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Love, Redefined

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Love.

The word comes in many flavours. There isn’t one way to look at it, and we all feel it in limitless ways. There’s romantic love and platonic love, familial love, and love of animals.

No matter how you personally define it, love is a complicated thing. And yet, we’re stuck with an outdated concept of it. According to much of society, romance can only be between two people (in a lot of ways, still a man and a woman, no one of the same gender).

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It doesn’t have to be like this. We can redefine love on our own terms, experience it the way we want. No one else – and especially not society as a whole – should have the authority to tell us who to love and how to love. If we wish to love multiple people, it’s our right to be able to do so.

This is the basic gist of what’s referred to as polyromance. I’m sure you have probably heard of polyamory (the idea of dating and possibly having intercourse with more than one partner). Polyromance is included under the umbrella, but it tends to focus on love rather than sex appeal.

Like others, I arrived at the conclusion I’m polyromantic in weaving, winding ways. It seems like, with any identification that goes outside the norm, we come to it, not in a straight line, but a curved, jagged road with various stops along its path.

As with almost all people, I was raised in a world where monogamy (one person for one person) was the only thing possible when it came to relationships. Growing up I found no issue with this. But as I neared the end of my twenties, friends of mine began experimenting with polyamory, and I came to the realization that I didn’t have to love one person and them alone.

My perception of love began to expand as I reconsidered what the meaning of a “loved one” was. I began to ask myself if I had to be constrained to those I found romantically appealing, or if someone intellectually stimulating or even just a good friend could be classed as a loved one.

Where did the boundaries lie? Were there boundaries? Wasn’t it entirely possible that friends I had a special fondness for could fall into this category?

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I began to reassess everything I knew, and I’d be a liar if I told you that was easy, breezy, and carefree. While not the hardest thing about myself I’ve ever had to come to terms with, it wasn’t as easy as, say, admitting I like bad movies or choosing my favourite kind of sandwich.

Humans beings are never simple and the expectations of society are burned into you from a young age. Coming to terms with aspects of your personality that make you different (and accepting those differences) is a tough process, and there are plenty of growing pains along the way.

But once you embrace it, a fresh side of you is open. You begin to see things in a light you never considered. It’s as if you were moving through life with your eyes closed – and the mind, once opened, cannot go back to the size it was before.

Like learning a new fact about a controversial topic, you start to question everything you’ve been taught about that topic. This has been my experience. I began to examine the idea of “faithfulness” with a microscopic lens. I wasn’t raised particularly religious (we went to church, but our household wasn’t what I’d refer to as a “Christian household”), but I had always been taught this concept of “if you’re with somebody, you cannot love anybody else if you hope to stay true to them.”

Without a doubt, this was the first concept I called into question. We aren’t restricted to loving one parent (although, sometimes one parent does make it easier to do so) or other family members – so, why can’t we love more than one person?

Why do we have to force our natural human inclinations to stay quiet? This has probably led to more instances of being unfaithful than the outdated idea of what being faithful means. There’s the concept of lust and the harm it can cause when it runs rampant and uncontrolled. I won’t go into all of that, for now at least.

However, I will say that this idea, when applied to love, uses the antiquated notion of love and sex being equivalent. And this is where I take issue. Sure, for many of us (maybe a majority), love and sex are entangled. You can’t have one without the other. But why can’t you stay monogamous, while loving multiple people at the same time?

I don’t like boxes. Never have. They’re too cramped, confining, and uncomfortable. They hold us back, and the only thing they’re good for is holding things. And when the boxes become old and stale, the best course of action is to break them down and get rid of them. Society’s concept of love is one of these boxes, and we should recycle it into something new and improved.

Or, at least, burn it down.

By Stephanie Knar

Stephanie Knarr recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA from the Harrisburg, PA area. Her writing appears in Harrisburg's local magazine, The Burg, and her work will soon appear in Unwinnable and Five:2:One. Her favourite drink is RC Cola, and her favourite band is probably Animal Collective.

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