In many cultures romantic love is interpreted as a NEED. That interpretation produces a feeling of scarcity. If everyone NEEDs then there is not enough to go around. Contrast that with mother’s love which is an unlimited supply and noone ever feels there is not enough. If more than 1 child is born in a family, no one thinks of it as a dysfunction, no one thinks one child won’t get enough love than the other. On the other hand, if someone has more than 1 lover it IS considered a dysfunction, somehow there won’t be enough for one of them.
Not everyone can transcend the selfish egoistic love to a higher love, ability to feel the joy of your partner as your joy, even if that joy does not come from you but from someone else.
Other interpretation is of love as an INSTINCT for reproduction. When it is perceived as an instinct, it is feared, it is something we can’t control and is more powerful. If it was purely a function of instinct, then as we aged and could not reproduce any more, the love we experience would diminish – yet it does not. We have to disassociate from interpretation of love as instinct, from fear of love to embracing of love and welcoming and letting it flow naturally.
Another interpretation of love is an ART. With this interpretation, as you grow and practice the art more more, the more you are capable of greater expressions of it. It is not the first time love was interpreted as Art, Ovid wrote the Art of Love. If you examine the moments in history when love was held as art, those were some very enchanting times and cultures.
A simple definition of compersion – it is an opposite of jealousy. The simplistic view is that monogamous people experience jealousy and polyamorous people experience compersion. Important distinction to be made is that polyamory is an ability to experience an expanded feeling of love for more than 1 person without necessarily having several or even any sexual partners.
In our mainstream culture it is accepted that if my partner loves someone else it means I lost them and their love. In a more inclusive culture, just because your partner loves someone else, it does not mean that he/she does not love me anymore.
The reason that we can’t hold on to this new definition of love and fall back into the patterns of possessiveness and jealousy is that this definition of love is just one cog in the our system of understanding of the world. After changing one cog, the rest of the machine will eventually put it back in it’s place. To be able to hold on to it and integrate, it is really necessary to deconstruct our whole view of the world, society, money, etc and construct a new world view where this more inclusive definition of love feels just right and fits in.
In the current culture we perceive the love between two people as something that is private to them and excludes everyone else. Yet if you look at love as art, imagine admiring a painting of two lovers. So compersion is akin to perceiving, holding space, contemplating this painting. This is how we can contemplate the love of others and be part of it through perception and admiration. In our culture voyerism is a perversion. Yet in the new definition of love as a more inclusive practice, the “voyer” (in a grander sense beyond physical presence and visual observation) is the one who holds space and allows the love to expand and thus participates in the process.
If we think of love as art, we can allow many different expressions of love, just like we allow many different expressions of creativity and art and don’t hold one as a standard and discriminate against others.
Huge thank you to Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, Ph.D., writer, scholar, activist, translator, and public speaker for carefully crafting what a lot of us instinctively feel about love but unable to communicate into such clear and powerful concepts. I now feel totally empowered to share my views on love with others using her ideas and metaphors.