follow that need with or without the knowledge of the partner. Telling the partner inevitably results in them being confronted with worries of loss and inferiority.
If we wish to be happy in life for a sustained length of time then casual affairs with others are not to be recommended. They can often irretrievably destroy long-term relationships. However many people find themselves in this situation quite unexpectedly and without intention. They are not always strong enough to resist the temptation to follow their feelings. The distress this causes their relationship is not intentional. They then have to carry the consequences of their actions.
It requires an almost unshakable self-confidence, an equally strong trust in the partner and considerable self-assurance with regard to societal norms in order to be able to love more than one lover for any length of time and to make it possible and bearable for all those involved. One needs to determine one’s own need to experience the depths of one’s relationships. Where this need is great, this might only be achieved by separation from one of the lovers/partners or by all those involved electing to live together. Our readiness or not to entertain these ideas tells us something about the true nature of our feelings.
Written by Marion Schneider. Featured Image by Linda Troeller