For the past few days, my mind has been swirling (when doesn’t it swirl?) around the concept of love and what it means to me. I have read a few different bloggers’ posts about love, I have been paying attention to news stories where the idea and concept of love have an underlying meaning, I have been seeing various Tweets on the subject and now I am contemplative about the subject. As I think about it and begin to profess some of my thoughts on the matter, let me preface it with the fact that I have done no formal research on the topic; I am merely expressing my own thoughts and feelings on the matter and as a result, I am biased.
As I think about the concept of love, I think about the first introduction to the understanding of love from a somewhat academic point of view. Being brought up as catholic and having had received some dogmatic understanding there is an essential idea behind three types of love – eros, agape and philos. From what I remember, eros is an erotic or sexual love that is intensely felt in the beginning of a romantic relationship. Agape type of love is the love that comes from the Divine – i.e. God, Jesus, or whomever you see as a Higher Power – and is the kind of love that people aspire to exhibit and always falls short because it is an obligatory kind of love – not necessarily based on feeling it, but performing it. And, of course, a philos love is the love we have based on compassion towards our friendships and others. I could be wrong, but I am basing these on memory.
As someone that has rejected the faith of my youth, I am still drawn to a lot of these explanations. Because of this, I tend to read bloggers that are devout catholics (in spite of being bisexual, I find a lot of Christians to be good people) and there is one that is sticking out in my mind after having read something she wrote recently (I’m not linking her, because I am not asking for permission to discuss her post). She was discussing the multitude of sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations that are now so prevalent that it merely seems like moments when you hear another story breaking. And I am paraphrasing what I believe her point is concerning the reasons for these allegations, but she expressed that our society has become overly-sexualized and no longer a society bounding ourselves to any kind of decency. She had expressed that she believed that the reasons so many women are being subjected to these kinds of behaviors is because of a lack of God in society, a lack of morality and sexual decency.
Now, I’m not trying to object or condone her statements, other than to say her post has given me something to think about and contemplate. You see, as many of you already realize, I am bisexual. I feel like I have experienced the kind of love exhibited as eros, mentioned above, for both men and women. I had mentioned in a previous blog I kept, that I had never been involved in a romantic relationship with guys, but I have certainly engaged in sexual activity with guys. And, in that previous blog, I had also indicated regret that I had never attempted a relationship with a guy, but I had finally gotten to a point where I could express that I felt like I was in love with a couple of friends with whom I had sexual relationships. Certainly, all of this conversation, would be rejected as any authentic love by most religions, let alone Christians, but I tend to entertain academic arguments over those that use emotional tyranny to sway opinions. With this in mind, I can’t reject this lady’s argument about decency and morality in society.
This is not a new concern of mine, but it is one I take seriously. I contemplate the state of society on a regular basis and I find that the young woman I am referring to is certainly right about something – there is a cultural and societal revolution going on that indicates the sexual behavior exhibited towards women is wrong. But, can it stand to reason that it can be extended towards others, that maybe there is a platform to be made that indicates a lack of moral direction in our society? The problem for me, and it’s always been a problem for me, is the idea that there is nothing obvious that states what moral direction is the correct one. Who, truly, can dictate who loves whom?
I remember, one time, discussing sexuality with a priest during a confession. I had expressed to him that I didn’t understand why I would be attracted to men, if it were not natural. At the time, the priest had expressed that love people is completely normal and the fact that we can love people (remember there are two other types of love – agape and philos), makes us susceptible to loving people on all levels. He then went on to discuss the “rules” associated with love that I’m not taking the time to discuss here, but indicated to me that I have the ultimate control over my behavior. Of course, that is the crux of the matter for me, and it is the crux of the matter for a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community – the idea of living with a sense of fulfillment in our love.
In my past, I always assumed that my sexual attractions had been distorted by being molested as a child. I spent a number of years and therapy appointments, getting to the point where I felt okay with my attractions and past sexual activities. I was able to, finally, distinguish between sexual activities I felt good about and sexual activities I did not. For those of you that followed my last blog, you may even remember the story I told where I had been raped by a ‘friend’ of mine and it confused me, since I had willing given myself to him before, so I did not understand I had been raped by him (It still feels weird saying that word…ugh…so, so, so, ugly). This was kind of a tough place for me to be, considering that I had spent so many years denying I had same-sex attractions and felt like I could control whom I liked and disliked.
I can’t really go into a lot of detail about my past, but I’m sure many of you remember that blog I kept (ugh…now, I really wish I wouldn’t have deleted it). The point I’m trying to make is the fact that I will be forever unsure about my own ability to love and be loved. I have indicated that I always felt like it impacted my relationships with women – to the point that I felt on some sub-conscious level, women knew I was not straight and I allowed myself to explain away cheating behaviors on these women’s parts. Even within my marriage, when I felt that I could not make it work at times, it must have been that I am not straight and somehow I put out some vibe.
The truth of the matter is that I tend to divert to a ‘philos’ kind of love in a lot of situations, because I have little understanding of my own ‘eros’. Of course, I have had many people – oddly in a philos kind of way – attempt to encourage me to seek out an ‘agape’ kind of love. That the only way I will ever feel complete and fulfilled is to accept love from God (or Jesus), is the common message I have received from some of these people. Now, let me express, however, that these people were never mean or judgmental, but they believed this is the route I needed to take.
But when it comes down to it, all I ever feel is doubt about myself. This doubt can manifest itself in many ways – sometimes it makes me think others are right about me. Sometimes, these doubts make me think that I really don’t like myself. They make me question everything; not from a self-destructive point of view (although, that has been a theme for me), but from an introspective point of view. But this makes me think of another way to classify love:
Self-directed or love for others.
And with that, I’ll leave the topic open for discussion…