Last year I wrote my vision for my sexuality
as I move through my forties. While I've evolved some since then, I'm still feeling mostly the same and happier than I have been in a while. That said, I'm demisexual bordering graysexual, so sex isn't a huge priority for me. Don't get me wrong; I love sex. I enjoy putting my all into pleasing my sexual partners and chasing my desires! It's just my libido is pretty low key and what I crave more than sex is deep connection. With that in mind, I figured it was time to write a vision for how I want to experience love and relationships moving forward.
I recently read All About Love: New Visions
by bell hooks. Her definition of love really resonated with me. She defined love as "the will to nurture our own and another's spiritual growth," as well as "an action, a participatory emotion." Love isn't what we say and promise. It's what we do and how we grow as a result. Show don't tell. Grow. My vision for how I intend to love myself and others -- and my vision for how I expect to be loved -- shall be rooted in this definition.
Last August, Shelley Bullard wrote a great article titled "The 4 Qualities Of A Conscious Relationship."
I only just found it through an online polyamory community and immediately found someone had voiced where I am in regard to love and building relationships. I'm fortunate to be living this kind of love through a couple of very deep, loving platonic relationships with my soul sisters (hello my dears!). I highly recommend giving it a read. It's very easy reading and very powerful. My only qualm with it is that this kind of love need not be reserved for one person or even only for romatic relationships. I say let all love look like this. I have found it to be incredibly transformative in my platonic relationships.
So what is a conscious relationship? It is a relationship "in which both partners feel committed to a sense of purpose, and that purpose is growth. Individual growth. Collective growth as a couple. Growth that makes the world a better place." It aligns beautifully with bell hooks' definition of love! To summarize, the four qualities of conscious relationships are:
- The conscious couple is not attached to the outcome of the relationship - growth comes first.
- Each person in the relationship is committed to owning their shit.
- All feelings are welcome and no internal process is condemned.
- The relationship is a place to practice love.
Love is a practice. Love is growth. Love is personal responsibility and lots of open, honest communication and processing. Love is practiced without attachment.
Admittedly I have been a self-described hopeless romantic since I was a teen. I bought into the romantic ideal and the relationship escalator (love means dating then commitment then marriage then settling down then kids and completely monogamous). Transitioning to practicing polyamory and building multiple deep platonic, romantic, and sexual relationships has impelled me to examine the romantic narrative and find it really doesn't work for me anymore. I'm far more interested in authenticity and rawness and growth.
Going back to bell hooks, she wrote about the destructive nature of romance and how it impedes genuine love:
"Its destructiveness resides in the notion that we come to love with no will and no capacity to choose. This illusion, perpetuated by so much romantic lore, stands in the way of our learning to love. To sustain our fantasy we substitute romance for love.
To be capable of critically evaluating a partner we would need to be able to stand back and look critically at ourselves, at our needs, desires, and longings. [...] We fear that evaluating our needs and then carefully choosing partners will reveal that there is no one for us to love. Most of us prefer to have a partner who is lacking than no partner at all. What becomes apparent is that we may be more interested in finding a partner than in knowing love."
Love is not something I should fall into but rather choose. It is incumbent upon me to know what I need, desire, and long for and then choose partners based on those criteria. I need to be open to hearing the needs, desires, and longings of others. I need to take responsibility for my own and find opportunities to support my loves in meeting their own. When conflict arises between our individual needs, desires, and longings, we are presented with opportunities to grow individually or together. I must be prepared to act on those opportunities.
And then I watched a video produced by The School Of Life on how romanticism ruined love. Give it a watch. It'll only take a few minutes.
Wasn't that fantastic? If you didn't watch it (naughty naughty!), it pretty much agreed with what hooks wrote about the destructive and dysfunctional aspects of romance and called for us to embrace post-romantic relationships. What does a post-romantic relationship look like? Watch the video! Or in summary:
- It's normal that love and sex don't always belong together.
- Discussing money up front in a serious way is not a betrayal of love.
- Each of us is flawed and our partners are, too.
- We will never find everything in one person, nor they in us.
- Intuition can't get us where we need to go.
- There is a special dignity around issues of practicality.
Love is about recognizing our flawed human nature in me and others and affording each of us the grace to be our human selves and grow together. Love is communicating our needs, desires, and longings up front in order to enable informed consent. Love is not magic or innate. Love is forgiving and dignified. Love is open and leaves room for multiple people to meet our needs, desires, and longings.
Moving forward, I shall endeavor to form loving, conscious, post-romantic relationships rooted in actions that nurture my own and others' spiritual growth. And good sex when the mood strikes.EDIT (10/18/2016):
I made two glaring omissions in my Vision of Love! I'm a proponent of casual love and embracing impermanence and short-term relationships just as cherished as long-term. I'm dropping a couple of resources below and will write more about my thoughts on them later.Casual Love by Carsie Blanton