I’m in love with you

I’m in love with you

I’ve been thinking about the phrase “in love” recently. Matt and I fell in love the good ol’ fashioned way in a monogamous lifestyle. Loving Victor romantically was a natural transition from the love that was already there as close friends. Now I have relationships outside of Matt and Victor that have given me the opportunity to rethink what it means to be “in love.” I’ve made a point over the last year or so to tell my friends that I love them more often. I tell Matt and Victor that I love them every day. So when my newest relationships grew closer it was strange to feel like I couldn’t say that I loved them. Like we weren’t there yet (because what does “there” mean now?) It was an old feeling from my life as a monogamous person.

Saying I love you is almost like a proposal because you hope they’ll say, “I love you too.” There’s pressure. I think that pressure comes from new expectations being placed on the relationship. In a monogamous relationship, “I love you” often comes with the expectation to live together, or have a trajectory towards marriage. And obviously there’s the expectation that neither partner will have any romantic/sexual feelings towards anyone else. As a poly person, I don’t love with those expectations. I have multiple romantic partners, romantic relationships with people I may never live with, and the end goal for me is to have these people in my life for as long as the relationships are healthy. The feelings I have toward each partner is different and specific to that relationship, but the common qualities are: I care for them deeply, I make time for them in my life, and we share a romantic connection. To me, that’s love. And it’s good to express it. But because the meaning of “I love you” is so amorphous, it deserves a conversation before it’s first expressed to a romantic partner.

“I love you but I’m not in love with you.” This usually means, “I care for you, but not in a romantic way.” But it can mean something else in different flavors of poly. There are non-monogamous people in close romantic relationships that have a different definition of what “in love” means. Similar to monogamy, there’s an expectation of a hierarchy, having some one to come home to, a primary partner. If other romantic relationships (sometimes called “secondary” partners) do not or cannot meet those expectations, they are not “in love” with each other. This doesn’t align with my own poly principles because I don’t think that hierarchies are healthy in poly.

(Tangent time.) Me, Victor, and Matt live together. We are a family. We’re in our relationships for the long haul. A lot of people would describe or treat them as my “primary” partners. Above all others. More important. A priority. They would describe my partners outside of Matt and Victor as my “secondary” partners because I do not live with them, I see them less often, and therefore they are less important to me and less of a priority. Me, Matt, and Victor live together because we want to and can. We like it a lot. I don’t live with my other partners because it’s either impractical or not a prioritized goal in the relationship. I see them less often because of the inconveniences of reality. I do other meaningful stuff outside of hanging with my partners, and things would be different if I had a time turner.

There are Important People in my life. My partners, my family, my friends. The people I love. Everyone else is indeed less “important” to me, less of a priority, less on my mind, but not “less” of a person (unless there’s good reason to describe them that way…) The Important People in my life are not arranged in a hierarchy. I’m not going to save Partner 1, then Partner 2, then Friend 3 and Family Member 4 from a fire in that order. They are all important to me.

Hierarchies are a typical first step into being poly. Having/being a “primary” partner feels safe in a way similar to monogamy, but I think establishing a hierarchy in a polyamorous lifestyle ultimately avoids insecurities that must be confronted for a healthy polyamorous life (or any relationship for that matter.) Poly brings them all out. Jealousy. Self worth. Disappointment. All of it. But by confronting those insecurities through good communication and introspection, you can determine what’s a legitimate concern and what’s an unfounded fear. A lot of times you’ll realize that you were just scared. And that’s natural. Going from monogamy, what feels “normal” and safe, to something you haven’t experienced before is absolutely scary. But shielding your eyes from those fears with a hierarchical safety blanket is not going to help you. Talking through those fears (and acknowledging them as fears and not reality), asking for affirmation when you need it, expressing affection and affirming your partners, and being skeptical of your own emotions, will make you a much more emotionally strong person that doesn’t need to establish a hierarchy to feel important and loved.

So back to love. I love my partners. All of them. I am in love with them: I care for them deeply and romantically, I make time for them in my life, and we share a special connection. No requirements necessary, that’s just the way I feel towards them. And I feel it’s important to express that because affirmation strengthens a relationship and helps all partners involved feel more emotionally stable and healthy. Plus it’s just nice to be reminded that you are loved and important to someone. I guess it’s kind of that simple.